Popularity is something that has changed over time. The way in which we measure popularity has drastically changed with modern advancements. In one era popularity was measured by how many names on a dance card. In another era, the lunch table or the group of people one socialized with determined ones level of popularity. In today’s culture our popularity is measured objectively by the number of friends, hits or downloads one receives on social media. The internet has replaced the dance card and the lunch table as been replaced by re-tweets. Regardless of the method of calculating ones popularity there is a deep intrinsic need each of us possess and that is to be liked and accepted. Either on a small scale or the larger scale of celebrity status, each of us on some level wants the approval and recognition from others. That in its self is not a bad thing, but at what expense are we willing to go to for that acceptance. It feels good when it’s there and can be heartbreaking when it is absence. Ministers and religious leaders are not immune to this need for popularity. We see it all the time as religious leaders are exposed as their need for popularity is greater than their commitment to following Jesus.
So how does our need for popularity fit in with our relationships with Jesus? We begin by understanding that Jesus knew something about popularity. As we celebrate what is known as Palm Sunday, we are reminded of Jesus’ popularity. Jesus knew that Jerusalem was packed with over two million visitors there to celebrate the religious holiday. His choice of animal to ride was deliberate as described by the prophet Zechariah. The people singing and shouting “Hosanna” this means “Save us now!” In the minds of the crowds Jesus was the one to defeat the Romans and throw off the yoke of bondage under which they had suffered for many years. At that moment, Jesus was the most popular man in the city. He would have been elected king and he could have gotten anything he ever wanted. But that was not why he did this. Popularity was the last thing Jesus wanted. Jesus purpose was to save us all from ourselves. Besides Jesus knew how popularity works. Today you are popular and everybody loves you. What about the next day? How will they feel about you then? Popularity was not Jesus’ purpose. Jesus knew that popularity is a very fleeting thing. Jesus knew that popularity is determined by the whims of the masses. Jesus knew that popularity has nothing to do with truth, purpose, and vision. Jesus knew despite the crowd’s parade for Him, Jesus knew he had a larger purpose to fulfill in Jerusalem. To give something up as popularity for a bigger purpose takes tremendous courage. Maybe as we approach Holy Week we too can try to give up our popular status for something even greater. Jesus doesn’t call us to be popular, just faithful. May we all have the courage to distinguish the difference?
Peace, Love and Happiness: