Sometimes, as we go through Holy Week, we wonder how the cheering crowds on Sunday could turn into jeering crowds by Friday. The same people who shouted “Blessed be the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” also shouted “Crucify him!” The words seem like opposite responses to the same person. But they are a good example of how we respond when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations.
The people who greeted Jesus with cheers expected him to be their king. They were expecting a revolt against Roman rule that would be led by a new Messiah, someone chosen by God, who would then lead them into a new time of prosperity. It had happened before. The people were ready to pick up knives, clubs, and swords and attack the hated Roman seat of government in their territory. It was Herod and Pilate’s worst fear – a revolt by the people. That area of the world has always been a boiling pot ready to blow the lid off at a moment’s notice.
But Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. Turning the money changers tables over in the Temple was a good start, but then instead of calling the people to action, Jesus headed out of town with his disciples. Instead of resisting arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he allowed himself to be led away. Instead of a stirring speech calling people to arms, Jesus remained mostly silent when he was questioned by Herod and Pilate. By the time Jesus appeared before the people again – when Pilate gave them the choice of which prisoner should be released – the people had turned on Jesus and were ready to see him crucified.
Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of his disciples. These men had followed him for three years and listened to his teachings every day. They had expectations about Jesus as the Messiah. Some of them probably held views similar to those of the people. Perhaps Judas betrayed Jesus hoping to force his hand – make him respond in the “right” way. The disciples claimed that Jesus was the Son of God and they had seen miracles that confirmed it. But they still argued with Jesus when he said he would be killed. When he was arrested and things looked bleak, the disciples abandoned him, denied him, and tried to forget that they had been a part of his group.
Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of the Pharisees or Sadducees. They expected the Messiah to be the ultimate law-follower and Jesus broke the laws of Moses as much as he followed them. Not only that, but he condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees as hypocrites. How dare he! Because of this, the Pharisees and Sadduccees worked together to plot his destruction. Not meeting expectations put Jesus in a dangerous position.
How do we respond when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations? I know we have all been disappointed at one time or another by Jesus’s response to our prayers. Things don’t turn out the way we expect and we blame him. Or we pray and pray and pray and then are disappointed by his seeming lack of answer to our prayers. The miracle doesn’t happen. The one we love doesn’t get better. We are not healed. We don’t get the job, or the child, or the man (or woman) we want. How do we respond? Do we deny Jesus and turn away? Do we become ho-hum in following him? Do we keep up outward appearances of holiness while abandoning our prayer life? Do we run away from him entirely and tell others that we don’t believe in God anymore?
Choosing to follow Jesus, accepting him as our Savior, means that there will be times when we are disappointed and our expectations are not met. Faith comes in following despite those disappointments. We may not understand it all now – but we will – or it won’t be important to us anymore. Do we love Jesus because he grants us blessings? Do we love him because he meets all our expectations and more? Or do we love him because of who he truly is: fully God and fully human, a mystery never fully explained?
When Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations, let us not deny him, abandon him, or respond to him in anger. I pray, instead, that he will find us waiting patiently, with all people of faith, at the foot of the cross.