Palm Sunday and a Disappointing God

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9).

The Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem, by James Tissot

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.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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1 Response to Palm Sunday and a Disappointing God

  1. Sharon says:

    Glad to see u writing again! The people were so used to Jesus doubt good and good things happening when he was there. Palm Sunday changed that. People were only thinking about the awful things that were occurring and not about the ultimate gift of our suns being forgiven. Jesus saved us from eternal damnation for none of us is worthy. He bore our sins. All part of Gods great plan.

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