Mark 11:1-11 Palm Sunday
Expectations are awful things to have to deal with! People expect something from you, which you’re not sure you can live up too, or even want to.
As a student preacher at Concord Uniting Church – the expectation that we would use the Methodist Hymn Book, and woe betide the student that suggested anything different! At UTC the expectation was that The Australian Hymn Book would be used! The Methodist Hymn Book was antiquated and sexist! When I was a student minister at Winmalee - the expectation was that we would use chorus books - For me it was and has continued to be a steep learning curve as far as music in churches is concerned.
People invest themselves in their expectations, in their hopes and dreams about their lives, the future and other people.
Its a way of giving form to what you do - “If I work hard I will be rewarded.”;
it ties down the future and makes it manageable - “I will make a million dollars before I turn 30”;
and it helps us to structure our relationships with others - “The minister is always right!”; “You can never trust a politician”.
Our expectations, our hopes, dreams and desires structure, to some degree or another, our thinking and our doing. What can be tragic, are expectations that cannot be fulfilled or expectations that are misplaced. “When churches call a minister - Jesus or Paul would fail their requirements.”; “The stock market is a safe bet to invest your earnings.”
It happened to Jesus - clearly there were two conflicting ideas, expectations about how the Messiah, the anointed one of God would enter Jerusalem.
“Behold O Lord and raise up unto them a king, the son of David, at the time, in which thou sees, O God, that he need reign over Israel thy servant. And gird him with strength that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample her down to destruction. Wisely, righteously he shall thrust out sinners from the inheritance, he shall destroy the pride of sinners as a potter’s vessel. With a rod of iron he shall break into pieces all their substance. He shall destroy the godless nations with the word of his mouth, at his rebuke nations shall flee before him, and he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their hearts.… All the nations shall be in fear of him, for he will smite the earth with the word of his mouth forever.”
Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25,39
Compare that with…
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people of Israel had a lot riding on how the Messiah would approach the holy city. their hope was for a saviour who would destroy the oppressors, a king who would triumph over the enemies of Israel. They expected a king coming in power and might. What they got was a prince of peace. They expected a purifier who would cleanse Jerusalem of the heathen and corrupt Romans. What they got was a purifier who cleansed the temple and humbled the Jewish leaders and religious authorities. they wanted a military leader, what they got was a man who said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”
Jesus had performed so well! He had built up a following, he had thousands at his beck and call. One of his close followers was a known Zealot, and as such had contacts with the guerrilla freedom fighters that were just waiting for a leader to unite the people.
So Jesus enters Jerusalem to the cries of Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David.
I haven’t time to go into the origins of these phrases, but to say that they point to Psalm 118 and other bible passages that deal with the conquering king. Hosanna is a strange word - we think of it as a word of praise, in fact it means save now! It is the word used in the OT of people who call on their King to save them from their enemies. it was not a cry of praise to Jesus, rather it was a cry to God to break in and save his people from their oppression and despair.
Jesus showed great courage in what he did. Aware of the centuries of expectations that had built up around the figure of the Messiah, he rode on a foal of a donkey, and without needing to say a thing, made his statement about the function and purpose of the Christ, the anointed one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Jesus showed great courage, because he knew what he could expect from the crowd - the same crowd who called him blessed, a week later called out “crucify him”.
Jesus would not conform to anyone's expectations other than his Father’s. And so he paid the price. In a way he continues to pay the price -the abuse of people who placed high hopes in him to do what they wanted, what they expected only to be disappointed.
We all have our hopes and dreams. We all have our expectations. That we are here at all today shows that we expect something from this time together, whatever it may be.
Today is Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, urged along by a cheering crowd. Next week, we will remember Jesus leaving Jerusalem carrying a cross, urged on by a jeering crowd. The statement Jesus made about his peaceful intentions by his entrance, seems so futile when you think of his exit.
Yet Jesus still comes, as it were, on a donkey; he still comes offering peace. Yet how often does he find in us expectations about how he is to do things for us! We cheer Jesus into our church and into our lives, because we want him to protect us and save us from the rotten things of life - Yet what does Jesus do? He tells us that we must take up a cross and follow him. If we would truly follow him we must become his instruments of peace and justice. No longer can we view the world from the windows of our homes, our cars, our church and stay safe from its pain and suffering - Jesus leads us out into the world to love and serve those in need. No longer can we divorce ourselves from them if we would welcome Jesus.
In the power which is ours through Jesus, we have the opportunity to discard our expectations and make our own, the desires of God for Justice and mercy, Amen.