Very early in John’s gospel (2:23-25), just after the wedding at Cana and the first cleansing of the temple, the text notes that “many believed in [Christ] when they saw the signs that he was doing.”
Those must have been exhilarating days for the disciples who first left everything they had to follow him. Numbers seem to validate a project; crowds, reviews and “likes” validate a person.
But not Christ. My heart quiets at the words that follow:
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and he did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it very well.
Palm Sunday is a good time to contemplate tenuous nature of all human praise. As we follow Christ throughout the gospels, we see the tension between his growing popularity and the building animosity of his enemies. By the time he enters Jerusalem on a humble donkey, hailed by palms and shouts of acclamation, he is days out from a public crucifixion. And he knows it.
This does not deter him from accepting the right praise of the people. He is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. If the crowd doesn’t get it right at this moment, the rocks will cry out.
Once (Luke 18:19), when a seeker addressed him as “good teacher,” Christ responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Christ in his divinity is also the perfect Man. He is about one thing: the glory of God. It doesn’t matter whether he’s surrounded by a crowd who gets it right, or alone on a Cross when the whole world gets it wrong.
So St. Paul, “the last of the apostles,” advises his spiritual son St. Timothy (2 Tim. 4:2) in this way:
Proclaim the word. Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
Convince. Reprimand. Encourage. All necessary uses of our speech. In season and out. For one purpose alone. His glory.