Palm Sunday and Expectations


“The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:6-9).

Scene from a Passion Play in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on Good Friday in 2010, re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stephen Craven – geograph.org.uk/p/1782823

Today begins Holy Week. Between now and next Sunday, churches of most denominations will commemorate Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, last Passover meal with His disciples, betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Some churches will have extra worship services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to emphasize each part of the biblical account of Jesus’ final days. Other churches will squeeze the entire passion narrative into the Palm Sunday service, hoping to accommodate church members who will not be able or willing to attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.

The entire passion narrative—the biblical account of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—matters. It is all part of the Gospel message and, thus, is part of every Christian’s salvation testimony. We should not ignore Palm Sunday or the Last Supper to get to the crucifixion.

The sudden change of events between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is a lesson for all Christians. People can be fickle, easily tossed by the winds of popular opinion, current events, or personal circumstances. Our very faith can be shaken when we build it on a weak foundation, and we see this in the Gospels. Although some people think the biblical account describes an unrealistic change of circumstances in Jesus’ life, recent current events remind us that one’s public image can change in the twinkling of an eye.

Recently, actor/rapper Will Smith’s public image took a drastic turn. For decades, he has been a popular entertainer. He came across as a likable person. However, within a few seconds, his popularity disappeared. During the Oscar Awards show, comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s appearance. The “Fresh Prince” became enraged, ran onstage, slapped Rock, and angrily shouted and cursed at him. Since then, people who admired him lost all respect for him. I doubt Will Smith changed; it is more likely that the public saw a side of him that he had cleverly hidden from audiences. Nevertheless, within days he went from superstar to pop-culture pariah.

On Palm Sunday, the Jewish people who were in Jerusalem preparing for the Passover feast welcomed Jesus, celebrating Him as the Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” They recognized Jesus as Savior and hailed Him as their King. But five days later, they screamed “Crucify Him!” Many of the same people were in both crowds. People welcomed Him as a hero and savior on Sunday but demanded His execution on Friday morning.

Jesus had not changed. People’s perspectives did, though. Many Jewish people at the time expected a political Messiah. They thought Jesus would march into Jerusalem, cast out the oppressive Roman overlords, and establish a new Israelite empire far more glorious than the kingdoms of His ancestors, David and Solomon. Instead, Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple, reminded the religious leaders that the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (even Romans!?!), and did absolutely nothing about the political situation.

Palm Sunday Church Palms Cross. Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.net under a CCO Creative Commons license.

Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. So, they decided that He must not be the Messiah they expected.

Do we make the same mistake? Do we accept Jesus on His terms, or do we set our own terms and demand that He meets them? He is the Savior, but is He the Savior that we expect and want?

Which Jesus do we worship? Do we come to a Jesus who is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves and help us to accept ourselves just as we are with no need to change? Do we honor a Jesus who winks at our own sins but is ready to pour His wrath out upon those horrible people who sin differently than we do? Do we worship a Jesus who is going to make us rich? Maybe we have an image of Jesus who will give us whiter teeth and fresh breath, making us irresistible to the opposite sex. Perhaps we want a Jesus who will adopt our socio-political agenda, get with our program, and help us establish our ideals for social change. Maybe we want Jesus to help us with the addictions that we are really ashamed about while accepting the sins that we really enjoy. Perhaps we expect Jesus to make us feel good about who we are, soothing our consciences but not expecting us to surrender our worst character defects.

Many people worship a distorted image of Jesus. It is usually a projection of our own ideals, values, and desires. We want Him to get with our program, but that will not work. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means we need to yield to His will, not the other way around. A distorted Jesus, based on our own wishes, will eventually disappoint us.

The true Jesus did not come to grant us three wishes. Instead, He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He came to bring light to the world (John 12:46). He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He came to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and give us eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). The list goes on. He will not fail to do the things He promised in His Word. However, if we bend His Word to suit our desires, we will be disappointed. You might twist God’s Word, but you will never twist His arm.

Who is Jesus to you? Why do you worship Him? Will you continue to trust Him even when the world does not yield to your expectations and wishes?

What do you expect Jesus to do in your life? How does it line up with Scripture? Have you ever been disappointed by Him? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.


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