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Showing posts with label Palm Sunday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palm Sunday. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2019

Whose Side are You On? part 2 - Jesus


Introduction
When life is hard, we long for a Savior to come and rescue us.  We hold out hope amidst the darkness that somehow, someday our Savior will come.  But when He comes, will we recognize Him?  Will we receive Him?  Will we truly trust Him?  Will we know that He is not only our Savior, but our Lord?  Will we see He doesn’t come to be on our side, but rather, to invite us to be on His side?

Last week, we met a man from the Old Testament named Joshua who encountered the commander of the Lord’s army as Joshua and the Israelites prepared to attack the fortress, Jericho.  Joshua asked, “Are you on our side or on their side?”  The angel answered simply, “No.”  As if to say, “You aren’t even asking the right question.”  It is not that God is on our side or on someone else’s.  God is Yahweh, the great I AM.  He is who He is and we were made to worship and adore Him.  We are called to be on His side, for His side is always right and His side always wins in the end.

The name Joshua means, “God Saves”.  Today, we hear the story of another man poised to enter a different city.  This story is from the New Testament.  It is Jesus as he prepares to enter Jerusalem on the day we’ve come to call Palm Sunday.  Jesus is another way Jews said the name Joshua (kind of like we call some people John and other people Juan and others Jan).  But like Joshua, Jesus also means “God Saves”.  Listen to the story.


Matthew 21:1-13
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
    riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God for the Son of David!
    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Praise God in highest heaven!
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

The Donkey
Just prior to entering Jerusalem, the Gospels tell the odd story of how Jesus sends his disciples to confiscate a donkey and it’s colt to ride into Jerusalem.  When bystanders see them untying the young donkey, they understandably concerned.  “Hey, why are you stealing that donkey?  That’s not yours!”  But the disciples say what Jesus told them to say, “The Lord needs it.”  Jesus is not just a prophet.  He is not just a Rabi or a preacher.  He is not just a healer or a kind man or an advocate for justice.  Jesus is not just a king.  Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He is the Son of God come to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  When your Lord comes and says He needs your donkey, you yield.  And that’s what the bystanders did. 

The Gospels of Mark and Luke tell us the colt had never been ridden before.  Now think about that for a minute.  If someone brought you a donkey and told you it had never, ever been ridden before, and then I said, “Alright, hop up on there and take him for a ride…”  I’d say, “You’re crazy.  I ain’t stupid.”  Unless you’re a rodeo cowboy, I don’t think most people would want to break their neck on some wild, untrained donkey.  But Jesus hops right up on it and the thing doesn’t buck and fight and kick.  Why?  Because John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  When the Creator of the universe decides to ride into Jerusalem on an untrained donkey, one that's never been ridden before, even the dumb donkey knows you say, “Yes sir!” and give him the best ride he can give.

The People
And off Jesus goes, riding into Jerusalem.  And everyone is excited and cheering.  They’re waving palm branches, which was a sign of victory and peace.  They’re also spreading their clothes out across the road, which was a symbolic way of saying, “We submit to be ruled by you! Even if you walk all over us, we are your subjects and you are our king!  We'll do whatever you say!”  Everyone’s praising God and singing hosannas.  They’re Savior had come!  And they even called him king, but were they really willing to follow Jesus as their Lord? 

Apparently not. Their actions over the next week show they didn't t really submit to the Son of God.  They wanted the Messiah to come be on their side.  They wanted Jesus to drive out the Romans and restore their glory so they could live their lives the way they wanted to live.  But Jesus comes in and starts by—not driving out the Romans—but cleanses Jerusalem’s own Temple--flipping over the money changers tables, driving out all the buyers and sellers, disrupting their way of life, saying "My Father's house is supposed to be a house of prayer,but you've turned it into a den of thieves!"

And then, through the whole next week, Jesus doesn’t do what the people wanted him to do.  They want a Savior to save them from the Romans.  But Jesus didn’t come to do what they want him to do.  Jesus came to do the will of God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.

The leading priests and elders starts asking, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matthew 21:23)  Jesus finds the sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors are more willing to accept his authority than the religious leaders.  Jesus says, the Kingdom of God is being taken away from the ruling authorities in Jerusalem and given to the weirdos, outcasts, and sinners who repent and accept the Savior as Lord.

The Pharisees and good people of Jerusalem want Jesus to defeat the heathen Romans so they don’t have to pay taxes and tributes to them anymore.  But instead, Jesus keeps showing the good people in Jerusalem they're not really any better than the heathen Romans.  In fact, in a lot of ways, the heathen Romans and the hated Samaritans are actually closer to the Kingdom of God than the good people of Jerusalem.  He preaches, “Everything [the religious leaders and Pharisees] do is for show.” (Matthew 23:5)  He says they are blind hypocrites heading for destruction and anyone who follows them will end up being destroyed with them.

Rather than rallying the troops to fight for Jerusalem, Jesus actually grieves over the city.  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matthew 23:37)

When the disciples marvel at all the incredible buildings and architecture in Jerusalem, Jesus tells them it’s all going to be destroyed.  “Not one stone will be left on top of another!” (Matthew 24:2)  And in the end, the Messiah would judge people not according to their position or possessions or power or where they live, but according to three things:
  1. Whether they truly have to the Spirit of God in them (Matthew 25:1-13)
  2. How they used the blessings God gave them to be fruitful (Matthew 25:14-30)
  3. And whether they cared for people who were in need (Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus came to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey.  The people called him their messiah and king, but it was only lip service.  When he proved he would not do things their way, they turned their backs.  You see, for the people of Jerusalem, it was never really about following God.  God was a just a means to an end--their end.  They were never on God’s side.  They just wanted God to come be on their side so they could get what they want.

Jesus comes to each of us just like He came to Jerusalem.  We have the same decision to make.  Do want want Him to be on our side?  Or are we truly ready to be on His side?  Sure we all say we want to be on Jesus side, but then He starts tearing down the idols in our hearts and flipping over our way of living.  He challenges our sins and then I’m not so sure we might not want start crying out with everyone else in crowd on Good Friday, shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Or we might be like his disciples who all abandoned him in fear and ran away.  Or we might be like Peter who boasted he would die for Jesus, but then denied even knowing him three times.  Or we might be like Judas who agreed to betray Jesus, hoping to get a better deal from someone else. We might do all these things.  We have done all these things at one time or another.  But who will truly recognize Jesus as Lord?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jesus Clears the Temple

Holy Week
            Lent is the 40-day period of spiritual preparation between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  It is a time when Christians focus on deepening their relationship with Jesus through prayer, study, and service.
            That last week of Lent is called Holy Week.  Holy Week consists of several special days that commemorate important events during Jesus' last week on earth.  The Wednesday before Easter is called Spy Wednesday and commemorates the day Judas and the priest conspired to betray Jesus.  Thursday is called Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday and marks the day Jesus shared his last supper with the Disciples.  We will have a special service at my Pleasant Grove UMC at 7:00 PM (Varnell UMC will join us).  Friday of Holy Week is called Good Friday and recalls the day Jesus was crucified; There will be a Good Friday service at Varnell UMC at 7:00 PM and I will attend that service with members of my church.  I hope you will join us for one or more of these services or choose another that is near you. 
            Holy Week all starts one week before Easter on Palm Sunday, the day Christians commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We call it “Palm” Sunday in because the crowds of people waved palm branches and cheered as Jesus entered the city.   

Slides – Matthew 21:1-17
1As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
    riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God for the Son of David!
    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Praise God in highest heaven!”
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.”

But the leaders were indignant. 16 They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” 17 Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.

Summary of the Story
            That is a long passage, so lets summarize.  Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. He comes as a King—fulfilling the prophecy that one day Jerusalem’s Eternal King, the Messiah, would arrive riding on a donkey’s colt (Zechariah 9:9).
            Everyone is thrilled (well, everyone except the cynical religious establishment who felt threatened by Jesus). The crowds of people cheered as Jesus arrived—expecting Jesus to do great things as the long-awaited Messiah. Everyone wanted the Messiah to come and make Jerusalem great again.
            However, Jesus immediately shows His Kingdom is incompatible with many of the practices in Jerusalem. It infuriated Jesus that merchants and bankers were doing business right in the middle of the Temple at the only place Gentile’s could pray. Even worse, they were cheating their customers right there in the holy Temple.
            This is the only story in the Gospels where Jesus takes up arms in the name of God. He flipped over the bankers’ tables and used a whip to drive them and the merchants out.  We like to think of Jesus as sweet and gentle and carrying baby lambs, but sin is not compatible with the reign of Christ.  Christ must drive sin out from us and we must decide if we will let him cleanse us or will we be offended and resist and ultimately join the crowds of people on Good Friday who demanded that Jesus be crucified.

Jesus is Coming
            Jesus entered Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday nearly 2,000 years ago, but Jesus is always coming to us in a spiritual sense.  Perhaps the thought of Jesus’ coming does not thrill you. Perhaps you are ashamed of something in your life that you don’t want Jesus to see.  That’s ok. That’s a good place to start. At least you are not a hypocrite. At least you recognize you are a sinner. That’s a good thing. Jesus can work with that. The Apostle Peter once felt that way. When Peter first realized Jesus was holy, he said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid!” and invited Peter to be his disciple.  Peter followed and became one of Jesus' closest companions, and eventually the leader of the Church. You can follow Jesus too. Jesus accepts you as you are when you are humble. Jesus can work with that.
            However, a lot of people are like the crowds cheering Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. “Praise God! Jesus is here! This is amazing!” We are so happy he has come. 
Yet, we must realize, Jesus has come as our King. And there are somethings we must let him change in our lives.  I do not say that we must change ourselves. We can’t change ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit that changes us when we accept Jesus as our Lord, but we must be willing to be changed.
And sometimes that change is difficult. It may even feel like Jesus has come into our sacred Temple and flipped over some tables. He may even need to break out a whip and chase some sinful behaviors out of our hearts. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Sin has no place within your heart. Jesus must drive it out.  When these times come, we are faced with the choice: 
  • Will I humble myself before the King? Will I allow him to make these changes? Will I cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart?  Or...
  • Will I resist? Will I try to hide my sin in the shadows? Will I secretly plot to thwart the Lord—like Judas and the priests? Will I be proud and angry and defensive? Will I refuse to let Jesus be King—the true Lord of every area of my life? Will I join the angry protest of the crowd who ultimately rejected Jesus? “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. (John 19:15).

Are You Ready? Jesus is Coming Again.
Jesus is King.  And Jesus is coming.  He is coming to take back what belongs to him.  You.  He is coming to break every chain that has you shackled.  He has come to set you free.  You have a choice to make.  Will you let Him?
 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Philippians 2:5, John 13:3, Luke 22:14-15, Matthew 26:36

Introduction
            Palm Sunday fell on the first day of spring this year.  I love springtime.  The short days and cold, gloomy days of winter are just depressing to me.  Then, spring comes and it revives my soul.  New life begins to bud and it has a wondrous effect on me.  Yet there are still disappointments in life regardless of the season. 
I suppose it was springtime when Jesus faced his most disappointing week.  The week from Palm Sunday to Easter was a very difficult one for Jesus—full of tremendous highs and awful lows.  The week began with a Palm Sunday parade filled with great expectations; but what followed was disappointment after disappointment.  Of course, we know how the story ends—with the ultimate triumph of Easter morning, with Christ rising from the tomb.  But it took a week of disappointments before the glory of Easter was realized. 
            Meditating on Christ's final week on earth made me think a lot about disappointments and how Jesus coped with them and how we might cope with them better too.  Philippians 2:5 says, “You must have the same attitude Christ Jesus had.”    Jesus dealt with his disappointing week in a few key ways.  Perhaps these can help us through dark times as well. 

Faith
John 13:3 – “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.  
The first factor that strengthens us when we face disappointments is faith in God.  Think about what Jesus did during his last week on earth.  In the midst of disappointments, Jesus had an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate will.  Jesus was not fooled by the exulting crowd waving palm branches.  He knew that the people of Jerusalem would reject him in just a few days.  However, he was able to see beyond that disappointment to the ultimate victory of God.  For though God’s kingdom would not be realized in Jerusalem that week, ultimately—because of Jesus’ sacrifice—God’s plan of salvation was accomplished.  Jesus had faith in God’s ultimate will and that steeled him when disappointments came.  Perhaps that is how he was able to keep preaching and teaching and speaking the truth about God’s coming Kingdom, even though he knew people would reject his message and hang him on a cross.  Perhaps that is how Jesus was able to wash his disciples’ feet even though he knew one would betray him and they all would desert him.
            Our disappointments are tempered when our faith in God puts them in perspective.  God can use our disappointments to make us stronger; and He can and does turn our disappointments into victories.  We can endure disappointments and continue on the road God has set before us because we know that ultimately, if we have faith in God, we will have “Victory in Jesus”.  And on that Day, the glory we find will overshadow any disappointment we face in this lifetime.
            But faith only soothes our disappointments; it does not usually cancel them.  We still feel the sting when friends betray us.  We still feel sorrow when someone we love dies. 
            Many years ago, Kelly’s brother, Wesley, went down to Florida for Spring Break with a bunch of his friends.  Well, they had been drinking one night and then went out into the surf to swim.  And when they all came back in, there was on missing.  They searched frantically for their friend until they found the guy’s body floating in the waves.  They dragged him up on to the shore and tried to revive him, but nothing worked.  Their friend was gone.  Their Spring Break turned into a terrible disappointment.
            Now you take a Spring Break tragedy like that and you put yourself into the shoes of those friends.  What are we to do in the mean time?  What comfort can we find now—right now while we are hurting so bad?  So there are other things—when accompanied by faith in God—that can help us cope with disappointment.   

Friends
Luke 22:14-15 – 14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.
Jesus coped with his disappointing week by spending time with his closest friends.  Each day, he would teach in the city and then at night he would retreat to the quiet Mount of Olives with his disciples—his twelve closest friends.  And of course, on the very last night—when his anxiety was heaviest—Jesus shared one last meal with his friends (that meal which we have come to call the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion).  When we are overtaken by deep disappointment, it can be very helpful to withdraw a little from all your casual acquaintances and surround yourself with your closest friends. 
One of the biggest disappointments Kelly and I faced together was a miscarriage in December of 2005.  (This was before Abigail was born.)  We were both looking forward to having our third child.  We were already picking out names and had become attached to the tiny new life forming inside Kelly’s womb.  And then, as we went together to the doctor’s office expecting to see a sonogram our tiny little baby’s heart beating—we instead got the disappointing news that the heart had stopped and the child was dead. 
One of the best things we did to cope with our disappointment was to get away for a few days.  A friend loaned us a cabin in Dahlonega.  We left Gavin and Grace with our parents and we just took some time to get away—just the two of us.  Kelly is my closest friend.  To be away from everyone else and just be with her was very therapeutic.  And I think the same was true for her.
So when we have disappointments, it helps to have an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate victory and to surround ourselves with our closest and dearest friends.  Can we learn anything else from Jesus’ disappointing week?  Well, Jesus also sought strength and support from God through prayer.  And I think we should do the same.   

Fervent Prayer
Matthew 26:36 – 36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 
After sharing his final meal with his disciples, Jesus went into the garden to pray.  And I want you to note the tone of his prayer.  It was a very honest, heartfelt prayer.  Jesus didn’t use flowery language.  He wasn’t trying to impress God or anybody else.  He just poured out his heart.  My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.[i]  And he prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.”[ii]  Jesus did not seek to change God’s will, but sincerely contemplated whether there was any other way to fulfill God’s plan.  And when, through prayer, Jesus determined there was no other way, he sought and found strength and determination from God.
            Prayer is indispensable for us too when we face disappointment.  It’s not just a way for us to ask God to change our situation—though God does sometimes change the situation.  More importantly, prayer is a time for us to honestly express our disappointment—even if our disappointment is with God.  God can handle our disappointment and through prayer He can help us let them go.  God can give us strength and determination to pass through our disappointments.  So telling God our disappointments is very important.
            Faith, family, and fervent prayer helped Jesus during his most disappointing week.   

Conclusion
            The final days of Jesus’ life teach Christians we must pass through the disappointment of the cross before we reach the victory of Easter.  We want to skip the difficulties.  We like to dwell on happy days and victory songs.  But let us never forget Jesus’ words when he said in Mark 8:34, “If any of you wants to be my follower… …you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”  Sometimes the victory is not just what happens when we rise again on the other side of disappointment.  Sometimes the true victory is the way we live while we are in the midst of terrible trials.  For then God’s power is truly revealed in us as it was in Jesus on the long road to Calvary.   
Christians are not immune to trials and disappointments in this life.  Yet we have something others don’t have.  Jesus walks with us through our trials.  And we have an assurance that something far better awaits us on the other side.  Don’t you want to take hold of the hope Jesus offers today?  Don’t you want Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of your life?  Then why not ask Jesus into your heart today? 


[i] Matthew 26:39
[ii] Matthew 26:42

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