Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Easter and Expectations
Rightfully so . . . this was THE WEEK for which Jesus lived his entire human life, and it was a rough one for him. On Sunday before his crucifixion he entered Jerusalem with cheers ringing in his ears. The (usually fickle) populace embraced him for all the great miracles he performed, and they hailed his coming as though a conquering warrior had entered the city. Like paparazzi following a Hollywood star, they trailed behind this carpenter from Nazareth and looked for ways to become part of his entourage or to at least get a "piece of the action" as Jesus came to town.
These same folks will yell "Crucify him!" in just six days, by the way.
When Jesus offered them something tangible to grab, they wanted to be a team player, they wanted the fishes and loaves, the healings, the wonders, the mighty signs.
How soon their tune would change . . . how quickly they would turn on the one who was innocent of any sin except the failure to live up to their expectations.
How like them we are today . . .
When things are going our way, we look to heaven and sing God's praises. We celebrate and sing and run to join the band as God rides triumphantly over all our "enemies." But as soon as Jesus fails to live up to our expectations, what do we do?
I know the spiritual answer--"though he slay me yet I will praise him."
Do we really? Will we? Will I?
I'm struck with how Jesus routinely challenged the popular expectations of the crowds who showed up hoping for another demonstration of heavenly power and flash. In John 12, just after the people have celebrated his "triumphal entry," Jesus tells them that the way to jump on his bandwagon is for his followers to hate their lives in this world. Just think how that must have sounded to the celebrants rejoicing in the coming of their conquering hero!
"You want to be a part of my movement, of my thing?" Jesus asks, "Then you will have to regard your life in this world as a dead man would. You have to become the least, the slave, the dead one, in order to get in on my movement."
Come and die.
What an invitation!
Of course, Jesus knew that in just six days he would literally fulfill that invitation. The innocent would die for the unquestionably guilty . . . and he would die horribly.
I can just imagine how this conversation must have put a damper on the celebration in Jerusalem. Jesus took a party and turned it into a wake. The next thing we know he is engaged in theological discussions with the people and with the Jewish leaders. He created a controversy that caused folks to take sides. All he had to do was accept the adulation and promise to "win the war that must be won," but Jesus decided to go against expectations again. He decided to allow God to get the glory through humility and death.
Hasn't this happened to us? Just when we think we have God's agenda all spelled out like it ought to be, He throws us a curve ball that reminds us we aren't in charge! We have a hard time "boxing Jesus" into a neat package.
What's the point then? The point is that we should reverse the procedure. Instead of putting expectations on God, we should look for his expectations for us. What has He required of us? What does He want? How should we respond to His voice?
This week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the process maybe we should participate in a funeral of our own. Maybe we should let die our selfish expectations about how God "ought" to act towards us. Bury them, and let God resurrect them in His image.
As we contemplate the price of our salvation, let us willingly become slaves to the one who has paid such a price to purchase our freedom. Like Jesus, let our prayer be "Father glorify your name." Remember, if a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will yield much fruit. It is, however, pretty useless in a bag with other seeds. Let's allow God to plant us where he wants so that our service can produce fruit for his glory. Let's follow our crucified Lord by living cruciform lives.
What would the world look like if we did?
Let's find out!
Thanks for reading!