Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, I am a soccer fan. I’ve been known to wake up at 6:30 on Saturday mornings to watch Chelsea Football Club. That’s dedication, right?
Of course, the English soccer/football game has a questionable reputation. Not all that many years ago, matches between rival clubs would often be marked with violence, hooliganism, stabbings, and all around poor taste. Sadly, in other parts of Europe, racist chants are still hurled at black players.
But just a few weeks ago, the English game witnessed a spectacular moment of harmony. In a FA Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers, Fabrice Muamba, a midfielder for Bolton from the Democratic Republic of Congo, suddenly collapsed on the field. This wasn’t a theatrical, drama queen flop that we so often see in the modern game. It was grave.
Immediately players on both teams stopped with looks of anguish. Team medics and doctors from both teams rushed onto the pitch. Fabrice Muamba’s heart had stopped. And for 78 minutes, Muamba’s heart refused to beat. The medical personnel were shocking Muamba’s heart on the pitch. From all accounts, it was quite horrifying.
But then a sound was heard from the stadium. “Muamba! Muamba!” Fans supporting both Tottenham and Bolton joined in the chant, “Muamba! Muamba!” Rather than the crude songs of most English football fans, this was a unified chant for a young man staring death straight in the face. “Muamba! Muamba!” The chant surged on, in symbolic defiance of the man’s dead heart. The competition ceased, players wept on the pitch. And for a brief time, the mob mentality showed the best of humanity. “Muamba! Muamba!”
This Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will participate in this mob mentality. At first, we will say together, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” to Jesus as he rides in ominous triumph. Then, not five minutes later, we will all chant together, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Such simple words – such a simple rhythm. They either praise the Lord, or they beat the life out of God. This is why I love Palm Sunday: we see humanity at its best and at its worst. We either stand in solidarity, hoping against hope that this is finally the Messiah – “Hosanna! Hosanna!”or we turn our chant into a vicious and acid whip – “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Beware the mob. We are our best friend. We are out worst enemy.