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Monday, March 30, 2015

4. Get Rid of False Expectations

Copyright March 25, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 12:12-19
Introduction
            I really don’t like to clean up.  The hardest part of cleaning up for me is getting started.  Sometimes when I look around at a dirty house or a dirty office, the job just seems too monumental I’m afraid to start.  And I’m a great procrastinator so I start thinking of all sorts of reasons to put it off.  So getting started is half the battle for me.
            Some people put off cleaning up their house or their room.  Some people put off cleaning up their life.  If you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to get started.  We’ve been talking about ways to clean up our lives for the past few weeks.  I encouraged you to start reading your Bible more.  Then, we talked about getting rid of false motives.  Last week, we discussed getting rid of distractions.  Today, I want to encourage you to get rid of false expectations about God.
            Today is Palm Sunday, the day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Jerusalem Temple while people shouted hosannas and waved palm branches for their long awaited Messiah.  It was a day of great expectation.  It was also a day so many people misunderstood because they had false expectations of what the Messiah would be.  Let’s look at the story together.

John 12:12-19
12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
·       In Jesus’ day, it was common for well over 2 million people to flood into Jerusalem from all over the world for the Passover celebration.  They were already filled with expectations for their trip to Jerusalem.  Many of them had dreamed their whole life of traveling to Jerusalem—the same way many kids might dream of one day going to Disney world or adults might dream of taking a cruise. 
·       And then in addition, news that Jesus was coming swept through the city like a wildfire along with the report that he had just recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.  Can you imagine the hopes and expectations?  People are thinking, “This Jesus raised a man from the dead after he’d been in a tomb for 4 days?  Could this be the long awaited Messiah who will lead a revolution of freedom from the Romans?  And it’s happening while we are here in the city!”
·       And it was this jubilant throng of expectant people who cheered for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.  They shouted a familiar chant from Psalm 118:25-26, which were verses they had shouted for conquering kings before.  Though Jesus came in peace, the crowd expected Jesus to come for war.
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”
       Jesus knew the crowds’ false expectations for him.  They wanted a king marching to war.  There was no way for him to tell them they had it wrong.  There was no way for a crowd like that to hear him above the shouts of jubilations—even if they were willing to listen.
       So Jesus chose a symbolic act to show his true intensions.  He rode a donkey’s colt.  You see, kings ride horses when they are going to war.  But when they come in peace, they ride donkey’s colt.  Jesus was symbolically saying, “I come in peace.”  But the crowd wanted Jesus to make war against their Roman oppressors.
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
       Even Jesus disciples—his closest friends—didn’t understand.  They were swept up in the enthusiasm of the crowds’ false expectations.  Passion like this is contagious.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

False Expectations
I struggle with the celebration of Palm Sunday.  On one hand, I love to see the children walk down the aisles of our church waving palm branches and I love the joyous festive atmosphere, which recalls the jubilant crowd that praised Jesus in Jerusalem in scripture reading.  On the other hand, it’s troubling to me because the crowd misunderstood Jesus’ purpose.  They had such high expectations for him, but they were the wrong expectations.  Some people in the crowd just wanted to see a famous celebrity.  The majority expected a conquering king to save them from the Romans and restore Israel’s prestige.  The political/religious authorities expected a trouble maker, a threat to their power that needed to be eliminated.  Each group’s false expectations about Jesus blinded them to the miracle that was before them.  The Son of God had come in peace to conquer—not the Romans—but their sinful hearts. 

False Expectations about God
            Two thousand years have passed since the first Palm Sunday, but we still struggle with false expectations about God.  I want to go over three common false expectations we have of God.

First of all, we expect God treat us all the same.[i]  We equate fairness with equality.  We trust  The problem is we are not all the same.  Each one of us is a unique masterpiece God is creating.  He is not working the same way in my life as He is in yours.  Therefore, He does not treat you the same as me. 
God to be fair and so we expect God to treat us all the same.
            My children often complain that I did not treat them all the same.  My 13-year-old daughter gets made when I punish her more severely than my 8-year-old for the same offense.  "Why aren't you as strict on her?"  Because a 13-year-old knows better and the 8-year-old didn't know any better. All my children are different.  I love them all the same, but I don't treat them all the same because each one is an individual with different strengths and weaknesses and different needs.  I treat each one how they need to be treated for their own good.
            Second, we expect God to give us an easy life if we follow Him.  We often feel like God should reward us if we are doing all the things He asks us.  Well, God does take care of us (whether or not we are obedient).  Yet, God never promised He would give us an easy life.  It’s a good thing too, because an easy life often produces lazy, selfish, immature people.  God doesn’t want that for us.  He wants us to be strong, generous, and mature people.  He wants us to overcome some difficulties in life to develop our character, strengthen our faith, and teach us to endure.  Hardships actually bring us closer to God, while an easy life tends to cause us to drift away from God.  So hardships are not a sign that God doesn’t care; they are a sign that God cares deeply and wants to grow your faith and draw you closer to Him.
            Third, we expect God to protect the innocent from pain and suffering.  We might be OK with dealing with a little suffering ourselves, but it is hard to see others (often people we love dearly) suffer.  We cry out, “Lord, why are you letting—my child, my mother, my spouse, etc.—suffer.  What have they done to deserve this?”  Sometime we are appalled when we hear of exceptionally good people suffering.
            The first thing to note is, no one is innocent.  Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  So if “innocent” is our standard that says, “God should not let ‘innocent’ people suffer, we have already made an irrelevant statement.  No one is innocent.
            “Ok,” you say.  “This is semantics.  No one is innocent.  But shouldn’t God protect those who maybe-aren't-so-innocent-but-not-as-bad-as-axe-murderers?”  I don’t want to give you some cliché as an answer.  There are some terrible things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.  I don’t expect you to understand it all either.  All I know is that if God can take the ultimate evil of the crucixion—when the world took God’s Son, the only truly innocent man who ever walked the earth—and turn it into the ultimate good, God can take whatever evil befalls a person and turn it into something incredibly good.  I think the worse the pain or suffering that is endured, the greater the ultimate good will because it brings the greatest glory to God.
          Perhaps this is one more reason we will praise God so heartily in Heaven.  When we get there we will finally understand what God was doing.  We will look back at some of those instances of incredible suffering that we just couldn't understand and we will exclaim, "Now I finally see!  Now I get it!  I couldn't understand it before, but not I see clearly what it was all about, what You were doing.  And I am amazed!" 

What God Expects of Us
            We need to get rid of our false expectations of God.  Instead, we need to focus on what God expects of us.  He expects us to trust Him.  Even when we don’t understand, even when we don’t agree, even when we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him.  He is trustworthy.  He has done everything in Christ to show His love and power and that He is trustworthy.
            God expects us to obey Him.  Obedience is the outward expression of trust.  If we belive God is trustworthy and has our best and ultimate interest in mind, we will do what He says.
            God expects us to love Him.  God wants more than mere obedience.  God wants a relationship.  Just as your spouse or children or friends desire your companionship, God wants to be with you.  God wants you to come to Him like a small child climbs up in his mother’s or father’s lap.

Challenge - This week, I challenge you to get rid of your false expectations about God and focus on what God expects of you. 


[i] http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/why_our_expectations_of_god_are_unrealistic