Most Christians will celebrate “Palm Sunday” this year by singing, “Hosanna” and remembering the day that Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9 by presenting Himself to the Jewish nation as their King, riding upon a donkey.
It marks the beginning of Passion Week, the last week of Christ upon the earth prior to His crucifixion. It is a week filled with parables, public denunciations of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes, prophecy, prayer, foot washing, Holy Communion, the betrayal of Judas, the desertion of the disciples and finally the cross.
The Triumphal Entry or Palm Sunday always sticks out in my mind as one of the greatest examples of the difference between the plan of God and the expectations of men.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem with great purpose. He was 100% presenting Himself as the Messiah, the Christ of prophecy who had come to rescue and redeem Israel. We read that on several occasions prior to Palm Sunday that Jesus had foretold His death and resurrection to His disciples. Jesus knew that He would be celebrated on Sunday and that by the end of the week the people would be shouting, “Crucify him!” Yet…He climbed on the back of that donkey and rode forth in obedience to the Word and will of God. He rode forth in love for the very people who would turn from celebrating His arrival to demanding His death.
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!”
The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:7-11 NLT)
How did they go from laying garments down and shouting praises to God along with Messianic titles at the very sight of Jesus to demanding that Pontius Pilate crucify Him?
I think one of the major reasons is that Jesus did not fit into their expectations. He came as the suffering servant, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. The majority of the people were expecting a conquering king who would liberate them from the oppression of Roman rule and occupation.
They had rejoiced at the miracles of Christ. They were astounded by the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. We read in John 6:15; that after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand Jesus departed from the crowd to avoid them proclaiming Him as king. The people saw Jesus as the man sent from God to deliver them in the way they wanted to be delivered. Jesus had a public discourse with the Pharisees during Passion Week that helps illustrate the difference between the plan of God and the expectations of men:
Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
They replied, “He is the son of David.”
Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’
Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”
No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:41-46 NLT)
We can fall into the misconception that seemed to overwhelm the masses concerning Jesus. Too often we find ourselves bringing our plans, dreams and ideas to God asking Him to bless them rather than seeking Him for the direction and calling that He has for our lives.
When our expectation concerning our relationship with God or concerning His plan for our life does not come from prayer and study of the scripture it is highly possible that we will find our expectations of Jesus are unrealistic or unbiblical.
As Passion Week begins I would encourage each of us to examine our worldview. Have we taken our culture, our dreams, our plans, our beliefs and our expectations and projected them onto the scriptures? Or… Have we gone to the scriptures in reverence and humility and asked God to change us to be like Jesus?
My hope and prayer is that following Jesus as our Lord and Savior would be our culture, our worldview and our expectation from life.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)