Palm Sunday Musing: Check those expectations

Today is Palm Sunday. It is interesting to think how such a day might play out in this social media age. Tweets with hash tags of #hosanna, #messiahishere, and #downwithRome might be the trending topics. This was a day that was ripe with expectation that soon crashed. People were excited as the felt a great change would soon come. Well, a great change did soon come, just not what was expected. They expected Jesus to come and make a world to their liking, away from the tyranny of the Roman Empire, a world where folks could be content and everything would go swell. God’s way and plan was not what people expected or wanted. This is still true today. There are a lot of post and focus on the varied elements of the kingdom of this world. There is writhing of the hands and gnashing of teeth over decisions of the government that invade the comfort of how we want the world to be. The focus is too much on what we would like rather than touching the hurting, the lost, the dying in this world. We fail to reach out to others with love and offer freedom as we go about finding comfort in our own lives. We praise God for what He can or does do for us. Sometimes, we get angry over things God does not do to make things go our own way. We want what we want and God is good when he complies and when he doesn’t well that is harder to grasp. So, take time today to reflect on your expectations of God. Do you simply shout Hosanna over how you think He might do you good, or are you praising God for His love and making a way for you that may be different then your own expectations. Are you truly willing to submit to the King of Kings or only willing to do so when things line up nicely?

Holy Week Musings: Palm Sunday- Evaluate Expectations

Today, 4/1/2012, is celebrated as Palm Sunday. It is the day Jesus made is triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a colt and people laid palm fronds before Him proclaims Hosanna. Jesus came to Jerusalem for Passover and excitement was buzzing. He had raised Lazarus from dead and taught from the Mount of Olive. People were excited about what Jesus was about to do. They eagerly expected that the tyranny of Rome would be shaken off and that Jesus would take his place on David’s throne to rule as Messiah. On that day, many years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem in the way that scripture prophesied Messiah would enter Jerusalem. The buzz that day had to be immense and it culminated in a huge spontaneous celebration. Palm Sunday was in essence really the first flash mob, only there was no planning involved, it just happened. People were excited. God was about to change everything and life would soon be better for all. Unfortunately, they missed the reality. Yes, God was about to change everything, just not in a way that matched expectations. Rather, God moved in a greater way that was beyond improving our life now, but rather making a way for all to be made right, fully. For Jesus did not lead a revolution or take the throne. He did not destroy Rome and life was not going to be any different. Now certainly the throngs and cries of the people had to bring temptation to invoke the plan of doing whatever to make life best for now. He could have taken the throne and undid of Rome but that would have missed the point of undoing what had been done. Adam had put all of creation under a curse of sin by one action. Jesus by one action made the way of restoration and redemption. He made it possible for man to be in direct relationship with God. He suffered greatly to bring freedom.

People expected and wanted one thing but God had something else in mind. Today, often times we are not any different than the Palm Sunday crowd. We want God to make our life best in the moment. We are focused in what God is doing for me know. We get upset if God doesn’t somehow bring circumstance to our liking. Personally, I have had my own expectations shattered at times and it did lead to periods of great anger and sin. God didn’t do things the way I thought He should. See our expectations are dangerous things and are usually wrong. Our expectations are based on our view of the world and what we think is best in the moment. Our expectations come out of our selfishness. Life doesn’t play out in accordance with what we think is “our best life now.” Things do not work out in accordance with what we want. And if we get what we want, the how we get there is usually not the way or path chosen on getting there. The story that plays out in life is never what we expect and always filled with surprises. There are many reasons for the many twists and turns of life that run contrary to even the most honorable of expectations.

So does that mean we should not have expectations? No, but we need to be constantly evaluating our expectations and desires. We need to continually be submitting whatever we expect or want before God. We need to exam self and the motives behind what we expect. We need to continually pursue God and his truth and change our own perspective to line up with His perspective. We need to move beyond the momentary and temporary and be open to whatever greater has in store. Ultimately, God meets our wants, desires, and expectations. When God does act, He acts in ways that far exceed whatever we could hope or imagine. Just like God’s plan of redemption truly met the needs of all who are willing to accept it. God had a better way. This remains true to this day. So, take time to examine where you are at, what you expect of God, what you expect with others, and what you expect of self. Examine all in light of scripture and ask God to direct paths and steps, even if things to do not go the way you expect. For Gods ways always exceeds expectations, even if we do not grasp it.

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: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. It is the first day of what is celebrated as Passion Week, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Grasping the events of the week really starts with this day, know as Palm Sunday. It is interesting to consider the symptoms of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. An interesting article, http://www.answers.com/topic/palm-sunday, indicates palm fronds were a symbol of victory and triumph. The book “Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible” edited by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney indicated that palms were also symbolic of righteousness. It also is reported that palm fronds serve as the covering during the Biblical feast of booths. This symbolism is important for us when considering the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus was recognized as coming royalty, acknowledged for righteousness, and prophetically pointing to Jesus serving as our covering as that covering was laid before his path. The aforementioned article also referenced the riding in on a donkey as being symbolic of entering in peace versus entering on a horse which would symbolize war. So take some time to think about that symbolism while taking time to read the Luke account of the Palm Sunday story. Feel free to also take time to read the account in Matthew 21: 1 – 17 and Mark 11: 1 – 11. After reading the passage will offer brief commentary on three reactions that occurred during Jesus approach to Jerusalem.

Luke 19:28-44 (ESV): Luke When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

Now let us take a look at three reactions to Jesus entry. First there was the reaction of great expectation. Jesus was recognized as the coming Messiah. The crowd in their response declared Jesus as Messiah, the coming Son of David, with the expectation of deliverance from oppression and living a time of victory and peace. The anticipation and expectations were high. It was seen the time had come for Messiah to act and bring freedom.

The next reaction is that of Jesus. He understood the reactions, and the expectation. He recognized that they did not grasp that for him to become the true covering, to offer true freedom from oppression, to be able to being true peace, he would need to be sacrificed and suffer much. Jesus knew what they were blind from seeing and understanding. Even though the celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they did not grasp the meaning. So Jesus wept for he knew the full extent of what was to come. He knew the consequences that would result. He knew that it was necessary for the bringing of true peace.

The third response was that of the religious elite, those in power in Israel. The saw the reactions, heard the proclamations and acted in fear. The conspiracy to bring about Jesus death took full shape and they were not going to rest until they solved the threat to their power and control. They were comfortable with their position and power, Jesus coming and taking over was the last they wanted. What made it worse is Jesus came not giving the honor for faithfully administrating Torah and the people, but rather challenged them at every turn, yet while remaining righteousness an honor. Jesus actions and words brought the shame; they could not have that, so the only way to remove the threat was to see to Jesus death.

The end result of the responses is what lead up to the ongoing events of Passion Week, the very elements that took place so that all may be brought to peace and free of oppression. For true peace is only found through the sacrifice of the innocent and redemption by the power of blood.


 

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.