Thank-you to Amy Davis Abdallah for joining the Emerging Scholars Network’s blogging team by sharing a pair of 2018 Lenten devotionals, beginning with last Sunday’s challenging Do I Really Need a Sabbath? (Scholar’s Compass). Follow this link to explore ESN’s Lenten devotionals. To God be the glory! ~ Tom Grosh IV, Assoc. Dir., ESN
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
. . .
“Crucify Him! — Mark 11: 9b-10, 15:13
I always hold my breath when I get that email. It comes a week or two after the semester is over, and I have some rules for myself as I open it. I may only read through it once, especially the negative comments. The email is labeled, “Course Evaluation Results.”
Every semester, my students rate the effectiveness of my teaching.
Most of the comments are positive, but it’s the negative ones that stick in my mind.
It’s funny that students in the same class can have completely opposite viewpoints: “The professor presents controversial issues in an impartial sense, allowing the student to choose based on the merits of the argument;” vs. “The professor is opinionated and does not allow any ideas with which she disagrees.”
I dislike the criticism. But I must say, I really like the praise.
Having taught for years, I’ve found I can teach the same class in basically the same manner but receive very different feedback. Sometimes I’m loved, and sometimes I’m not.
Some years my papers are easily accepted at the conference, I present, and have great interactions with other academics. Some years my papers are rejected.
Sometimes I find it easy to publish in a variety of places, and I receive great reviews. Other times I find my article is sent back again and again.
Human praise is short-lived. Whether it’s my students, the conference organizers, or publishers, praise is not always on their lips.
And we see the same happening for Jesus. Palm Sunday praise is short-lived. Palm Sunday praise is extravagant, joyful, palm-branch-waving, cloak-throwing, shouting praise. And yet it dies hard. The same voices that praise exuberantly shout “Crucify him!” just as loudly a few days later. That’s why we burn Palm branches to form the dark cross we wear on Ash Wednesday.
If Jesus’s self-understanding were based on short-lived human praise, he would have been disappointed.
If our self-understanding is based on the short-lived human praise of students, conference organizers, and publishers, we will be disappointed.
You see, the praise we receive is fragile. It breaks easily, just like the praise Jesus received.
No doubt it feels good. We feel known and appreciated and validated. But the one who knows us the best had short-lived praise offered to him on Palm Sunday.
If we follow Christ, our self-understanding must accept both praise and suffering. To carry the cross of discipleship is to follow the way of Christ, whose self-understanding did not change based on praise or cursing.
Jesus knew who he was. We can know who we are as we draw near to God. The praises and curses affect us less because our identity is solid. We are God’s beloved child, and that is all. That is enough.
- Think about when you praise God. Does it continue through your suffering, or is it short-lived like Palm Sunday praise?
- Think about times when you depend on others’ praise to define you. How did that work?
- How can your identity in Christ be as solid and foundational as Jesus’ self-understanding?
Lord, as today we remember and participate in praise to you, may our praise not wither in suffering. We walk this week with you, into your suffering and death so that we may also rejoice with you in resurrection life. In resurrection life we are called your children; may our identity as yours never depend on others’ praise. In Christ we live, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever Amen.