Today we celebrate the start of a week when Jesus would let everybody down. The start of a week in which many people would let themselves down through denial and betrayal. The start of a week when Jesus would feel even God His Father had let Him down when He cries ‘My God why have you forsaken me’!
So if you have ever felt let down in life .. this is a week for you. It is a week for you to find companions, to find solidarity, but to find above all else faith and hope and love beyond life’s disappointments.
At the start of this week we find a crowd gathered in the great city of Jerusalem welcoming a man they believed would fulfil the promise that had been made to them many generations ago. The promise that God would save the people of Israel. And so the crowd gather with their Palm branches (the national symbol of the Jews) and in defiance of the Roman authorities they shout Hosanna, the great cry of salvation for God’s people. On Palm Sunday the crowd celebrate the expectations and hopes that surrounded Jesus of Nazareth. Here was the Saviour of Israel .. the answer to their prayers! But within the week the great hopes and expectations have disappeared as Jesus lets everybody down.
It all starts with His choice of transport into Jerusalem. A lowly and humble donkey. An act as it were of submission to the authorities. No defiance here. No confrontation with the Roman authorities. What a let down. And as the week goes on the disappointment becomes more and more palpable. The Jews ask Jesus .. by whose authority do you come to this city .. and Jesus bows His head and says I will not tell you. The Jews ask .. should we pay our taxes to these occupying forces of Rome … give to Caesar what is Caesar’s Jesus says. No confrontation with the authorities, no liberation for the Jews. More disappointment from the crowd.
As the week goes on Jesus will be betrayed which will lead to His arrest and it seems to the confrontation with Roman authorities that the people had hoped for .. surely now the moment for salvation had arrived. But again Jesus bows His head … are you the King of the Jews the Romans ask .. do you not know we have the power to allow you to love or die .. and Jesus remains silent. A silent Saviour. A humbled King. What a let down. What an anti-climax .. God has not answered the prayers of His people after all .. so in response to this failure of Jesus and of God the crowd turn on Him and shout … CRUCIFY HIM!
So I ask how have you responded to being let down in life by God? How have you responded to prayers asked for and prayers unfulfilled? How have you responded when you expected salvation and when suffering came? Have you like the crowd turned your Hosanna into Crucify Him?
But how can we still trust in Christ when we feel let down? We can trust in the truth that Christ’s salvation is at its deepest level a salvation from things we did not know we needed freeing from. The crowds, like us prayed for salvation from what they thought was trapping them, for freedom from the things they believed chained them. But Jesus message to the crowd is that He will not save them from the Romans .. but He will save them from themselves. He will not free them from the financial burden of taxes . . but He will free them from the burden of sin and shame. Jesus says to them I will not give you justice in the fleeting things of this world .. I will give you justice in the eternal kingdom of my Father. I will not save you from Caesar .. I will save you from death itself.
So if you feel let down … if you feel deflated in your faith. Then take heart for Jesus has done more for us than we have ever asked for or could have imagined .. as the Apostle Paul writes to the church in its earliest days we must shout our Hosanna’s not because we have got what we wanted in life but rather because of what was achieved at a much deeper level than the crowd in Jerusalem ever knew .. so Paul writes ..
‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’