Victory, triumph, peace, freedom. This is why they waved palm branches along that road I walked from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem—the same road my Lord Jesus traveled. I could see them in my mind, lining both sides of that road. I could see the smiles. I could hear the shouts. I could feel the excitement of those well-wishers—those wavers—those exuberant spectators standing, cheering the One who rode on a borrowed donkey colt. There He was! And the One carried on the donkey colt was the One carrying the expectations of the world. They wanted a Savior, alright. They wanted—and expected—a Savior made in their own minds, fashioned by their own hopes, imagined by their own dreams.
But what happens when we don’t get what we expect?
Today is April 15 and we get to pay our taxes to Caesar. And I get my husband back. For twenty-one years I’ve gone through this same season of waiting, wanting April 15 to come faster than it ever does because my husband gets buried in the tax returns of others. And today is the day! Freedom! It is finished!
But what if? What if this day I hold in my mind as Freedom Day turns out to be something far different from what I expect? What if he drops dead today, just like our neighbor did a few years back, only two hours after he and I chatted about the gardening he was doing?
Or something less and seemingly trite? What if we wake on April 15 hoping for warmth and find yet another snowstorm has visited in the night leaving us covered? What if our aching bones get more cold when we long for just a glimmer of sun to warm and bring new life?
Or what if a child you know clings to life after being kicked in the head by a horse last week, shattering her skull? We’re praying to the One who rode on that donkey colt. What if He heals her in heaven and not here?
Do you still wave that palm branch when your hopes and dreams are kicked and shattered?
Or do you throw the palm down on the ground and trample it underfoot? Do you stomp out your anger and frustration and refusal to follow such a One who would allow and sometimes not heal, not free, not change our situations, this side of heaven?
What do we do with Jesus when we don’t get what we want—when HE does not serve US the way we hope, dream, or demand?
Do we damn Him in our hearts and crucify Him with our lives of refusal—all the way to the cross? That cross—where He went to suffer and die and free us from all that keeps us bound, body and soul—that cross where He went to suffer and die to breathe new life into dead hearts and dead relationships and dead philosophies and dead government systems and every broken and perishing bit of creation that cannot breathe new life into itself . . .
Think about the people lining that road, waving symbols of victory, triumph, peace, and freedom. Put yourself in their shoes and stand by me in mine—right there, watching Him coming. Look at His face that will cry out anguish in just a few days. Look at His back as He passes—the back that will be whipped with leather strips and torn with shards of rock, cutting Him to the bone as He stands bound and mocked by us all. We bound Him with our expectations and we mocked Him with our anger for not giving us what we want. And then we tortured and killed Him.
Do we still?
This week is to be a Holy Week—a time of remembering who He really is, what He really came to do, what He DID—this Jesus from Nazareth—the One who proclaimed Himself God, the Messiah, the Savior of this world we’ve broken—all because we wouldn’t follow—all because we still don’t.
And yet, while we are still sinners . . .
He suffered and died to bring us new life . . . true life . . . a better life than we could ever imagine.
Oh my God! Oh Jesus! Make these blind eyes see! Warm this cold heart! Help me cling to You and not to my expectations! Help me BELIEVE that whatever comes, no matter how it SEEMS, You are making all things new—all things right—all things perfect because You went BEYOND our wildest expectations and hopes and dreams. You went BEYOND our now and our then. You went beyond this blemished earth and our broken hearts and all our bondages. You went BEYOND them all to that cross, Your will fixed upon it. And You prayed for us, even there, even after we spit on You, and stripped You, and ripped You through with thorns and rocks, and we pierced You through with nails and spear, and You still looked us straight in the eye and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Help me, Lord Jesus, to lay all my hopes and dreams and expectations of You down—right there at the foot of the cross you carried and let us nail you to—and let your transforming blood cover them all that I might live—truly live—with my eyes and heart and soul fixed on You—nothing more—nothing less. Amen.