Last Sunday, both children and adults waved palms in church, an ancient tradition and commemoration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. Together, as a church, we sang, in voices strong and shaky, Hosanna, hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We stood, in our pleated dresses and pressed suits, fresh out of cars and equipped with coffee mugs, imagining what it would have felt like to stand in that sweaty, full crowd of people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem; the coming Messiah, here at last to save his people. At last.
As I stood in the crowd, I wanted to forget that the story doesn’t end here. I wanted to forget about the stories I’ve heard of the rest of the week: the betrayal, the humiliation, the crucifixion, the resurrection. I want to worship the long awaited Messiah in the crowd and have that be that. No change, no sacrifice, no death necessary.
This holy week, again, I am brought back to the cross; back to stories of Jesus overturning the temple and sharing the last supper. Stories of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and then shedding his blood for them. Stories of his judgement, of his trials, of betrayal from one of his own. This week, I am brought back also to my questions, the questions the Sunday School answers don’t seem to suffice. Why did Jesus have to die? Why is there a hell? Why is believing in him the only way to heaven? Why are Christians so narrow minded?
I don’t think I am unique in asking these things. I think that these questions have caused the very foundation of the faith of many to seal or crumble. These aren’t easy questions, and for people who doubt, it can be disheartening and discouraging to hear their questions swept under the rug with a broad, shallow answer:
Heaven is for good people and hell is for bad people.
Jesus is your ticket out of hell.
Jesus died to save us from our sins.
You just have to have more faith.