Expectations meet reality. The sandwich looked good on the menu, but it didn’t look good when it was served. You thought you had taken a great picture, but now you want a retake. You thought loading the car for the trip would be easy, but your children wanted to bring way too much stuff. Expectations meet reality.
This is what Palm Sunday is all about. Great expectations meet bitter realities. Christ’s Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem wasn’t the city’s only parade that year. Roman historians tell us that the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, regularly held military parades with the Roman cavalry and soldiers marching into Jerusalem.
Pontius Pilate would lead them in on horseback. Each soldier was dressed in leather armor. Their swords and spears were crafted from the hardest steel. Golden helmets gleamed in the bright sunlight. Drummers beat out the cadence of the march. The message was clear. Peace comes through Roman military might and muscle. They called it Pax Romona … Roman peace.
On Palm Sunday, Christ’s disciples expected Jesus to defeat Pilate and the Romans. That’s why the crowd shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The word “Hosanna” is a Hebrew word which means “Save us now!” Hosanna was a cry for Jesus to save the Jews from Roman occupation. The crowd expected Jesus to demonstrate the military might and muscle of King David, Israel’s greatest warrior. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” That’s what they expected.
But here’s the reality. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Let’s unpack this verse.
Behold, your King … Behold is a command to “see,” “look,” “gaze,” “take note.” “Behold” means, “This is the point of what I’m saying!” The word “king” implies authority, power and might. This isn’t the king, his king, her king, or their king. This is “your King.” Rejoice and shout aloud! Why? Your King …
Comes to you … The “you” here is singular, not plural. It’s “you” and not “y’all” or “youins” which is y’all plus three. No, the singular “you” denotes a focus that’s individual and intimate, particular and personal. You are more than a driver license or Social Security number. You are more than a cog in a machine, doomed to die and destined to be forever forgotten. Behold, your King comes to you!
Righteous. Your King is righteous. Righteous kings were mostly oxymoronic during Israel’s history. All nineteen of the northern kings were unbelievers. Twelve out of twenty southern kings were unbelievers. Behold your King comes to you, righteous.
Having salvation. When you have something you can either keep it or give it away. Zechariah describes this King as having salvation but who doesn’t keep it. He gives it away. This King gives salvation away freely, generously, repeatedly, everlastingly.
Salvation has a name … Jesus. Salvation has a place … Golgotha. Salvation has a day … Friday. Salvation has a time … 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. Salvation has a cost … the blood of God’s only Son. Salvation has nails, a hammer, a spear and a crown of thorns. Behold, your King, comes to you righteous and having salvation which he is giving away.
Riding on a donkey … In the ancient Near East, a donkey was like a lemon for a vehicle. Horses and chariots were the winners. Horses and chariots meant ultimate power. The King comes riding on a donkey. Not a warhorse, not a stallion. He has no chariots, no army, no sword, no helmet and no spear.
This is a different kind of King who gives a different kind of peace. He delivers peace with God so that we can experience the peace of God. God’s peace calms our fears, it settles our hearts and lowers our anxiety. How does God do it? Zechariah 11:12 says the King will be sold for 30 pieces of silver. Zechariah 12:10 says he will be pierced through with a spear and die. Zechariah 13:7 says the King will be struck and the sheep will scatter. Expectations … defeat Rome. Reality … a God-forsaken cross.
By Friday, Jesus is hanging on that cross under a sign. “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37). Looking for a king who would crush Rome, people missed the King who crushed Satan, shame, and sin. They missed the King who is bringing us lasting peace.
To prove it, God turned the darkness of Good Friday into the light of Easter. God turned death with great suffering into life with great joy. God turned the shadow of the cross into everlasting peace for you. This is what Zechariah 9:10 says.
“I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
We need this peace. We need this peace more than ever! We need it because these days, life looks like a thousand threads. Immorality sliding, violence rising, children are bored, parents are frazzled. Fear reigns. Anxiety rules. Loneliness isolates. Death stalks. Yet …
“He speaks peace to the nations.” Jesus speaks peace to you. Christ’s gift of peace brings order out of chaos; goodness out of tragedy; hope out of all that despairs. Check it out!
Look at this beautiful Palm Sunday tapestry. It is sewn together from thousands of random threads. This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus does for you. Jesus takes all the random threads of our lives and he creates something beautiful, colorful, symmetrical, ordered … he creates a calming peace.
Chaos and uncertainty doesn’t have the last word. Jesus does. Jesus has the last word. And what would that be? … Peace. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 20:19, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”
A dad takes his two young kids to the bike store to buy a new bike for the oldest, who is five by the way. The five-year-old picks out a shiny blue bike with a banana seat and training wheels. The three-year-old, also thought that it was time for him to have a new bike. The dad said to the three-year-old, “You’re still having problems with your old bike. A new, big-kid’s bike would bring you more pain than pleasure. Someday I’ll buy you a new bike, just not today.” The three-year-old looks up at his days and asked, “Then I don’t get a new bike?” “That’s right son, not today. You don’t get a new bike.” Then he said at the top of his lungs, “Than I want a new daddy!”
Let’s be honest … there are times when we want a new Savior. A Savior who instantly rights out wrongs, who heals our hurts and delivers us from disease, depression and all sorts of gloom and doom. Expectations meet reality! The reality is that Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. The reality is that he suffers, bleeds and dies. The reality is that sometimes prayers go unanswered, hopes are dashed, and deliverance doesn’t happen nearly fast enough.
There is so much we don’t have … yet. But there’s so much more that we do have … now. Here he is! Trust him, embrace him, believe him. “Behold, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, riding on a donkey and giving you his perfect peace!” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.