“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9).
Jesus did something strange on Palm Sunday. He rode a donkey into a city that kills prophets and executes trouble makers. When the residents of Jerusalem saw Jesus approaching, they took off their coats, cut off branches and spread them across Jesus’ path.
The palm branches symbolized high expectations: God had saved his people from foreign enemies many times before, so when this miracle worker and prophet arrived, they expected God to do it again. God will work another miracle, drive away the Roman occupiers and restore God’s holy city of Jerusalem.
The Palm Sunday story goes from expectation to disappointment, from a celebration in Jesus’ honor to his trial and execution. As soon as Jesus turns out to be something other than the savior they expect, their celebration becomes calls for his death. An expected glorious victory on the battlefield becomes a humiliating death on a cursed cross. God has disillusioned them.
That sounds like a terrible thing for God to do, but what is disillusionment but a removal of an illusion? Wrong expectations about God are replaced with the truth. God does not intend to meet our expectations. God meets our needs. Palm Sunday is not about victory. It’s a reminder that placing expectations on God based on our wants can lead to disappointment and resentment.
Rather than expect God to heal every pain, God teaches us to grow as we experience it. Rather than find our self worth in accomplishment and applause, we find it in Christ’s sacrificial death. Rather than pour our personal resources into our satisfaction, we imitate Christ’s sacrificial death through sacrificial service.