This Sunday is Palm Sunday. This day marks the beginning of Holy Week, also known as Passion Week, for the Christian Church. Palm Sunday is the celebration of the Triumphal Entry – when Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst the praise and applause of the crowds who came to Jerusalem for Passover.
On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus, once again, informed his inner circle of disciples of what was to come. Luke 18 records it like this: And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18.31-34 ESV)
Does this strike you as, “How did these guys not get it?” In Matthew 16, Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah. (Yay, Peter!) Shortly afterward, however, Jesus plainly informed his disciples, “that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” (Matthew 16.21 NASB) At this, Peter reproaches Jesus for such negativity, and then Jesus rebuked Peter right back and even called him Satan! (Uh-oh!)
So you see, on the road to Jerusalem before Passion Week was far from the first time that Jesus plainly told his disciples that he was going to suffer, die, and rise again. Verse 34 tells us it was hidden from them. Some scholars suggest this means there was a supernatural block preventing them from understanding. That is certainly possible. However, I agree with others who feel this hiddenness was due more to their beliefs and bias. Peter was so thoroughly predisposed to the prophecies of the Messiah’s glory that he outright rejected the idea of His suffering, and even rebuked Jesus Christ, his rabbi. And this in spite of the many prophecies about the Messiah’s suffering.
A careful reading of the Gospels in their historical context reveals that the disciples had specific and long-held expectations of what the Messiah would do, (drive out the Gentile invaders and restore Israel as a world power). These expectations were fueled by Scriptures but crystallized by nationalism.
This brings two challenges before us. I have space left to address only one today. Like the disciples, we also have specific and long-held expectations of our Lord Jesus Christ. We expect him to heal us and those we love, to make things go our way, to save our nation from infidels, pagans, and terrorists, and to bless us abundantly (make our wishes come true). When our expectations are unmet, we may feel that Jesus has failed us, and we don’t understand why. All too often our own beliefs and bias prevent us from embracing Him as our exceedingly great reward. See Matthew 10.38-39, Romans 5.3-4, and 1 Peter 2.21.