When I was a child thirty some odd children were crammed into the front lobby of the small United Methodist church that I attended. Each one of us held a small palm branch that we waved excitedly as we marched proudly down the center church aisle. This was sometime in the late 80’s to early 90’s, so just imagine the girls with their ruffled ankle socks, flowery dresses with ribbons wrapping their waists, with nice large bows holding back their poodle permed hair. The boys wore dress pants, pastel button up shirts, and suspenders. Mothers and Sunday school teachers lined us up, and we all giggled with excitement as we laid our palms at the front of the church by the altar rail in front of our parents and all the people we loved most. It was Palm Sunday, a day of joy and expectation of all things Easter. On this particular Sunday it was my birthday, and it promised to be a great week. And it was.
I loved Palm Sunday as a child! Did you? Now, the denomination that I was raised in did it RIGHT. It was beautiful to see all of the little children chattering with joy and waving their palm branches. We were a part of something really special. Today, I wish I could see that more often…
This morning I am taking some time to reflect on Palm Sunday and let it carry my thoughts on the entire Holy Week–including Passover. When I read the Palm Sunday story I am drawn in yet haunted by something. What begins as a moment of celebration for the coming king of Israel soon becomes a story of a great falling away of the very same people who professed to believe that Jesus was the Savior. And I have to ask myself…why? How could they lay down before Him palm branches and their own garments only to betray Him in the most cruel way less than a week later? They sang songs of wild praise out of one breath and shouted for His crucifixion out of another. How could they betray the Savior, and when did they change their minds? And if they, the ones who had seen His face and His miracles and who worshipped with reckless abandon could betray Him…could I? Do I? How?
I will try my best to explain what I have found, but I am no expert or trained theologian. I am, however, a curious daughter of the Lamb, and I want to understand. Or at least ask and wait for understanding.
The account of the triumphal entry is in each of the four gospel books, but for today I will use Luke.
Luke 19:36-42 New King James Version (NKJV)
36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:
“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent,the stones would immediately cry out.”
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
I highlighted the word disciples because it is the only book in the Gospels that refers to those praising Him in the triumphal entry as disciples. John says in Chapter 12 verse 17, “Therefore the people, who were with Him when he called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.” (emphasis mine) Many of the people that were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover had seen what Jesus had done for Lazarus only days before. It was they who had created a buzz in Jerusalem on whether or not Jesus would come for the celebration. The Pharisees had already begun to plot his death but wouldn’t move forward because of the uproar that would rise from the people. The were a united people, an expectant group hopeful for a Savior. So, what happened? I know that they had the expectations of Jesus riding in gloriously to fulfill their political expectations of freedom from Roman rule. Could they have decided in just a few short days that Jesus would not fulfill their expectations? Did they fear the political leaders? Maybe a little bit of both? I stumbled on this:
Matthew 27:20 New King James Version (NKJV)
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
They were obviously very easily persuaded. Perhaps, they allowed the chief priests and elders to speak so loudly and more often about an untrue character of Jesus that it began to sound true. Could they have succumbed to the clanging voices of the pharisees in order to stay relevant? Perhaps, there were many in the crowd that did not want Him to be crucified but did not speak up for fear of the crowd mentality? Hits a bit close to home when I think about the clamoring voices of modern media machines that would like to shape America into their cultural ideology, calling our spiritual leaders narrow-minded and obsolete. They label those that hold to the biblical worldview of marriage, sex–the whole spectrum of issues–as bigots and hateful. When something is repeated often enough, people generally began to accept it as truth. That is an echo chamber. Perhaps, they were in their own version of an echo chamber of false accusations about Jesus that they easily laid down their palm branches. And instead of declaring Him their rightful king and Savior, they raised their fists and shouted for His crucifixion. Whatever the reason is, I am not quite certain. It is probably a mixture of all of the above.
But I have a longing to ask the Holy Spirit: do I have any expectations of you, Jesus, that I need to lay down? Is there anything inside of me that isn’t based in the truth of Your Word? Do I have a shallow faith that is easily swayed? Do I have certain expectations that I wanted you to fulfill, Lord, that were not fulfilled the way I thought they should be, and it has hardened my heart? Are their even small expectations that I need to lay down?
I know for certain that there are some little expectations that I need to lay down in a time such as this–not that they aren’t important. Are you like me, and sometimes it’s the small things that can annoy you the most? Sometimes the small things bother me more than the big things because they can easily get under my skin. Here are a few: because of the quarantine my son may not get to have that Pre-K graduation; I will have to delay even longer to interview for that perfect job opportunity; Easter plans with friends and family will not be the same traditions this year; my kids may miss some things educationally; and my house might be sanitized but it will not be perfect. Case in point, this is the cute little kids art gallery that will cover my upstairs walls during the entire quarantine:
I am all too familiar with having a beef with the Lord because He didn’t answer prayers the way I expected. I expected my marriage to be a perfect love story from beginning to end–especially after those trying single years I went through. Nope. I would learn that the Lord DID answer my prayers…but I died in the process and the end result was much more than I had expected.
So, as we go into Holy Week, I come ready to lay down all of my expectations. But remember, not all expectations are bad. When the people shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” They had GREAT and GOOD expectations however influenced by their own visions, coupled with an easily swayed faith. Many of the expectations that we have are great and good. What I want to lay down before the Lord is how I think it all should play out. I like to have it all planned out for the Lord, drawn up in my mind in biblical proportions, every loose end tied up nicely. All I want him to do is sign off on it and print it out.
We are all coming to the Lord right now with prayers bursting with our own expectations on how the Lord is going to move. But the great question is, will we still follow Him if our expectations of how those prayers should be answered do not pan out? At this time in our history there are many words have been spoken over this current season. There is a RESET happening. There is an AWAKENING on the horizon. I believe them. I put full faith in those prophetic words. What I lay down are the expectations that I may have on how it will all play out. I know that the Lord is doing a new thing. What new thing He will do, I can only have a small idea. Just like in the Old Testament, I see the tearing down of Asherah poles, altars of Baal, and idols of a culture. I do expect that in the end, it may look similar. I do expect some shocking things to be unearthed and terrors to be grieved, but I do not know exactly what it will look like.
Honestly, I can not answer that until I am face to face with it. What I can do, is take my expectations to the Lord. Pray. Believe and ask in bold faith. Then put all of my expectations in HIM. You see…Jesus is Lord…he is the Forever Amen…HE is the period at the end of the sentence…He completed the picture. I don’t know the exact details of every situation that face me. None of us do. But I CAN put full faith in Jesus and have expectations that HE WILL MOVE. He WILL do something amazing and good. He is moving even when I don’t see or understand it. He is the miracle worker…the waymaker. I can believe that no matter what we all face this week and the next few weeks that it will be a good week…a very good week. Even if there are terrible things that happen this week, and the earth shakes…the Lord is moving and answering prayers. He sees the big picture. I do not. I choose to lay down my expectations and pick up the one expectation I want to have right now, and that is Jesus. So I wave my palm branches to the Lord in praise and say, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!”….and as I wave my branch I will plant my feet and ask the Holy Spirit to cover me and my family with the whole armor of God that we may not waver in our proclamation and that we will still shout “Hosanna!”…even if it isn’t what we had expected. It is going to be a great week.
Lord Jesus, I come to you humbly recognizing my human tendency to wonder and set up my own expectations and plans. I set my full expectations and faith in you Jesus. Continue to blow and breath on me Holy Spirit to ask…and keep asking…..because you long for that intimacy and I know you are for us and long to answer our prayers and see breakthrough for your children. But I align my heart to not waver should things not turn out the way I think that they should. I will not walk away. I love you. I praise you. I ask that you would have mercy on us all and let these dark times pass over us and our families and our communities around us. We place our expectations in You, Your Word, and Your voice….when You speak that is the rock we shall stand upon…that is what we will proclaim. You are Hosanna!!! You ARE EMMANUEL!!! We sing Hallelujah to the Lord for to you alone Jesus are Lord and to You alone we sing praise!
Songs to meditate upon: