Walking in the Word 2017 - Matthew 21:1-11


Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."  - Matthew 21:8-11

Expectations are a hell of a thing. Misplaced expectations bring hell to things. When Jesus made His way back to Jerusalem, He was returning to a dry powder keg.

Many Israelites had grown tired of Roman occupation and desired to get out from under the thumb of Caesar. Dissent fermented among the people putting the civil authorities on high alarm for any military powers or coup attempts. Meanwhile, the spiritual authorities of the time were on the lookout for messianic claims, those who would dare go against their teaching and usurp their sway over the people. Any threat was to be put down and recently, the itinerant preacher who supposedly was borne of a virgin had been causing problems. 

Jesus stepped into this mess. He did not command the people to spread their cloaks, to rip down palms, and to sing His praise. He most certainly didn't ask for them to put on this show when many of those who bowed their head would later spit on Jesus' as He trudged His way down the road to Calvary. It was simply what they expected. 

I'm sure we've all felt the sting of both sides of the coin. Failing to live up to the expectations of others can bring on guilt, shame, and force us into a shell of fear. Never having our expectations met often leads us to sadness, anger, and frustration. Nobody wants to live in either of these worlds. You might think that the answer is to never have expectations. But that's impossible. Nobody can operate in a person-less vacuum. Even if you were to divorce yourself from any meaningful relationship in the world, you still have expectations of the waiter you order food from and the mechanic who works on your car. We even have expectations placed on things. You expect your oven to properly heat up your leftovers and your smoke alarm to go off when your oven doesn't meet your expectations.

Jesus didn't make it possible for anyone to take a wait-and-see approach. You either liked Him or you didn't, thought He had some valid things to say or called Him a fool. There was no in-between. What makes this all so interesting was how Jesus utterly failed every single definition and expectation that was placed on Him during the triumphal entry. Nobody grasped the importance of what was about to happen, of where this road was leading, not even Jesus' closest friends, the disciples.

A good test of your value system is what happens when your expectations aren't met. What crushes you when it doesn't go your way? What gets your hopes highest? What keeps you up at night when you don't know how it's going to turn out? It's generally an accurate sign of where your treasure is.  

When Jesus died, those who had the most hope in Him were crestfallen and depressed. They mourned, rightfully so, the death of their friend and brother. Even more so, they mourned the death of their hopes and dreams. Yet the beauty of the cross is that the very symbol of their disappointment and destruction of their greatest expectations would turn out to be the very symbol of love, grace, and hope that would blow away any and all expectations. At the cross, justice and mercy embrace as reunited lovers. Death, thinking it had struck its eternally fatal blow, kowtowed before the fount of eternal life as she flowed freely.

Faith in Christ doesn't guard us from disappointment, failure, or frustration when it comes to our expectations. What it means though is that we may be defeated but never destroyed. We may be broken but never irredeemable. For God's economy doesn't work like the world's. Our weakness becomes His strength, our foolishness His wisdom. With God, we may not get what we want but we very often receive what we need. The ultimate expectation we should live with is that our God is with us, for us, and delights over us. We should expect to be surprised by His grace and rest easy knowing He loves us.