Luke 19:28-44 Palm Sunday 2022
During the next seven days of Holy Week, we will be offered a lesson in the difference between expectations and hope.
The story begins today with the Palm Sunday procession of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Jesus rides in on a colt, just as King Solomon had in his inaugural parade when he rode in on his father’s donkey.
Jesus was at his peak of fame, and scores of his cheering followers – excited by his many miracles and deeds of power – threw their cloaks on the road in front of him, a kind of red-carpet welcome.
What an exciting day to be alive.
Imagine being there to witness just what the prophet Zechariah had promised hundreds of years before – passage that everyone would know:
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The frenzy was so great that maybe nobody even noticed something strange about the scene: Jesus was not smiling.
No royal wave.
No “V” for victory.
No victorious smile.
Luke 19:41-42 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus wept because he knew that we have such expectations for what a Messiah should do for us, and yet he knew that as soon as he failed those expectations that we would turn against him.
We cheer messiahs who promise to please us – but we crucify them when we think they’ve failed us.
There is a classic of American history called When the Cheering Stopped.
The book recounts the final years of President Woodrow Wilson following WWI.
When the “war to end all wars” was over, Wilson was an international hero.
On his first European tour after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs so large that newspapers noted that the American president had become more popular than Europe’s own heroes.
Well, the cheering lasted about a year.
Having won the war that would make the world safe for democracy, the allied nations were exuberant with optimism.
But the political power brokers in Europe were more concerned with working their own agendas than with laying the groundwork for a lasting peace.
Back home, old political rivalries blocked Wilson’s attempt to establish the League of Nations that could negotiate disputes before marching into another world war.
Under the strain and disappointment of it all the President’s health began to break, and shortly after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize he suffered a debilitating stroke.
The cheers and ticker tape that had greeted President Wilson in Paris, Rome and London first turned to silence and then to scorn when his vision for peace failed meet their expectations of spoils for the victors, expectations of expanded territory and expectations of financial reparation.
If you and your parents and their parents had all read and recited Zechariah’s prophesy of a divinely appointed king – one who would ride into the capital on a colt – wouldn’t you have some pretty high expectations for this messiah?
And if you’d heard – maybe even witnessed – the powerful deeds of Jesus, wouldn’t you have even higher expectations for King Jesus?
I bet you would … and I’d be right there with you in front row cheering and waving.
And today we, too, have expectations of what King Jesus should do for us.
Think about that for a moment: What do you expect of Jesus if you make him King of your life?
Do you expect him to make your life happier, healthier or more fulfilling?
Do you expect him to fix your marriage, fix your kids or fix your job?
Jesus wept because he knew that we walk away – or even worse – from our messiahs who disappoint our expectations of them.
In his disappointment, Judas would betray him.
Peter would deny him.
The crowd lining his entrance to Jerusalem with singing and dancing would soon be crying-out for Barabbas.
It was a wonderful parade, but it just seems that Jesus got everything wrong.
Consider that we expect our spiritual leaders to be strong but calm.
But at his first stop at the Temple, he lost his temper, overturned the tables and drove out the money changers.
We expect our leaders to give us tax breaks.
But Jesus got himself all caught up in a debate about taxes and had the nerve to tell these poor, oppressed people to pay up … to give Caesar his full tax.
And don’t we expect our kings to promise that things are going to get better … isn’t that why we vote for them?
But Jesus caps off his series of blunders by announcing that Jerusalem will be destroyed.
We had really wanted this young man to succeed, we really had.
Maybe if Jesus had done some focus groups or something he wouldn’t have been out of a job by Thursday night.
But Jesus did not come to tell us what we want to hear; Jesus came to be our Savior, and that often begins by telling us the truth.
And if we are going to live in the Kingdom of God, then that one of the first things we need to be saved from is our expectations.
We keep confusing hope with expectations.
We’ve been warned of this before.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts
Our expectations define and confine.
Our expectations define what we think the future should look like.
But they also confine what we allow to be satisfactory because we limit ourselves to looking for very specific things.
Can you see how limiting that is?
The Lord, who says His ways are not our ways, brings us Good News, but we turn our backs because it doesn’t meet our expectations.
In contrast to human expectations, Christian hope is not focused on desired things or events but on a desired person, Jesus Christ, who invites us into a Kingdom life, a life of ways that are not our ways.
We it comes to sports and games, we’re in it to win.
Vivienne prohibits me attending our Game Nights because I get too competitive … she says, unbecoming to a pastor,
But during the Special Olympics a few years back we were offered a glimpse of sports from a different perspective.
Nine children lined up for the 100-yard dash.
The gun sounded and the race was off.
But a few yards into the race, one of the children fell and burst into tears.
For some reason these challenged children did not understand the world’s concept of taking advantage when a competitor was down.
The other eight children stopped running and came back to their fallen comrade.
A young girl with Down’s syndrome kissed him and brushed him off.
After the children lifted him up together, and arm in arm, they ran over the finish line.
For a fleeting moment these children showed us what the Kingdom of God is like.
They challenged the world’s concept that first place is everything.
The audience rose to their feet and for that moment at least, their cheers were different from the fickle cheers for king Jesus entering Jerusalem.
In the race that we’re in, everyone matters, particularly those who have fallen and are on the outside.
Since hope trusts only in Christ and not in a particular expectation of the future, it never disappoints.
But it often surprises.
Jerusalem was visited by God that first Palm Sunday, but because of their narrow expectations of what the Messiah would be, they missed Him entirely – which brought Jesus to tears.
Every one of our lives has moments when God tries to pierce the armor of our self-defenses and the limitations of our rigid expectations of how things should be.
These are the moments when you have to decide if you are worshiping Jesus or just holding onto what you thought he would do for you.
These are moments when you don’t get what you were expecting, and they may leave you confused.
I got thinking about this as Vivienne and I move toward our retirement.
We can’t take our expectation of how things are done or how fast they are done to Texas.
Those expectations could make use miserable – and unpopular, too.
We have to be open to how Texas life will unfold.
And the same is true for you as you experience a pastoral transition.
Our Lead Team got to meet with our Conference Minister, Kris Bergstrom, on Tuesday evening, and I imagine that they came away with hope as they experience firsthand what quality ministers we have in our denomination.
If you hold the expectation that nothing will change, then those expectations will make you disappointed and the new pastor miserable.
But there are some great ministers out there – some who can build of what we value and who will have fresh eyes, ideas and strengths that can do better than I have in some areas.
God is still speaking, and He has a lot to do through this amazing congregation.
So on this Palm Sunday, we proclaim that a great hope has entered our lives.
His name is Jesus Christ, and wherever you encounter Christ, anything is possible.
Will we meet him when we step away from our expectations and follow Jesus to wherever he wants to lead us?