From King to Criminal
I’ll never forget one of the most glorifying moments of my life. It was my senior year in high school and I had spent every day committed to my competitive cheerleading squad.
Now, just so you know, we weren’t your typical cheer squad. We did encourage our teams by yelling chants but we would also have two a day workouts that involved conditioning outside in the hot Florida summers until we nearly passed out.
Then we would throw our bodies into unnatural forms that we call toe-touches, run at full speed to perform gymnastic passes by throwing ourselves in the air, followed by throwing other people in the air for stunts. Yes, I am that “cheerleading is a sport” kind of girl and you cannot convince me otherwise.
It was a long and tiring season but we made it to the final competition anticipating our state title. Every ounce of sweat, every tear, every practice would be worth it if we won. Our team sat together as the announcers called out the third and second place team.
We all became more still as we hadn’t been announced, telling ourselves not to get our hopes too high. Moments later our team was announced as State Champions! We celebrated and I was later awarded the first ever “Outstanding Athlete Award” for cheerleading, the first year it was recognized as a sport.
I’ll always cherish the experience of hard work paying off, of seeing all my time and energy rewarded. I’ll remember how I invested into something I believed in and how it took up all my heart and mind, and even physically pushed me forward.
Jesus had a most glorifying moment, too.
Matthew 21:8-11 reads:
“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
At this time in His life, Jesus was at the peak of His ministry career. He was followed by the most popular people and was surrounded by fans as soon as He entered the city. People were flocking to Him, wanting to know everything about His arrival into the city. They praised Him as He rode in on a donkey.
Jesus had spent the last three years of His life ministering every day; His schedule was packed. He was invited to speak at large gatherings, and He was discipling people into a transformative life. He even had bodyguards that prepared His ride into the city and protected Him through the crowd.
But this wasn’t Jesus’ most glorifying moment.
His most glorifying moment was ahead, He was on His way there, He was thinking of it the entire time He heard their praises.
Jesus poured out His heart for the people of Israel, and now He would physically pour out His life. His sacrifice is not an experience the world would define as a success. It was a moment filled with shame and defeat. He chose to lay himself down at Calvary. His sacrifice was not only a death, it was a brutal murder, a pain we can’t fathom or imagine.
Jesus’ most glorifying moment was the cross.
Jesus rode in as a King and ended His journey as a Criminal.
In one, short week the crowd would turn. All their praise would become hate. The very man they praised as king would become the criminal their hate would drive to the cross. Yet Jesus, rich in mercy, continued the path to the cross even when their waving palm branches hurt more than the torture He would soon endure. His eyes were set on the cross, His heart was set on you and me.
As we enter Holy Week, let us remember that Jesus shares the highs and lows of life with us. He understands what it is like to be celebrated, He understands seeing a reward for His effort. Remember too that He also understands failure and suffering, and He is close to the brokenhearted. Jesus is with us through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so we wouldn’t have to.