In the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar the movie recreates the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. An excited crowd gathers around Jesus waving palm branches and lifting him up above the crowd. Children skip alongside Jesus while colourfully dressed women and men jubilantly press close to him. High above the fray the Pharisees order Jesus to quiet the “rabble” before a riot breaks out. Jesus says the people must rejoice or else the very rocks will be forced too, because this day is one of celebration. The crowd continues to cheer, but as they continue they take a dark turn, they ask if Jesus will fight for them and die for them.
I think there’s a strong impulse, as Christians, to be like the crowd on Palm Sunday. We get excited and cheer and rejoice when we draw close to Jesus. We want to praise him and press in close to him, especially when it seems like something exciting is about to happen. But then, often without really realizing it, we start putting our own expectations onto the encounter. We are excited about what we think he’s doing, rather than what he actually is doing. We praise him, but we expect certain things from him, things he may not actually give us.
The crowd in the movie wanted a warrior king who would come in and drive out the Romans. They wanted a prophetic overlord who would, in an act of righteous vengeance, overthrow the foreigners and take back the nation from those who were ruining it. But Jesus wasn’t there to do that, he was there to take back the people from their ruinous sins. He was there to return the hearts of the people to God.
Today, I think, the crowd scene plays out when people expect God to intervene in the running of the nations, or during an illness, or in a person’s financial life. We praise God when everything seems to be proceeding like we think it ought to. We get excited by how we think Jesus is working in our lives when sometimes the reality is that we don’t even have a clue.
Sometimes the work of Jesus is a hard thing to bear.
Sometimes the work of Jesus is the work of grief and mourning.
Sometimes the work of Jesus is impossible to comprehend.
So, we should certainly cheer for the Lord and be excited by him, but also, maybe, we should let him show us what he is doing instead of deciding for him.
Lord, give me a mind to look to you and a heart to follow your lead. Amen.