Palm Sunday Message (2014) The Unmet Expectations of Jesus

Palm Sunday Message “The Unmet Expectations of Jesus

Preached at Advocate Condell Medical Center by Barbara Shafer (April 13, 2014)

I go through phases in which I enjoy Country Music.  Not everyone does, for sure.  I remember at one point that at the Home Depot in Vernon Hills (where I worked for years as a garden associate), the management decided to switch the music for a little while to Country.  It brought many smiles and many complaints—people loved it or they hated it.  One customer pronounced to me in the cleaning aisle, “You do know that more people have suicidal thoughts while listening to country music than any other type of music, don’t you?”  I was thinking of suggesting that the Blues probably have their share too, but decided just to smile and tell him this phase will pass.  People were rather surprised to hear me talk about Country Music—in a positive way–as one of 3 distinctly American larger genres of music the other two being Jazz/Blues spectrum, and Soul/Gospel spectrum.  Other forms of music are obviously popular—but much of the music either originated on other continents or simultaneously arose with, for example, a British invasion versus a distinctly American twist on Rock&Roll.

Well, one Country song that might apply to today’s message is from the No Fences album by Garth Brooks entitled Unanswered Prayers.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

What do you do with unanswered prayers?  Some people stop believing.  Some people keep on praying.  Some people move onto praying other prayers, hoping to find one that works.  Some people read books on prayer to see if there’s a formula that is more effective in getting what they want.

The Jewish people had been praying a long time for the Messiah who would come and free them from oppression, vindicate them as God’s chosen people, and give them peace. 

God didn’t answer their prayers…at least, not in the way they expected.

praying colorLike our song Blessings from this morning, written by Laura Story, the lyrics say,

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

For the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, there were unanswered prayers and unmet expectations. 

Jesus was a letdown. 

Even among the disciples, Jesus took a turn from what they expected and from what they wanted…and they all fell away during His final days on earth.  Jesus was thoroughly alone and rejected by man.

But God in His wisdom chose to have Scripture fulfilled and He loved us way too much to give us lesser things.  As our OT reading this morning stated, Psalm 118:22 “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

On this side of the Cross, we can see that we wouldn’t want God to have answered our prayers the way people wanted them answered back then.  He loved us way too much to give us lesser things.  He wouldn’t let us settle for temporary political victory when He had eternal spiritual victory in mind.   He wouldn’t let us settle for a tiny victory over Rome when He wanted to give us the greater thing of victory over death.

Today’s passage of Scripture, known as the Triumphal Entry is traditional for Palm Sunday.  Yet, if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves in the same boat as those Jews of Jesus’ day who wanted a conquering king.  We can try to force Jesus into a box of our own making.

Maybe we think of Him as the answer to every world problem.  There wouldn’t be war if we just had a little more Jesus as a negotiator.  There wouldn’t be hunger if we just had a little more Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes.  There wouldn’t be debt if had Jesus here and Jesus there showing us how to budget a little better.  Jesus is not a Band-Aid for world problems.  He’s not a quick fix.  And that’s why He didn’t meet the expectations people have had of Him, back during the original Passion Week and He doesn’t meet many people’s expectations today.

We have unmet expectations because God knows we don’t need a quick fix and a little tweaking here or there. We need God to give us what we need instead of what we want.

jesus mosaicHow well do you do when you have unmet expectations?  What kind of reactions do you have?  Do you get angry?  Depressed?  Frustrated? Do you get busy trying like Cinderella’s stepsisters to make the shoe fit by cramming the Messiah into the box you have in mind?  Do you trim your Messianic expectations so much that He’s no longer the full Messiah in your mind?  Do you resort to Plan B?  Do you look for a way out?  Do you back away from the person who let you down?  All those reactions surface during Passion Week.

If there’s one thing I’d like for you to remember about unmet expectations about Jesus, it’s this: the problem is with our expectations and not with Jesus.

What were the various people of Passion Week expecting? 

  • The crowd expected a political leader who would be victorious in war.  They got a peacemaker.
  • The crowd expected a Messiah who would vindicate them.  They got one who died.
  • The crowd expected a man they’d rally behind, propelling him to power, and they got the Son of God who had all the power in the universe at His disposal and didn’t need any of their help.
  • The Pharisees, too, didn’t understand.  They wanted a Messiah who was a mere man elevated to fame and favor, but not one who came from God, who is God, and who accepted praise as God.
  • They all expected a Jerusalem that would be freed.  They got a Jerusalem that was destroyed.

There were so many unmet expectations of Jesus.  It’s no wonder, given all this that the crowd would turn on Him.  On Palm Sunday, they’re praising Him and on Friday, they want Him dead. 

Luke 19: 28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.'”

Jesus wasn’t a psychic able to tell the future.  Jesus knew what He was heading into and what He was heading to Jerusalem to do.  He was in sovereign control over all the circumstances and He wanted the disciples to see that.

Luke 19:32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.

The disciples were slow to catch on.  Isn’t that how it is with our expectations?  Expectations are tenacious.  We don’t want to let go of them.  The disciples thought they had the inside track and were special for being near this political Messiah.  He was coming as Davidic royalty, riding in as Solomon did to Gihon in 1 Kings 1:38-39 (1 Kings 1:38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and put Solomon on King David’s mule and escorted him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”)

But wait, this Messiah was expected to be a warrior king of raw power, not riding on a humble animal of service.  So caught up in the moment, the disciples failed to see Jesus correcting their view of what He was doing.  He refused to give them lesser things.  He loved them way too much.

Jesus had been telling them all along what He was going to be doing.  In Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Jesus on the crossHades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Men wanted a conquering Messiah, not the Son of God.  Even the disciples would have unmet expectations.  The crowd did too,

Luke 19:36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The disciples are at the height of Messianic fervor.  The crowd of disciples and a crowd in general are filled with joy.  It’s a great moment that they all hoped to live to see:  the Messiah has come!!!  They’re propelling Him to kingship…setting human expectations He will not meet.

Not everyone is feeling that great about all the Messianic hype.  The Pharisees didn’t like the way Jesus was coming in.  To them, He is nothing short of audacious for allowing claims of regal Messianic status—they are inappropriate at best, blasphemous at worst.  So they ask Him to make the disciples stop:

Luke 19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Earlier in Luke, the Pharisees tried to trim Jesus to fit in their box because Jesus was teaching stuff they didn’t like very much and He was healing on the Sabbath.  Luke 13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

The people loved all that Jesus was doing and since He wouldn’t stop, the Pharisees tried to convince Him to go away.

Luke 13:31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day– for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Jesus I have Overcome the World smJesus, knowing with complete confidence who He is and what He is doing, knows that He is going to the Cross. 

He is going to die. 

He is going to conquer death and He is going to return, at which point these Pharisees will acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.

But right now, they have unmet expectations.  Jesus isn’t behaving by their rules.  And they have already begun to think about how they’re going to get rid of this guy.  But there’s a Messianic motorcade and a bunch of cheering disciples.  It wouldn’t do to break into that.  There might be a riot.

If you’ve ever been to Jerusalem, you know that the path down the Mount of Olives and into the east gate of Jerusalem involves going past the Jewish tombs on your left and into the valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem.

The east entrance that Jesus entered is now blocked off with bricks.  It was walled off by the Ottoman Turks when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 1530.  They consider it their exclusive territory, but God knows better.

Luke 19:41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

No one recognized the time of God’s coming when Jesus came the first time.  Everyone will catch on when Jesus returns.  But by that time, it will be too late to join the Messianic fervor.  When Jesus returns, He will already have conquered death and He will bring those who know Him as the Son of God to be with Him forever. 

God didn’t want to give us lesser things of a political victory.  Jesus is the conquering King and the battle He fought was on the Cross and the empty tomb proves He was victorious over death.

Trip to Israel, May 15-25, 2007 465In Jerusalem, it’s kind of ironic.  The Muslims who control that area of Jerusalem may have planted a huge cemetery in the valley right outside the eastern gate.  They may have walled off the entrance.

But this Messiah—this Jewish Messiah– defeated death on the Cross and no cemetery, no walls, no blocking off the gate will keep this Messiah from entering Jerusalem. 
There is no stopping God.

So what about our unmet expectations?  Do you see that God has given us something greater than a temporary political victory?

Unmet expectations of Jesus.  The Pharisees had them.  The crowd had them.  Even the disciples had them.  It’s how we could go from a celebration on Palm Sunday to Jesus’ Crucifixion on Friday.

Unanswered prayers.  Unmet expectations.  God’s mercies in disguise.  Jesus didn’t give them the lesser things that they wanted.  He didn’t take the easy route of meeting with everyone’s low expectations.  No.  He gave us all what we really needed: salvation.

So what do we do with our unmet expectations? 

Maybe some of you are in your rooms today and you are unhappy about being in the hospital.  I have been there.  I know how it feels.  Maybe some of you have expectations that Jesus will heal you.  I’d like to offer a possibility that maybe today is a divine appointment that God made so you’d be here and hear about the Messiah, the one who truly saves.

If all our expectations are for this world and for this life, we’re sure to be disappointed in Jesus.  We can become disillusioned with unanswered prayers.  But what if the trials of this life are God’s mercies in disguise?  What if He wants for you to be with Him when He returns for the faithful…and what if your being in the hospital today can answer your prayers in a far more meaningful, powerful, and eternal way?

There is one prayer that never goes unanswered: that’s the prayer for salvation in Jesus Christ. 

It’s easy enough to acknowledge that death has the final say in our lives apart from Him.  We all carry the curse of sin and apart from Jesus there is no overcoming that.   But we can turn from our sins and ask this Messiah to be our Savior…that by faith in Him we can have the greater thing—eternity in the presence of God—instead of the lesser things of this world.

Benediction:  Hebrews 13:20-21

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on April 13, 2014

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  1. by LeAnn

    On April 13, 2014

    Thank you Barbara. This message is perfect. I hope you know that you far exceeded my expectations with this message. I loved this!!!!
    I love country music and my brother and I can do “unanswered prayers” anytime you would like!! Thanks for letting Roxanne and I share Blessings with you and the viewing audience!
    Prayers for you this week! 🙂 See you on Easter Sunday!

  2. by seminarygal

    On April 13, 2014

    And thank you, LeAnn for gracing us with your gift of worship music. You and Roxanne set the stage so beautifully today. Looking forward to seeing you on Easter! Blessings and love, B<><

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