Written by The Rev. Dcn. Nathan Sharp - St. Patrick's Anglican - Lexington, KY
Much of the tension that comes about in human relationships has to do with expectations. Whether they be familial, friendly, or romantic, we all have certain ideas about how a person should act or what a person should be like. Healthy relationships learn to navigate these expectations through such means as respect, trust, time, and appreciation. Expectations can be good, but what happens when our human expectations meet reality in an expectation-breaking way?
This is what happens time and again in the gospel narrative. For example, Jesus did not meet the expectations of those who were waiting for a King to arrive in Jerusalem. His healings and His teachings they could get on board with, but for many the coronation was too much. Although Jesus exceeded their expectations for life and for a king, God's plan in Christ did not meet the visual or physical expectations of a kingdom come.
It can be difficult to take in the significance of Palm Sunday with Good Friday and Easter on the horizon. The celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is bittersweet when viewed from the safe distance of 2,000 years and the knowledge of His coming crucifixion. It can also be easily bypassed on the way to the resurrection. Thankfully, we have the ability to see things in perspective, which Jesus' disciples and the crowd at the time could not. Even still, I wonder what kind of things we would expect had Jesus showed up in our lifetime. How might we have responded to His arrival and the accusations eventually brought against Him? Would our expectations or actions have been any different than those present at the time? As a fellow human, I acknowledge probably not.
Upon His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus is met with praise and acclamation. "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" the whole multitude of Jesus' followers shout. While we have no need to question the sincerity of their praise, it is difficult to overlook the messianic expectations of the time. The acknowledgment of Jesus as King is tempered by the expectation of a savior who has come to clean house, to set culture and religion free from the hands of a powerful and oppressive state. Instead, we find the suffering and afflicted servant of Isaiah 53, more interested in cleaning up His Father's house (Luke 19:46) than in toppling the political authority of His day.
Jesus did not meet the expectations of those who were waiting for a King to arrive in Jerusalem. And yet in the midst of the clamber and praise, Jesus proceeds to surpass all earthly expectations. The people may not yet fully understand the colt-riding King they are welcoming with waving palms, but Jesus proceeds in fulfilling His true role and purpose. God is establishing a kingdom and renewing the life of the people, just not in the way that meets the expectations of those around Jesus.This shouldn't really surprise us, for if stones can worship in the midst of our silence (Luke 19:40), what actions or misunderstandings of humankind can thwart the glory of God?
It is easy to place expectations on the work of the King, whether it be in how I think He should answer my prayers or what I expect a certain act of worship to produce. I find that my expectations, while sometimes healthy, can fail to take into account the reality of God's expectation-breaking acts or the shortcomings of my own understanding.
I find, too, that the yearly celebration of Easter can easily bypass the liturgical movement of God's masterful work in the story of redemption. With that acknowledgement, I step with great anticipation into the triumphal entry of Jesus and His Holy Week journey. May my expectations for this season and for life be based not on my own preconceptions, but in the truth of Scripture and the great anticipation that actively waits in God's self-revealing nature and kingdom-establishing love. May I make room for God to act as He will, as He continues to teach us to live in healthy relationship with Himself and with one another.