Friday, April 03, 2015

What Are You Expecting? Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday --- the day that we celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem

Can you imagine for a moment what it must have been like to have been there that day?

To watch the crowds gather and scream as Jesus headed down the Mount of Olives and back up the hill to the city of Jerusalem.

What were they thinking?

What were they expecting to happen?

What were they expecting of Jesus?

They believed that Jesus was THE ONE
·         The one who would overthrow the Imperial Romans
·         The one who would reestablish the Jewish nation
·         The one who would restore the temple and it's practices

The people all assumed they knew what Jesus was about

Sometimes when I have shared this with groups they have told me that they are surprised at how short-sighted the people were

Why could they not see who Jesus really was?
Why could they not see what Jesus was coming to do?

And when I hear that I have to laugh

Laugh --- not because I think they are foolish --- but laugh because we have the same problem today

We came here this morning with EXPECTATIONS about what we think
          Jesus is about
What we think
          Jesus came to do
What we think
          The resurrection means for us and humanity

But do we?
Do we really understand?

2000 years ago, Jesus and his rag tag followers crossed over at Bethany and started the decent into the Kidron valley and up the hill on the other side into Jerusalem.

Listen to Mark tell the story:
Mark 11:1-11  (The Message)
When they were nearing Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany on Mount Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: “Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you’ll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Master needs him, and will return him right away.’”

They went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. Some of those standing there said, “What are you doing untying that colt?” The disciples replied exactly as Jesus had instructed them, and the people let them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus, spread their coats on it, and he mounted.

The people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,
Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!
Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven!
He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany with the Twelve.

It was a parade, a huge celebration for Jesus who was coming into town and would kick some Roman butt, and all the Jews who were in cahoots with them.

The way Mark tells the story, the whole town came out to greet Jesus and his followers.

They were so excited at the prospect of his getting rid of the Romans that they were busy waving Palm Branches.

And that was a really dangerous and subversive thing to do.

The Palm Branch was a nationalistic symbol for the Jews.

It symbolized freedom and independence.

So to pull it out and wave it at a parade was making a very clear statement to the Roman authorities.

They believed that Jesus was the ONE
The one who was going to overthrow Rome and establish a Jewish nation once again.

They believed Jesus was their true King

They had huge expectation about who Jesus was and what he was to do

But, unfortunately our story doesn’t end there.

Jesus disappoints all those who had gathered on Sunday for the parade welcoming him into town.

By the end of the week he had angered and disappointed every single Jewish group in town

They decided that maybe he wasn’t the one, after all.

And before the week is over, another parade begins to form.

And once again, people come out to celebrate with the victors.

But this time the victor was Rome, and it was a parade through the streets of Jerusalem out to a hill where Rome would crucify their political prisoners.

The crowd that on Sunday was shouting hosanna was now shouting crucify him.

And we scratch our heads and wonder how could that happen?
          How could people shout hosanna one day and crucify him the next?

But should we be so surprised?

We enter relationships with people and when they fail to live up to our expectations --- what do we do?
          Too often we turn on them.

Jesus came preaching a message that the crowd failed to understand.

Their expectation was that Jesus had come for just them and no one else.

But when Jesus began preaching about:
caring for our brothers and sisters,
caring for the widow and the orphan,
making sure that nobody falls through the cracks of society ---
they decided they didn’t like that message too well.

They began to wonder
Maybe Jesus wasn’t the ONE after all

And so they turned on him

When he wasn’t willing to champion their causes, their agenda, they no longer were interested in him.

But even the Disciples --- the ones who followed Jesus from the Galilee and into Jerusalem really didn't understand

Think of Peter --- Peter who if there was an opportunity to misunderstand something that Jesus said --- always seemed to manage to do so.

Just a few weeks before Palm Sunday, Jesus and the disciples were in the village of Caesarea Philippi way up in the north.

While there, Jesus posed a question to them

Mark 8:27-29  (The Message)
 “Who do the people say I am?”

“Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”

He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”

Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.

Peter EXPECTED certain things from Jesus
·         he knew who Jesus was
          The messiah, the Christ, the chosen one of God

·         He thought he knew what that meant
·         Peter and the other Jews expected the messiah to be
·         a great king like David
·         the that God would use to intervene in history and achieve by supernatural means that which they had not been able to achieve by natural means
·         the messiah would totally destroy all of God's (the Jew's) enemies
·         the messiah would restore Jerusalem
·         the messiah would gather the dispersed Jews
·         Israel would be made the center of the world, and all the world would be subject to Israel
·         the messiah, after cleaning up our mess, would bring an everlasting peace

But as the story continues, it is almost as if Jesus understood that Peter does not "get it" and so he says to Peter and the disciples:
Mark 8:31    (NRSV)
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Peter EXPECTED something from Jesus
He thought he had him figured out
He put his money into the machine --- but what came out wasn't what he expected

Almost thirty-five years ago, I was a student at the Divinity School at Duke University.

In the school there was a demonic Coke machine

It was one of those old fashioned machines that you put your money in, a cup dropped down, filled with ice and then your drink of choice

But this machine was possessed --- you never knew exactly what you would get
Sometimes it would take your money and do nothing
Other times:
it gave you a cup but no drink
or a cup, drink, but no ice
MY FAVORITE, however
          ice, drink --- but no cup
When that happened you had to quickly make a choice
          1.       make a cup out of your hands
          2.       watch your drink go down the drain

Once I was sitting in the hall near this "famous" coke machine --- studying (I am sure) when all of a sudden --- this well dressed, drop dead gorgeous woman came up to the machine

She got out her money, put it in the machine, and made her selection

She pushed the buttons again --- tried the coin return --- but still NOTHING

After a few minutes of trying to get the machine to work --- this classy young lady began to beat and kick the machine

SHE EXPECTED something from the machine --- and she didn't get what she expected

We EXPECT something from Jesus
          And I think we need to be honest and ask ourselves what that is

Too often we become seduced by the message of the prosperity gospel which seems to suggest that
If we send in our money --- everything will turn out great

or tune in, or come to the church and you will have it made

God will protect us and bless us

All of our problems will be solves

Like Peter, we sometimes are confused by what Jesus is telling us.

We say: "Are you crazy?  You expect us to follow you, where??"

Jesus says --- if you want to follow, you must
take up your cross
risk your life for God

So let me ask you, What kind of God did you come here seeking?

For many of us, God has become like that Coke machine at Duke
When we put our money in --- we expect certain things in return

And when it does not come out like we planned --- we become angry and disillusioned with God

We need to be careful what we expect from God
          God is not called to live up to our expectation

God is not some pop machine that we can put our money and expect certain things in return

God is calling us --- and is expecting certain things from us.

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