Today our Lenten journey has brought us to the threshold of Holy Week. Today our Lord Jesus Christ enters into Jerusalem, hailed as the King of Israel. A great multitude of people greet Him with palm branches and cry out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
All of Jerusalem turns out to greet their Messiah, an event which had been prophesied and anticipated for many ages. Our Lord had been ministering to the people: teaching, healing, and performing miracles of compassionate love for three years. His fame and the news of His miracles had spread far and wide, and now, with His entry into Jerusalem, the people of Israel were taken up with enthusiasm that their King had arrived and that the time of their triumph would soon be inaugurated.
These people were expecting Christ to reign as an earthly king… that the time was at hand when Israel would overthrow the tyranny of Rome - and Jesus Christ, one of their own, would sit on the throne of Israel as their king. Their reading of the prophecies were earthly and even the disciples of the Lord continued to misunderstand the otherworldly message of Christ.
Imagine how shocked and disillusioned they all must have been when Christ was arrested, mocked and scourged, and paraded through the streets of Jerusalem as a common criminal to then be crucified amid thieves. This was an earth shattering and soul shattering event!
The people of Jerusalem expected Christ to lead them into victory… how disappointed and bitter they became when He instead accepted and embraced His suffering and death. Within less than a week the people went from shouting ‘Hosanna!’ to shouting ‘Crucify Him!’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… what about us? What are our expectations of God? Do we approach God with expectations of victory – that all of our prayers will be answered according to our will, that God will bless us with health and wealth and an easy life? And when things do not go our way, as they inevitably will… when troubles overwhelm us, when our health fails us, when sin continually defeats us… do our cries shift from praise of God to doubting Him or even cursing Him? Do we find ourselves disappointed in God?
What do we expect from God? This is a serious question and one that deserves our attention…
So often we behave as though we expect God to be our good luck charm and our wishing well. If I say my prayers and keep my fast and follow all the rules, then God will bless me with everything I need and ask for.
Or perhaps we behave as though we expect God’s wrath and punishment at any moment. If I say my prayers and keep my fast and follow all the rules, then God will spare me from His judgment and vengeance upon mankind.
If the primary motivation of our Christian life is based on fear, or on the expectation of reward - we are missing the mark and missing the experience of the true depths and joys of the life in Christ.
This Thursday evening we will gather in Church and stand together at the foot of the cross where our Lord will hang crucified. Let us think seriously about what our expectations of God are as we look upon Him hanging upon the cross. Christ our God - Who created heaven and earth, Who walked upon the waters, Who healed men’s diseases and brought the dead back to life – Christ our God hangs in deepest humiliation upon the cross: beaten, cursed, utterly alone and forsaken.
Brothers and sisters… this is our God! A God Who loves us so completely that He gives His life for us! A God Who knows that true and eternal love is not born from fear or from hope of reward, but is born from self-emptying generosity of heart and soul.
This is what we may expect from God… self-emptying generosity of love. And this must be our gift and our approach to God… a self-emptying generosity of love for Him. And with this we may rejoice no matter what comes our way… in good times and bad times we may live in the context and under the loving care of God. As the Apostle Paul says to us in today’s Epistle:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We are now moving into Holy Week and the events of the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry. Let us raise up our minds from the distractions of the world and turn our attention to what is true, what is noble, what is just and pure and lovely. Let each and every one of us take up our Gospel books this week and read through those chapters detailing the events which took place during the final days of our Lord’s earthly life. Let us read our Lord’s words and sympathize with Him in our spirit as He states, ‘Now My heart is troubled…’, as he looks upon His sleeping disciples and asks, ‘Could you not stay awake to keep watch and pray with Me?’.
Let us watch and pray this week. Let us transport ourselves to be there in spirit with our Lord as He endures the arrest, the trial, the mockings, and His ultimate sacrifice. If we immerse ourselves in these events of Holy Week, our joy in greeting the news of Christ’s glorious resurrection will be all the more bright and radiant.
May God give us the strength and attention to watch and pray, that we may be with Him this week in His sorrows as we await the joyful news of our Lord’s resurrection in just one week’s time.