Great Expectations

Sunday, April 10, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier 

Luke 19:28-44

Have you ever had your heart broken… by God?

You prayed and prayed and prayed. But your loved one did not get better. Your spouse or your child – they did not return to your arms. Your hopes, your dreams for the future turned to dust. It is easy to wonder if God is really all loving and all powerful. And if God sees our pain, hears our prayers, or even cares.

Today is Palm Sunday – A Day full of high hopes and great expectations.  At last, at LAST!  Our king has come…. and we raise our voices and join the throng… palm branches in hand and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And who doesn’t love waving palms and singing All Glory Laud and Honor? Even when we know what Friday will bring, we revel in the HOPE of today’s celebration.

But our joy? It is but a small reflection of the hope and the expectations the crowd held when King Jesus rode into town in 30 AD.

Jerusalem’s population quadrupled as pilgrims poured in by the thousands to celebrate Passover.  It was a joy-filled week, yet a bitter irony undermined the entire festival. Because the Passover celebrated freedom and the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt…. but here they were under the thumb of Rome. Oppressed and abused by Rome’s brutal dictator Tiberius Caesar Augustus.

Riots often broke out during the Passover, and rumors of insurrection had the streets teeming with Roman soldiers. The tension was palpable.

Into this tinder box rides – AT LAST! – God’s Messiah, the one they had been waiting for!

But instead of mounting a war horse, Jesus rides in on a donkey colt –fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy:

“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey–riding on a donkey’s colt.”

The rest of Zechariah’s prophecy? It goes on to state that this humble king will be one of peace, NOT a king of war. But somehow the people missed that part.

Tattered cloaks were spread before Jesus, and parents lifted children onto their shoulders yelling… “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Jesus no longer hushed them from declaring his praise. Instead, he symbolically declares that YES, yes, he is the one. Their Messiah and King.

God was about to do something powerful.  They could taste it. But what exactly was this crowd hoping for? What were they expecting?

Hosanna, or Ho-Shanna in Hebrew, means “Save Us, we beg you!” and it had become the slogan of the Zealots. And the Zealots were an ultra-radical nationalist group intent on overthrowing the Roman occupiers by force. When they yelled Ho-Shanna, Save Us! they weren’t thinking about sin.  No way – this was a treasonous chant that meant save us from our Roman oppressors!

And palm branches? They had also become a symbol of Jewish nationalism and political freedom. Waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna,” was a rallying cry to brutally force out Roman rule.

But the people’s political “Hosannas” made Jesus weep.  He wept over them and the devastation that their warring would bring upon Jerusalem.

They simply could not see what would bring them peace.

Nor could they comprehend the kind of Savior Jesus was.

Not a king of earthly power, wealth, comfort and might.

But one of peace, his power cloaked in humility and the vulnerability of love.

By the end of the week, the people were devastated. Their Hosannas had turned to shouts of CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM.

And all the dreams, and expectations of what Jesus would do? What a joke. Far from being their mighty Savior, all was lost. And they were fools.

Or so it seemed.

We know the end of the story. We know that Friday was not the end. God had a deeper plan. A better one – full of life and peace. A plan so counter-intuitive, so shocking, and so spectacular, that Jesus’ follower could have never imagined it.

Jesus did not come to fill the expectations of his Hosanna shouting followers on the road so long ago. He came to serve and give his life. He came to meet their deepest needs. And to bring everlasting peace and life.

Sometimes, I wonder if we too follow a Savior of our own making.  We think we know how Jesus should behave – and when he doesn’t meet our expectations – we are crushed. Our hopes are dashed. And we feel like fools.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9 NLV)

Friends, God has not failed us—but our expectations have. We do not know what God knows. We cannot see what God sees. Nor can we plumb the depth of God’s love. Our imaginations and hearts can’t even begin to contain it.

Jesus loved His followers enough to disappoint them, bitterly. He broke their hearts. Why? So that they might know true joy, true peace and true life – forever.

And Jesus is willing to disappoint you for the same reason.

The question is this. Will we hang onto our Palm branches with dear life? Will we cling to our ways, our thoughts, our plans and demand that Jesus meet our expectations?

Or will we turn and pick up our crosses, die to ourselves, and trust this unpredictably beautiful Savior who conquers with love?

Let us pray:

Lord, thank you that you did not come to meet our expectations. Forgive us when we turn from you because you do not perform according to our plans.  And help us instead to pick up our crosses to follow you this week. And always.


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