SIMPLIFY: MAKING ROOM FOR GOD – SURRENDER YOUR EXPECTATIONS – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
On Palm Sunday, there is a shift in the Lenten season that ushers in Holy Week, the week that Jesus actualized his vocation, was betrayed, arrested, tried, convicted, and ultimately, crucified. As Jesus entered Jerusalem from the East, it was likely that the Roman governor over Israel was also entering the city, albeit from the West. The governor would enter the city at Passover with one goal, to remind the occupied people just who was in charge: Rome, not the Creator God. Peace was coming by any means necessary, even with extreme violence. As Jesus enters the city from the East, he does so on “the most unthreatening, most un-military mount imaginable: a female nursing donkey with her little colt trotting along beside her.”
He was greeted by the crowds, who threw their cloaks and palm fronds on the road as he traveled. They did this because they were full of joy, excitement, expectations, and dreams. In spite of Rome’s current occupation of the city, they had hope. The city of Jerusalem was the place where the Creator God had decided to establish his name and his presence among his people. And the rituals in the temple were a constant reminder to the people of God of their hope for his presence and forgiveness. Hope that the Creator God would again come and dwell among his people in his good creation, that he would right the wrongs done to them and the world, that he would heal their land, and that he would once again end their exile.
Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover–the annual retelling of the story of the exodus. The story of the Creator God rescuing his people from bondage in Egypt. The expectation was simple: God had acted once before in history and rescued his people, certainly he would do it again. As they shouted, “Hosanna!” they were placing their hopes, dreams, and expectations onto Jesus. “Hosanna,” they cried, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was no simple exuberant decree, this was an urgent call for freedom. This was a freedom chant, “Hosanna.” And here is Jesus, at the climax of his story, the actualization of his vocation–he’s entering the city like royalty.
The prophet Zechariah predicted his entry into Jerusalem:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
So onto Jesus are the expectations of a nation to revive them, to rescue them, you can imagine the people overwhelmed with glee, joy, happiness, finally. Yes, Jesus has come as God’s Messiah. Yes, Jesus will overthrow the Empire’s rule. Yes, Jesus will free us all.
However, the way of God doesn’t look like the way of the Empire.
Remember after Jesus was baptized he was driven into the wilderness for 40 days, at the end of his time there, the Satan came and made three offers, in one of them, the Satan promises Jesus all of the Kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would only worship the Satan. In one act, Jesus could have overthrown Rome, right then and there. He didn’t. He decided that that would have been the way of the Empire. He had another way.
He would demonstrate God’s way through his dependence, obedience, and trust in a Father who sees him and loves him. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus says reset your expectations of how God is going to defeat the powers: sin, death, and evil. It’s not going to happen the way the Empire does it: using power, fame, respect, position, money, and authority–the way of the Satan. God is going to defeat the powers: sin, death, and evil through sacrificial love. This is the constant invitation from Jesus, surrender. Change what you believe and understand about God. He’s inviting us to enter into a new world through our forgiveness of one another, generous giving to those in need, our kindness and radical welcome, the increase of our trust and dependence on a Father who sees us and loves us. This is the kingdom. In order to live within it, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus into life. You can’t bring anything from the old world into the new world. Anything not of the new world will hold you in bondage — it will prevent you from allowing the reality of this God-bathed universe to be experienced, felt, lived.
CONSIDER YOUR OWN AGENDA & EXPECTATIONS
Find a cross or an image of a cross to assist you with this practice. Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and invite God to be with you as you meditate on Jesus’ last week. As you look at the cross, put yourself in the place in the pilgrims in Jerusalem for Passover. Imagine their dreams of how God would deliver Israel from Rome. Consider how you would like God to make this world a better place for you, your family, this area, this nation, your nation of origin, the world. How are your hopes similar to the Jews’ hopes. How are they different? How does Jesus seem as you ponder your desires? Does he want what you want? Does he want to achieve your dreams they way you want them to happen? Do you sense Jesus with you? Is he asking you to join him in any particular way? As you finish, do you want go say anything more to Jesus, particularly to him as Lord of the world?
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.