Today marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an historical event supported by extra-Biblical writings.
We know many of the Jewish citizens in the city flocked to see their savior enter this most pivotal city. News of Christ’s raising of Lazarus from death in a nearby village a few days before had swept through the population. These people knew Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, or they knew people who knew them. Now, they could believe the other rumors about this man, Jesus, who had come to set God’s people free. No wonder they waved palm branches and cried, “Hosannah!” as he and his disciples made their way through the narrow streets.
One week later, many of the same people were gathered again, shouting “Crucify him!”
Were the citizens of Jerusalem all schizophrenics, or what? How do we explain such extreme fickleness on such a massive scale?
These were unsettled times in Israel. The people were under occupation by Rome, but various factions, notably the zealots, had been rebelling and causing retribution and further unrest. The Jewish leaders were trying to keep the peace and maintain the fragile controls and freedoms they had under Roman rule. These men were scholars, well versed in the history of their people and desperate not to see some of those ancient horrors repeated.
The people cried out for a leader to save them from Rome, not a redeemer to save them from their sins. A man who could bring the dead back to life, make lame beggars walk and blind men see, could surely use his powers to defeat the armies of Rome. When they began to realize this was not his plan, many were angry such a powerful man would refuse to use his great power to free the people from Roman tyranny. Even when Jesus was arrested, there were those who expected him to use his mystical powers to save himself. Perhaps some of those gathered at the foot of the cross were still expecting the grand spectacle of a burst of supernatural power when Christ would step down from the cross and defeat their enemies.
Unmet expectations cause strong reactions in all of us. When we expect something to happen, we begin to feel entitled to have it happen and we react with righteous anger when we are denied. This happens in relationships all the time. When marriages break up it is not uncommon to hear one party or the other say something like, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” Their partner failed to meet their expectations.
The Jews in Jerusalem expected an earthly champion who would throw off the Roman shackles. Their anger and disappointment wouldn’t let them see the far greater gift Jesus offered them.
“Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”