The next day, the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted, "Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the King of Israel!"
John 12: 12-13 (Common English Bible)
At Passover, the people came out to welcome Jesus as he started into the city. Jesus had performed many miracles, and had raised Lazarus from the dead. His followers were many, and now he was making an entrance - a grand entrance into Jerusalem. The people were expecting a king to come and deliver them from Roman rule and to restore the lineage of David to the throne. The last time a king had come riding into Jerusalem on a horse, it was to deliver the temple from the hands of the Seleucids, who had taken over Jerusalem and had desecrated the temple, turning it into a temple for worshipping pagan gods. They had even sacrificed pigs on the altar of the Lord. Judas Maccabee came to deliver the Jews from Seleucid rule, retake the temple for Israel, and re-establish it as a temple to God. The crowd expected Jesus to do something similar - to ride into the city on a stallion poised and ready for action. They expected him to drive out the Romans and return Judea to rule under an Israelite King. They welcomed their king, their savior, the one they expected to free them to live in peace. Or so they thought. The crowds were growing, the party was beginning, the expectations were high!
The scenes that follow are passionate scenes of Jesus' love and weeping for Jerusalem as he knows what will happen only days from now. On a hill not far from here, these very people will betray and kill him. In hours, he will overturn the tables in the temple, outraging the merchants and priests. But for now, he rides, slowly and peacefully, listening to the sound of the crowds as they usher in what they expect to be their idea of the Kingdom of God.
So what are you expecting? Do you expect someone to ride in on a white horse and deliver you from all of your pain and suffering? Do you expect to be delivered from every heartache or illness? Do you expect someone to pull you up out of the difficulty you have made for yourself by bad decisions? Jesus did come to heal the sick and the suffering of people, but more than that, Jesus came to suffer with us and for us. Certainly, miracles do happen, and we always are bold to pray for them. But are you trusting God on a daily basis, not just when times are uncertain or when life is not going as you had planned? Jesus came to walk with us through the stuff of life, to be Emmanuel - "God with us" in good times and in the midst of suffering. John Wesley's dying words were, "Best of all, God is with us." We do not have to walk those days of suffering or illness or despair alone. God will walk with us and give us internal peace in the midst of external turmoil.
As we enter into Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, let us not forget the suffering that Jesus endured for us. Jesus endured suffering, pain, torture, and even death for us so that we would not have to walk alone in our own suffering. Each Lenten season, we retell the story of Jesus' last hours on earth, from the garden to the cross to the tomb. This year, many talented and gifted people have come together to create a journey called the Stations of the Cross. This interactive journey takes the scriptures that tell the story of Jesus' trial and death and helps us relate to them in a contemporary way. The free exhibit is hosted by Covington First United Methodist Church and is open to the public. (Open Sunday through Friday through Good Friday. For hours, see our website at www.covingtonfirst.org) Come and walk the steps that Jesus walked.
So, what are you expecting this Holy season? Expect to be changed by God from the inside, and expect that whatever you face, regardless how dire or grave it may seem, when you trust Jesus to walk with you, you do not have to face life's hardships alone.
Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.