When you have high hopes for something, and expectations fall short - it can be pretty devastating. If you’re expecting to take a trip to Disney and plans fall apart - that’s a bummer. When you have reason to expect your team to win the championship, and your team loses - that stings. But what about expectations when the stakes are a bit higher? This week is Passion Week, starting with Palm Sunday - when Jesus triumphantly rides into Jerusalem, ultimately to die for the sins of the world on Good Friday, and rise again to conquer death on Easter Sunday. People welcomed Jesus to town with some high expectations for Jesus was going to do. As we reflect on the people’s expectations for Jesus, reflect on your own expectations of Jesus: what do you expect out of Jesus? What can you expect from Jesus?
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. And in Matthew 21:8-9, we see the reaction of the people around:
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest in Heaven!”
This crowd was excited to see Jesus and gave Him a king’s welcome because of the expectations they had of Him. The Jewish people were under control of Rome, but they didn’t want to be. They believed that Jesus would lead a political revolt against Rome, so they praised Him. But by the end of the week, they realized that wasn’t what Jesus was here to do. Their misunderstood expectations of Jesus was were being let down. If you jump ahead in the week, you can see how the tables have turned. When Pilate, the governor, gave the crowd a decision of which prisoner he should release - either Barrabas (a guilty, murderous criminal) or Jesus - you can see how the people now feel about Jesus when expectations were let down. Matthew 27:21-23:
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barrabas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify Him!” “Why? What crime has He committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!”
The same crowd that offered Jesus a King’s welcome, now wanted Him brutally killed - preferring the release of a murderous criminal to roam their streets. The people were expecting a political savior, and not looking for a spiritual Savior. Jesus didn’t have plans to free the Jewish people from Rome, His plans were far greater: to spiritually save all of humanity from their sins. But when their misunderstood expectation of Jesus failed, they were furious and wanted Him dead.
What do you expect from Jesus? Do you expect that Jesus will make your life perfect? Because you’re a Christian, life should no longer have struggles or hard times. If that is your expectation - what happens when hard times come your way and life gets difficult? Did Jesus fail you? Do you bail on Him when life gets hard? Or do you expect Jesus to be a genie that grants your every wish, thinking that because He is God, He should be able to get you what you want? What happens when you pray for something and you don’t get it? Do you suppose He must not actually be God? Or do you expect Jesus to automatically provide you with a good group of friends, called the church? And the reason you go to church is not actually to pursue Jesus, but for a place of belonging… What happens if your friends bail on you and the church fails you? People in church are human and have flaws too… If your friends hurt and bail on you, do you point the finger at Jesus for hurting and bailing on you?
What can you expect from Jesus? God didn’t send His Son here to make your life perfect - actually, being a Christian will make certain areas of your life even more difficult. Jesus didn’t come here to grant your every wish and He didn’t come here just so you could have a good group of friends. These would be misunderstood expectations. Here’s what you can expect: expect Jesus to spiritually save. John 3:16 says it perfectly: because God loves YOU so much, He sent Jesus here to die for you, and that if you believe in that, you will have eternal relationship with God. If you expect Jesus to make your life nice and perfect, at some point, those expectations will be let you down and you may end up taking that out on Jesus. Expect something far greater than a nice and neat life here and now - expect that Jesus will spiritually save you, give you forgiveness, give you eternal life, provide you with a loving relationship with God that lasts forever.
So, what’s your expectations of Jesus?