(Original series written Easter of 2020 during the beginning months of COVID-19.)
We start our Stay Holy, Stay Home journey today through the last few chapters of Matthew. As we continue to social distance, wear masks grocery shopping and deal with the very new daily anxieties that today brings with COVID-19, let us walk on steady ground as we follow Jesus to the cross and celebrate his resurrection.
Read Matthew 21:1-11
Palm Sunday is the sixth Sunday in Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, a solemn week of remembering Christ’s journey to the cross. The scripture you just read paints a scene of hope and celebration. Christ, having sent two of his disciples to find a donkey,proceeded to begin his slow ascent into death on these pages. Note that the donkey is a prophecy fulfilled, not just a random detail.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.Zechariah 9:9
Jesus’s victory march into Jerusalem evoked much love and submission in the people, compelling some to lay down their cloaks while others cut palm branches to place on the road (symbolizing victory). They shouted “Hosanna!”, which means “save us!” in Hebrew. This is a loud and boisterous scene that is loaded with expectations of coming victory. To the Isrealites, the coming Messiah had come for one purpose: to overthrow the Roman government and restore His people’s land. But those expectations would soon reveal their unbelieving hearts and the same crowd that yelled “Hosanna!” will cry “Crucify!”.
Reality checking our expectations of Jesus
Their shift from worshippers to lynching mob came when it was revealed Jesus wouldn’t fulfilled their misinformed agenda for him. They had falsely believed God’s mission for the Christ was their own, but Christ didn’t come for that. Instead, he overthrew sin and death! He conquered what the whole world needed: salvation for our very souls, something bigger than just current circumstance. Our expectations of Jesus make him smaller than he is. As we enter into this week, let us be mindful of the earthly, self-serving expectations we have of Jesus. I know for myself that I have been guilty of turning Jesus into some kind of genie who will grant me whatever I want as long as I have faith and obedience. I mean, doesn’t the Bible say “ask whatever you want…”?! Or perhaps we expect Jesus to make us simply feel better about ourselves and is solely there to meet our needs but when this doesn’t happen, we turn away as fast as the crowd did in Jerusalem. When our expectations of Jesus become about us, they are likely to find us shouting for joy one day and the next, distant and cold. Whatever it may be for you, let Palm Sunday remind you that Jesus will not conform to your expectations, for God’s plan for us and for the world is so much bigger than our cries of “Hosanna!” are. For he has indeed come to save us though not by sword but by the cross. So I would invite us today to reality check the expectations we have of him, confess them and lay them down.
Collect some greenery around the house. If you have palm branches, you are amazing and we all envy you. Make a bouquet of greenery and place it in the center of the crown of thorns. Let this greenery or palms serve as a symbol to aid you in noticing and confessing any expectations we have of Jesus that are self-serving. Say this simple confession:
“Lord, I confess that I love my expectations of you more than who you really are. Forgive me.”
Edited by Jessica Wilson