On Sunday we will celebrate Palm Sunday but before the week is finished we will join at least 11 other churches on Good Friday to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. We are reminded that in the space of a few days Jesus went from an adored Messianic figure to a beaten, mocked, and crucified "King of Israel".
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowd proclaimed him the Messiah.
The ones who went ahead and those who followed were shouting: "Hosanna!" "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11: 9-10)
On Friday the crowd yelled: Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
How do we explain such a turn of events?
Part of the explanation relates to the Religious Leaders. Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as the proclaimed Messiah galvanized them into action. In their minds he must be stopped. They were determined to kill him. The willingness of Judas to betray Jesus enabled them to capture him when he was not with the adoring crowds.
Another part of the explanation were the expectations of the crowd and the disciples themselves. False expectations played a role in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and Peter’s denial.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew out his sword and was ready to fight for Jesus. But when Jesus refused to let Peter fight, Peter was confused. Nothing was moving forward the way Peter expected under the rule of the Messiah. Peter’s and the crowds false expectations around the Messiah enabled the religious leaders to convince the crowd that Jesus was not their man.
The night before in their mock trial they had spit on Jesus, beaten him and left him in a wreck. When he was presented to Pontus Pilot he was as described by Isaiah:
"Like one from whom people hide their faces. He was despised, and we held him in low esteem" (Isaiah 53: 3a).
Jesus’ regal appearance as he entered Jerusalem was now that of a bloody, beaten man.
How could he be the Messiah? If he were the Messiah, we would be seeing a victorious warrior not a beaten shell of a man. They listened to the religious leaders and yelled "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
Expectations continue to play a huge role in our life. Expectations can rob us of joy in a relationship. Expectations can cause us to react, and complain against others, even attack them. Expectations are natural but we need to be aware of when our expectations are leading us in unproductive directions.
As we think of expectations we can ask:
What are my expectations as a follower of Christ?
How do I deal with the disappointments and difficulties of life?
Jesus expects his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him (Mark 8:34 NIV). How does his expectation play out in your life?
What does Jesus’ expectation for you look like in your life and are there adjustments that need to be made?
Also, remember that Jesus said:
"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25)
Jesus died so we could have life. We find life by aligning our expectations around his expectations for us. Let’s accept the challenge of living out what it means to be a follower of Christ.