At Gateway Church in Austin we have been tracing the story of Jesus from his anointing at Bethany and Palm Sunday to his betrayal and crucifixion—hence the title, How To Get Killed In 6 Days. We will also look at the lengths to which Jesus was willing to go to die for us, so that we might follow in His steps to take up our cross and die daily for Him.
Discussion questions for your life group or family dinner are here.
Video of the Message I Shared:
[Message begins at about the 23 minute mark]
Notes from the Message I Shared:
Have you ever had a moment in your life when you had high expectations and instead you experienced great disappointment?
Ever had high expectations that were not met leaving you disappointed, angry, bitter, or even struggling in your faith?
In this series we are looking at how dying to our selves allows us to truly live the life God intends for us. We’ve been looking at the last 6 days in the life of Jesus – from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion, and we’ve discovered that Jesus was willing to die for us so that we might follow in His steps to take up our cross and die daily for Him.
- You see, there is no resurrection in our life without crucifixion.
- If we truly want to live, we need to die to every selfish area in our lives.
- This series challenges us to go deeper than cultural Christianity.
- Too often, we like Jesus for what we get from Him.
- Many people “follow” Jesus AND do whatever they want to do. We often pray to ask Jesus to bless what we want to do and what we want from Him.
- As a result, we give up on God because He doesn’t do what we want Him to do for us. I know too many atheists who are angry at a God they say they don’t believe in.
Truly following Jesus means moving beyond a selfish version of cultural Christianity. Instead, we need to kill the right things in our lives so we can truly come alive.
Today we are looking at dying to our expectations.
When God doesn’t do what you expect–do you kill your expectations or kill God?
On Palm Sunday – the crowds celebrated Jesus for who they thought he was and what they hoped he would do, and many of those same people turned on Jesus just a few days later. They went from shouting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!”
So what happened?
- How did the people go from hailing Jesus as “Messiah and King” on Sunday to shouting “Crucify Him!” on Friday?
- 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 in part 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 do then they immediately began experiencing feelings and emotions that, fueled by poisonous words from the Pharisees, quickly turned to hostility and bitterness and rage.
Let me share some context:
- 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.
- Caesar 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.
- Herod who ordered his troops to kill every Jewish boy in Bethlehem under the age of 2.
- 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.
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.
Some of the relatives of those murdered babies or those crucified in the rebellion are in the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as Jesus comes to the city.
Now we can see why they cry out “Hosanna . . .save us” and maybe even better understand their expectations.
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” – John 12:13
In the ancient world, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. There were palm branches on their coins and even on Solomon’s Temple.
They are 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.
The streets are filled with thousands of people on 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 a population of about 40,000 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.
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!”
These were faithful people who believed the prophecies! They trusted God and they believed that they’re Messiah was going to come!
And yet… Once some of the people realized Jesus was not doing what they wanted, they turned on Him. The religious leaders conspire to kill him. Judas betrays Him. The crowd shouts: “Crucify Him!”
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the crowd.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. – John 19:14b-16
Think about that: they would rather have a brutal Ceasar than a spiritual Messiah.
It’s virtually impossible for you and I to imagine how painful it must have been for Jesus to know that He was everything that the people needed. As Kenny Green shared in his message “What Did You Expect?” on Palm Sunday two years ago:
“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.” – Kenny Green
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!
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.
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.
Think about this:
Jesus was willing to disappoint people temporarily in order to change all of us forever.
Jesus does the same with us. He may not say “yes” to certain prayer requests because He knows something beyond what we know.
In this case, the crowds wanted a political savior, but if Jesus had overthrown the Roman authorities, only those in that region of the world and in that generation would have benefitted.
Instead, the invisible Kingdom of God has come and has captured the hearts of people from every tribe, tongue, nation. His Kingdom is not confined within borders. His Kingdom is not advanced by weapons of war but by faith, hope, and love.
God’s 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 He did what was best for them and for us even though it cost Him so much.
The people limited what they wanted the Messiah to accomplish!
The people in the crowd and the religious leaders had come to closure too soon on what God was doing and what He was going to do.
If we aren’t careful, we do the same thing all the time.
- Sometimes we are too resistant to change because we lose power.
- Sometimes we are resistant to the miraculous because we want to be in control.
- Sometimes we are resistant to faith, love, and hope because we value what is in the physical realm more than what is in the spiritual realm.
We come to closure too soon on who God is and what He wants to do in our lives.
Many times we don’t give God room to grow in our minds and in our hearts. We believe that the way we met God is the only way that he is. We limit who He is and how He works – not only in our lives but in the lives of others.
As my friend Joe Slawter mentioned to me: “When expectations of God go unmet it is usually because of a historic and limited understanding of God. It might have been enough for the past but will not work going forward. In unmet expectations God wants to expand our understanding of him and deepen the relationship.
If we don’t let God redefine and deepen our understanding of Him then our disappointment with him will cause us to …
- become easily swayed and will just go with the flow and stop thinking critically (like the crowd)
- compromise convictions and begin to rationalize sinful behavior (religious leaders)
- begin to believe too much about ourselves and live lives in self preservation (Pilate)”
Do you have an open heart and mind to who God wants to be for you and for what God wants to do in your life and even through your life?
Some of us are struggling with faith, love, and hope because we’ve been disappointed with God. He didn’t answer our prayers in the way we thought He should.
Like the crowd, maybe you want a temporary solution, when God is actually offering a better and even longer term solution!
God wants to so change you that the transformation positively affects your children and your children’s children!
You want God to change your circumstances, but God is actually wanting to change your character.
When we allow Him to transform us, our character can handle our circumstances – no matter what they may be.
Try this the next time you find yourself in a challenging situation and things don’t go the way you want ask: “God, what do you want me to learn from this?”
Have you heard of Victor Frankl? He survived a concentration camp during the Holocaust and went on to help others find goodness and meaning in life. He once said:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Victor Frankl
- 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.
Let’s be honest, at times we may expect from others things they could never actually deliver. We look to people to meet our deepest longings in a way that actually only God can meet.
Too often, we struggle with unmet expectations. We expect so much from others and so much from ourselves. “Failed expectations and not being able to love or accept shortcomings is a common thread that runs through addictions, binges, depression and that feeling people have when they are stuck.” – Dr. of Psychology Cheryl MacDonald.
As our senior pastor John Burke has reminded us recently, at Gateway we say: “No Perfect People Allowed” because we are serious about authenticity. We have permission to stop pretending to have it all together!
4 years ago we did a series called Unchained. I was reluctant to even consider working through the 12 steps. I had always thought the 12 steps was just for those addicted to alcohol or drugs, but I honestly have experienced God and healing working through the 12 Steps. Recovery and the 12 Steps are for all of us. They are spiritual disciplines that help us overcome anger, bitterness, control issues, anxiety, and depression – symptoms of unmet expectations.
As I am working on the 12th step this week, part of my assignment is to encourage others to find healing by working through the steps. So let me do that right now: be intentional about pursuing healing by participating in Restore at any of our Gateway campuses.
A prayer that has emerged from 12 step recovery may be familiar to you, and it is truly helpful.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Here is a fact: broken people disappoint us.
As a result, sometimes we blame others for our issues. If we aren’t careful, we may even blame God for the decisions others make.
Expectations based on human assumptions can cause trouble. We assume others know what we need. They aren’t God! They cannot read our minds or know our hearts!
Communicate what you need!
Some of the most difficult moments in our marriage were the direct results of not just unmet expectations, but unexpressed expectations.
Unexpressed expectations almost always lead to unmet expectations.
Unmet expectations create doubt in our minds.
Doubt in our minds creates bitterness in our hearts.
Have you been disappointed by someone?
- Did they know I wanted this or needed that?
- Is what I wanted or needed even possible for them to fulfill?
- Am I imposing on them?
Now let me ask you another question:
Have you been disappointed by God?
If so, be honest! Let Him heal you!
Perhaps you will discover that you have been stuck in your relationship with God because you are more disappointed with God than you realized.
Remember: He knows better than we do!
When we are honest, we think we know best. We want to be God.
We don’t really have prayer requests. We have prayer demands. We try to hold God hostage as we demand He do for us what we want, and if He does not then we turn our back on Him.
Our solutions are often temporary. God has something in mind that is eternal.
- God knows what we need and what we want, but He doesn’t impose on us.
- He gives us what we want and allows what we can handle.
- Even in the worst of circumstances, when we allow Him, He can bring good out of the bad.
So what should we do? If high expectations get us into trouble, should we lower our expectations?
Well, the solution isn’t just lowering our expectations either.
We don’t hit rock bottom if we keep lowering our standards.
Some of us are stuck because we refuse to turn all our lives over to God. Rather than hitting rock bottom and looking up for help, we keep allowing ourselves to keep going further down. What used to be the bottom for us, now looks like our ceiling.
A few summers ago, I confessed to my men’s life group that I had been living by a mindset which I had thought helped me avoid disappointment and overcome anxiety. I would often say to myself:
Nothing ever turns out as bad as I fear nor as good as I hope.
This may have been a helpful mantra when it comes to my expectations of others, but here’s the problem with this idea: I avoid disappointment, but I also diminish my level of faith. Too often, I have believed this to be true in my relationship with God, and I shouldn’t consider God by the same standards I consider others.
Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20:
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I am trying to assume the best in others while also having a spirit of grace.
I am trying to expect “immeasurably more” in my relationship with God while also being patient and re-calibrate what “immeasurably more” from God even means.
- Are you facing disappointment because your expectations of others is unreasonable?
- Are you lacking faith for a better future because of your disappointments with God and others?
- How can we re-align our expectations in such a way that we avoid disappointment while keeping faith in a God who measures things so differently than we do?
Take all of your expectations to God and allow Him to shape your expectations.
Taking up our cross daily means dying to our expectations and taking on the expectations God has for us and wants us to have.
We need to lay all of our expectations at the cross.
We need to kill our high expectations AND our low expectations.
We need to replace our expectations with faith, love, and hope.
We need to be fueled by the love of God, walking in step with the Spirit of God by faith, and holding onto the hope we have in Jesus.
Listen to this verse from Psalm 62:
“My soul, you wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” – Psalm 62:5
The word “expectation” here is the same word translated in other verses as “hope” such as in Jeremiah 29:11 – a passage where God is comforting His people who are in exile – away from their homeland after being taken hostage by the Babylonians.
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (expectation). – Jeremiah 29:11
When we let Him, God will give you what you expect.
In other words, you will hope for what He wants for you when you fully trust Him.
Last week, we looked at how 500 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the prophet Zechariah said the Messiah would do just that.
Listen again to Zechariah 9:12
“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” – Zechariah 9:12
That same word translated “expectation” is translated “hope.” We can become “prisoners of expectation.”
- When our expectations are rooted in our own selfish motives or in people, we are like prisoners who are heading towards death.
- When our expectations are in God and what He has for us, we are prisoners whose expectations are leading us towards freedom and life.
I want you to catch a glimpse of how Jesus realigned His expectations with God, The Father.
On the night He was betrayed, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed with such intensity, the Scriptures tell us He sweat drops of blood.
Listen to His prayer:
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus looks back at His followers to see if they are praying with Him, but He discovers they fell asleep. He is facing death all on His own.
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” – Matthew 22:39,42
Jesus changed His prayer from “if it is possible then take the cup from me” to “if it isn’t possible to take this cup from me, then I surrender to your will.”
Our prayer needs to become Jesus’ prayer: “Heavenly Father, not my will, but yours be done.”
- Heavenly Father, what do you want?
- For what should I be praying?
- What should I be expecting?
- What are you expecting of me?
Now why does Jesus use the word “cup”? What is the “cup” he wants taken from Him?
In that same book of Jeremiah we read from earlier where the people of Israel are in exile, we discover that God’s justice – His wrath for the evil being committed was described as a cup.
15 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. – Jeremiah 25:17
Jesus willingly chooses to take the cup of God’s wrath for all nations. He takes drinks the cup of poison we created by our wicked choices and evil actions. He drinks the cup for us. He willingly gives His life on the cross for us.
Remember those men and women who went from shouting “Save us!” to shouting “Crucify Him!?” What Jesus was willing to do was far more difficult and far more life-giving than changing their circumstances. Jesus was willing to die on the cross to give us all life – including those who have turned against Him.
So I want us to reflect on this thought today.
Too often our expectations of people are too high, and our expectations of God are too low.
God wants to bring forgiveness, life, a depth of character to your life, and freedom to you.
Are you willing to follow Him? Are you willing to surrender your life – all of your life to Him? Are you willing to die to our old life and your selfish ways – daily taking up your cross – so that you might truly live?
In what areas of your life do you have expectations that need to die?
Are you willing to take every area of your life and let God shape your expectations – your hope?