“What Did You Expect?” by Kenny Green

On Palm Sunday, Kenny Green spoke at the Gateway Austin McNeil Campus, and I spoke at Gateway South.

You can watch or listen to Kenny’s message at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

Here’s what we shared:

“On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, and the people shouted their approval – proclaiming him as their King.

Jesus has just been in Jericho and has travelled from there to Bethany where Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus then travelled across the crest of the Mount of Olives and then down the western slope of the mountain on His way in to Jerusalem. Now, as He sits on a donkey and is preparing to ride into the city, I wonder what Jesus might have been thinking as He looks down into the city streets and He sees their faces and He hears their voices singing and cheering!

It’s pandemonium. The streets are filled with thousands of people. It’s the first day of the observance of Passover where the Jewish people are celebrating the emancipation of the people of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. Normally about 40,ooo people has swollen to about 200,000 people. Every faithful Jew living within a hundred miles of the city has travelled in to Jerusalem to observe Passover together.

Jesus sees them there at the entrance to the city.

  • He’s been in their towns
  • He’s healed their sick
  • He’s taught in their synagogues
  • He knows what their expectation is.

Jesus knows that they are all waiting for their promised Messiah to come to overthrow Rome to deliver them from the injustice they’ve been suffering just like God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt so long ago.

I wonder what is going through Jesus’ mind as He hears the crowds cheering for him and hears their voices shouting: “Save us! . . .Rescue us! . . .Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus knows that just a few days later most of those same people will turn on him, mocking him, and shouting and calling for His crucifixion.

It’s virtually impossible for you and I to imagine how painful it must have been to know that He was everything that the people needed.

Jesus was absolutely The King that they had been hoping and waiting for,
yet He knew that He was going to have to disappoint them temporarily
in order to save them eternally.

Their expectations of Jesus as Messiah and their expectations of what He was coming to do were very different from what He was actually coming to do!

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where in your mind there was a certain way something was going to go down, right?

In fact, a lot of you are experiencing that right now.

In fact, most of us recognize that the disappointment and frustration of our unmet expectations often lead us to react in all sorts of negative ways.

Let’s talk about these people for a few moments because you see, if we just take these people, and don’t put them in to context, then we might be tempted to judge them.

Before we jump to any conclusions about them, let’s try to learn a little more about who they are and what they’ve been through. About a hundred years prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Roman Empire under the brutal leadership of Cesar Augustus had invaded the holy land in 63 BC and completely took over. God’s people had won their independence many years before that during something called the Maccabean Revolt. They were free but than the Roman Empire comes in and invades Jerusalem and occupies the city under Cesar.

Cesar props up a man named Herod who brought God’s people under control through brutality.  For all intents and purposes they were slaves once again.

Living under such brutality, the people cling to life with the promises of Moses and the prophets – the promise of a coming deliverer. The Messiah who would come and usher in justice and peace that they hadn’t experienced in almost a hundred years.

These are the people who were there the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Herod knew the Old Testament prophesies too. Shortly after Jesus was born, Herod heard news about a King being born in the region so he ordered that every Jewish boy under the age of 2 would be killed.

The relatives of those murdered children are in the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as Jesus comes to the city.

Then after Herod dies and his kingdom is divided between his 3 sons, the Jewish people see this as a chance to rise up and regain their independence.  Jewish zealots start a revolt but Rome sends Roman soldiers into Jerusalem to squelch that rebellion. These Roman soldiers sent a message to the Jewish people that day so they publicly crucified 2000 Jews along the streets of Jerusalem.

The friends and the families of those who were crucified that day are now in the city cheering on the coming Messiah.

Now we can see why they cry out “Hosanna . . .save us” and maybe even better understand their expectations.

They’re crying out for the coming King to make His triumphal entry and to overthrow Rome and save them from the terror and the oppression, and the injustice. They’re desperate, angry, hopeless and afraid. They’ve lived under this tyranny for almost a hundred years.

Now they see their deliverer coming!

“There He is! That’s the guy that raised Lazarus from the dead and He’s riding on a donkey just like the prophet Zechariah said he would be!”

Rejoice, O people of Zion
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.
I will remove the battle chariots from Israel
and the warhorses from Jerusalem.
I will destroy all the weapons used in battle,
and your king will bring peace to the nations.
His realm will stretch from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:9-10

  • These were faithful people who believed the prophecies!
  • They trusted God and they believed that they’re Messiah was going to come!
  • That’s why they’re laying down their cloaks – literally laying down the shirts off of their backs like a red carpet
  • That’s why they’re waving palm branches
  • That’s why they’re shouting “Hosanna in the Highest”!

  Jesus much to their disappointment was on a different mission.

  • Not victory over Rome but victory over sin and death.
  • Not to rescue them riding on a warhorse but to rescue all of us on a cross.

The Pharisees were threatened by Jesus, and they questioned His authority and rejected Him completely.

So what happened? How did the tide turn so quickly?

  • How did the people go from hailing Jesus as “Messiah and King” on Sunday to shouting “Crucify Him!” just a few days later?
  • How did things go from a triumphal entry on Sunday to carrying His own cross on Friday?
  • From cloaks being laid before Him on Sunday to His clothes being stripped from Him on Friday?
  • From crowds gathering around Him on Sunday to His closest friends abandoning Him on Friday?

I believe that a significant part of the answer to that question is that they were dealing with the frustration, the anger, and the disillusionment of unmet expectations.

They had a pre-conception of what they believed was going to happen and how it was going to happen.

When Jesus didn’t do things the way they thought He was going to then they immediately began experiencing feelings and emotions that, fueled by poisonous words from the Pharisees, quickly turned to hostility and bitterness and rage.

We can relate, can’t we? We can all relate, to one degree or another, with the experience of unmet expectations leading to feelings that are very uncomfortable and often unmanageable – feelings of powerlessness, loss of control, fear and anxiety, loss of hope, or confusion.

Some of us are dealing with a lot of these feelings right now because we’ve put our hope and our trust in the wrong things or the wrong people, and we’ve been left with unmet expectations and emptiness and disappointment.

We need to have healthy expectations of God in our lives, but let me tell you what I find to be so incredible about this conversation about expectations that you and I are having together this week.

Most of the time conversations about having healthier expectations usually involve someone telling you that you should lower your expectation and then you’ll be happier and more content. That’s not what you’re going to hear from me! Not today!

The problem that the people were having in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday was not that their expectations were too high and that Jesus was not going to do enough to live up to them. Their problem was that their expectations were way too low, and so they missed Him.

They missed the fact Jesus that wasn’t coming to merely change their circumstances so that they could be at peace, but instead He was coming to make a way for all of us to experience peace and hope and love no matter what the circumstance. There was so much more to the story than they were able to see that day and tragically, they missed Him.

  • If you’re expectation is that God is eventually going to change your spouse – ask Him to change your heart toward your spouse instead and see what happens.
  • If your expectation is that God is going to give you more money so that you’ll be happy – ask Him for a heart that is grateful and content with what you already have.
  • If your expectation is that God is merely going to change your circumstances this year – ask Him to change you in the midst of your circumstances and just see what happens.

God is in the business of doing infinitely more than we can dream of for ourselves and infinitely more than most of us have ever asked of Him! God’s love for each of us is unconditional. His love is limitless, and His love always has our best interest in mind so much so that on that first Palm Sunday He recognized that what they wanted and what they were radically different and so Jesus was willing to disappoint people temporarily in order to change all of us forever.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

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