Earlier this week Newcastle United welcomed with adulation the news that geordie legend Alan Shearer was appointed manager until the end of the season. Yet only a few months ago they had welcomed back another legend King Kev- Kevin Keegan to lift the Gallowgate end faithful after Newcastle had made a faltering start to the season. But the dream didn’t work out and Keegan departed. As someone said this week ,the Magpies are fast running out of Messiahs ,and Shearer failed to make the dream start he’d hoped for as his team went down to Chelsea in front of his adoring fans at St James’s Park. Newcastle United fans are a patient lot, a faithful crowd of supporters who pack out St James’s Park week in week out with very little to show for their allegiance. But how long will it be before they turn on Alan Shearer if he fails to steer them to Premier League safety. But I suspect even the most cynical Newcastle fans will give him more than a week.
Today the church remembers how the people of Jerusalem welcomed into the city their own Messiah, riding on a donkey entering the city gates to the cries of Hosanna to the son of David- their hero was here and he was going to sort out all their problems and save them from Roman occupation and put them back where they felt they belonged. Within a week, possibly many of the same people who’d welcomed in Jesus as King were calling for his execution. I know that they say that a week is a long time in politics, but it seems like an eternity compared with first century Judea.
Once more I borrow with thanks from Nick Fawcett’s excellent little book Daily Prayer with a reflection for this Palm Sunday. Nick quotes from Luke’s gospel about the reaction of Jesus to the adulation from the crowd; “As he caught sight of the city , he wept over it, saying, ‘if only you recognised this day the things that make for peace! Instead though , they are hidden from your eyes!” Jesus knew the expectations the people had of him as liberator would not be fulfilled in the way they imagined, and that they would turn against him in a most dramatic fashion. As Nick writes; “Palm Sunday is a day that challenges us concerning our loyalty, asking how ready we are to follow when faith is demanding and the going gets tough. Thank God, it is also about the one who, however often we may change our tune, stays faithful to us to the point of death….we need to thank God that though I am faithful to you in so little, you are faithful in so much; that though I repeatedly change my tune, your love never fails.”
Some Newcastle fans give what must seem their life, wealth and best years of support to a club that has struggled to achieve the success of many of their rivals. They have my best wishes for the remainder of this season and who knows, Shearer may well be the answer. Sometimes as a church we see very little return on our faith and our prayers but think, how must the disciples have felt as they experience the adulation of the crowd and yet only a week later fled in fear of their lives as their master was executed.Christians have only one Messiah- a servant King- to pin our hopes on….and we trust and pray that he delivers much more than a place in the Premier League !