Palm Sunday Musings: Moving Beyond Great Expectations

Today, Sunday 4/17/11, is Palm Sunday. It is the day that we remember and celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem where people placed palm fronds before Him. Palm fronds historically mean triumph and victory[i] and the act of laying them down before someone was a common welcome for a coming king or hero.[ii] The crowd was anticipating Jesus arrival. Part of the great anticipation stems from the resurrection of Lazarus. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church recognize the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday with belief that Lazarus was raised from the dead on that day.[iii]  The palm Sunday account in John 12 does suggest that the resurrection of Lazarus was fairly recent as the crowd and followed him and those conspiring to kill Jesus also want to kill Lazarus. 

 So the scenario is that Jesus shown Himself to have power over death in resurrecting Jesus and approached Jerusalem.  The crowd was rife with anticipation. Jesus showed himself to have power over death. Expectations soared. The thoughts had to be The Messiah had finally arrived as who else has power over death. Finally the Son of David is coming to claim the throne, set all things right, and set them free from home and establish the reign of David.  They expected great and big things.  God’s plans were quite different.  Soon the crowd would turn.  Many who proclaimed “Hosanna” later proclaimed “Crucify Him!”  What changed? 

God’s plan was not what people expected.  They were expecting immediate relief and victory. They were focused on this life and the political tyranny they lived under.  They looked with eyes of this world, not eyes on the eternal world.  They looked for a conquering king, not a lamb to be slain. God ways did not meet the human expectation. Even those who did not join in the refrain to kill Jesus did not get it.  So the retreated and withdrew not having a clue what was going on.  They gave everything to follow Jesus, for what? To see him die?  They didn’t sign up for that, even though told over and over that was the plan, they didn’t get it.  No rather, on Palm Sunday, expectations were great.  Lazarus was alive and who could stop Jesus. He will bring victory.  

Guess what, we often still do not get it.  We have expectations. We get caught up in this world. God does not do things the way we expect. We fail to see His way and His victory. We often get angry when God doesn’t match our expectations or withdraw when we have no idea what God is doing as it does not match how we think things should play out.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God did bring victory. He used the events to follow to redeem all that will surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Jesus is making all things right, but still we can miss it. We can still get distracted with the ways of the world and what we want God to do in this world, in the here and now. Life can be focused on what is going on “immediately” and the varied “tyrannies of suffering” we live under. We want all made right and want to see God working now.  Ah, but God asks us to surrender in spite of all before us.  Whatever pain, whatever struggle, whatever is going on in this life. The call is to trust Him and surrender to Him.  This is day to day moment by moment. We each need to get past our great expectations and surrender. 

And here is what is worth focusing on today, and the true celebration. Jesus is soon coming to make all things right.  He will be coming back as the Lion of Judah.  He will be coming to set all things right. He who has power over death is coming and will conquer all. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord above all Lords, King above all Kings.  At that point, it will be truly Hosanna in the Highest, for there is none like the Lamb who was slain who comes forth as the Lion of Judah, He above all others.  He who is both Lamb and Lion.  The time is coming, rejoice. Set aside the thoughts and expectations of self, for God has His ways. In Him alone is victory.  Look to His life, and let go of whatever you hold onto. While it is still Today, let go and surrender, for there is no other way.


Passion Week Musings: The Darkest Sabbath

Today in my mind and heart is best referred to as the dark Sabbath.  During this Passion Week, it is the day Jesus was in the grave.  He breathed Has last breath, declared it is finished, and was taken to the grave. Since he was in the grave on the Sabbath his body was not even properly addressed, that was too be finished on Sunday. The day of Jesus laying in the grave is a dark day with the emotions of those who followed and placed their faith in Jesus as Messiah in a dark, dark storm.

During the arrest and crucifixion the disciples responded their ways in similar vein, they just did it differently.  Some just ran. One ran so hard and so fast in fear that he left his clothing behind.  Some followed and watched it all, shocked. Some followed but defended self to the point of denial.   Fear, shock, and self-protecting denial occurred on the day of crucifixion.  Then Jesus died.

Imagine if you will your own storm of emotions that would occur as the one you left all to follow. The one you placed all hope and faith died the most horrendous death possible. He did not fight back. He did not defend himself to lies.  He just died.  Before he died he said confusing things like “My God, My God, why has though forsaken me.” and “It is finished.”  He even took time to assure His mother was cared for and attended to.  It would be absolutely devastating.  Then you take this man, this one you loved and put all trust, and see his dead, bloody, lifeless body placed in the grave. All your hopes, dreams, and faith seemed for naught, empty, and shattered.

We at some point each have tasted some measure of grief, but no grief ever experienced matches the grief of the disciples on that day.  They had to feel immense shock. They had thoughts such as:  How could this have happened?  Why didn’t he save or defend himself?  What does this mean? How could this happen if he is the Messiah?  Those questions and emotions would likely quickly turn to anger, even anger at the father.  Thoughts such as: God how could you let this happen? How could you give us the Messiah only to have him die?  How dare Jesus not defend himself, didn’t he know we all depended on him, gave up everything for him?  The emotions would quickly move toward despondency. There would be thoughts like: Now what? There is no place left to turn?  There is no hope for anyone? This doomed us all?  God cannot be real, so what is the point?  There also had to be lots of confusion and aimlessness. Thoughts would arise such as: What now?  What do I do tomorrow?  Where do I go from hear? Do I return to my old life?  I cannot go back, where do I go?    There are probably many more thoughts and emotions experienced on the darkest of Sabbaths.  For there is no other day in time where there seemed to be less reason for hope, more confusion about what lies ahead, more reason to question God.  The darkest Sabbath had it all.  For the disciples were shocked, grieved, and wounded. 

Now there are times even know in this life that what God is doing is hard to understand. We have expectations that are shattered. We have expectations of ways God will act, but what God does makes no sense.  We are often left wondering, grieved, confused, and questioning.  But know this; God’s plan is always for His glory. His plan is far better than our expectations, hopes and dreams.  We are not going to always understand or have answers.  Yet, we can always trust God to be faithful.  The darkest Sabbath was but a short moment in time.  Darkness grew and celebrated but that dark day did not last because God’s plan and power is soon to be revealed. The tomb is soon to be found empty.  God’s love and power is made manifest for all.  And the darkest levels of human emotions for those that spent every day following and walking in surrender to Jesus would turn to greatest Joy as the clarity and understanding of confusing words spoken occurs as the tomb will be empty.  If you are currently in a dark day or dark Sabbath, know full well, that when tomorrow does come, it comes with full hope and joy and the period of darkness was but a moment.  For while the day is dark, know that Sunday is coming!

Palm Sunday Musings: Examining Expectations

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It is the day that commemorates when Jesus road into Jerusalem on an un-ridden colt. People placed their coats and palm fronds in front of the coat as he entered Jerusalem proclaiming “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Many of these same people, later in the week to come would scream “Crucify Him!” So the question is what changed from shouts asking for salvation to shouts demanding death. The answer comes in that Jesus did not meet their request in accordance with expectations. The people were looking for Jesus to come and remove their political suffering and oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire. They were looking for immediate results. Jesus did not meet those expectations. The failed expectations led to increased anger and hostility. Jesus death was called for because while he came to save, he did not come as a political savior, rather he came as a servant and sacrifice. Today, we still have many faulty expectations as to how God will work in our lives. We want God to meet us on our terms and in our way. If we have pain, we want immediate relief. We want God to give us advantages at the expense of others. We in general often approach God from our perspective and do not take time to consider what God’s perspective may be. Personally, there have been times of great anger toward God, because God allowed or didn’t intervene in what were harmful choices by others. Others have gotten angry at God for allowing a young person to die. Basically, what we ask of God and what we expect revolves around what we consider to be good for us. We can even make our own plans and ideas and then give them to God and ask God to bless them. It is our own wants, desires, and expectations that often distort our view of how God is operating in our life and in the world. So ultimately, each of us, while crying for God’s salvation, can easily turn and shout for his death, if God fails to meet our expectation. Each of us needs to engage in self-examination and ask God to reveal areas in our life we are holding to faulty expectations based on our own wants and desires. We need God to bring our will, thoughts, and heart toward His perspective rather than our own. We need to daily walk in trust and faith, even when times are most difficult. The reason being is ultimately God is in control and works all things together for His glory which is always good, even if sometimes very painful.

If you consider this line of thought even further, it is failed expectations and thoughts about relief from assorted types of suffering that pose a barrier to people accepting God’s gift of salvation.  The focus is often on why there is not immediate suffering relief and that the greatest evil is the ongoing prevalence of suffering. The question is that of “what does God allow pain and suffering and still be loving?”   It was such a mindset that led folks from cries of Hosanna to cries of crucify Him. In other words we attempt to define what God should do by our own concepts of justice, goodness, peace, and love.  All of our own concepts are faulty and what God has in mind and in store is far greater.  All that is needed is turning the self over to God and letting God truly save us in accordance with His will and His plan, not ours.