Holy Week

Holy Week: Palm Sunday and Our Expectations

by Daniel Burton

The Sunday before Easter kicks off what is referred to as Holy Week in the Christian calendar.  During this time, the church focuses on the final journey of Christ, leading up to his death and resurrection three days later.  Yet, as everything began and he entered Jerusalem, knowing this would be the place of His crucifixion, He was greeted by the people who had heard all He had done. The stories and rumors of this man had spread across the land.  Jesus was coming to be the King that would grant the freedom to the people.  He was the coming Savior.  And so, the people gathered to celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ.

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.”

– John 12:12-16, NIV

For the people of Israel, they had an expectation that Jesus would be coming to establish Himself as King.  To a certain extent they were entirely correct.  When they waived the palm branches, it was a political statement regarding the coming of the new King.  Their cries of Hosanna were cries that this was their new King coming to save them.  Yet, the people believed him to be a political King, coming to overthrow the Roman rule.  Jesus, being the Christ, had a much bigger plan than merely being the King of Jerusalem.  The expectations that the people held were too small.  Christ came, not to save us form a political rule, but from the grips of sin and suffering.

Holding to Expectations

As the people greeted Jesus in His coming to Jerusalem, there was an expectation to how Jesus should handle the situation they found themselves in.  The Roman government demanded obedience almost as an expression, not merely of politics, but in a spiritual sense as well.  With Israel being the chosen land of their people, the Israelites believed they should be ruling over all Israel.  Yet, Jesus did not return to overthrow the government, depose any kings who attempted to rule.  He did not come to set himself on a throne but to take the role of a servant.  They saw their Savior crucified and, most likely, confused at what they saw.  This was supposed to be their King.

Holy Week Although we know better now, we still have the same temptation of the people of that day.  We know that Jesus came to save us from our sins by dying on the cross on our behalf.  Yet, we still want Jesus to handle the issues we bring to the altar on our terms.  In our prayers we ask God to “Just do…” this or that.  The mind of God is greater and more vast than our will ever be.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8).

The mission of Jesus Christ is much bigger than we can anticipate or image.  Our expectations must be crucified along with our sins.  We must be put to death in order to come alive to Jesus Christ.  In the same way that Jesus did not come to redeem just a portion of our lives (such as politically), we submit the whole of our lives to the will of Jesus Christ, however difficult or painful it may be.

The Fullness of Hosanna

While it is true that the people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem tried to force Jesus into a box of expectations, they also simultaneously suffered from a severe lack of imagination.  Their cries of “God saves!” were severely limited in their scope.  Where they thought Jesus was coming as a political revolutionary, Jesus came to redeem mankind from the plague of sin and darkness.  The political and cultural milieu is important to God, but it pales in comparison to providing the spiritual path to return to God.

Holy WeekGod saves, fully and completely.  There is no stone left unturned when laid bare before our Heavenly Father.  This is the path the mission that Jesus would finalize on the cross.  As Jesus entered into the Holy city, He did so knowing that through His sacrifice, lives would be saved, pains healed, and restoration to creation would be assured.  In one act of sacrifice on the cross, fate was defied for the purpose of ensuring that God’s people had a path home. We don’t deserve it.  We cannot earn it.  But that’s the point.  God saves.  Hosanna!

Discussion Questions

Read Matthew 12 and John 12:12-16

  1. What is the mission of Jesus Christ? How did this differ from what the people were hoping would happen?
  2. Having heard the stories of Jesus spread throughout the country, how do you feel the people of reacted to Jesus not coming and taking political power?
  3. Describe a time when you were hoping God would come through and He defied your expectations or requirements?
  4. What makes the sacrifice of Jesus so special to you? What life did Jesus pull you out of? Was there anything you did to earn it?
  5. Where do we most try and put Jesus in a box or limit Him to a specific area of our life? What places are we scared to give him influence over?

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