“The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him…”
(John 12:12-13a NRSV)
They came because it was ritual for them. They came because they were raised to do so. They came because it was the festival after all. Passover was near and great hoardes of Jewish people, both from near and far, made their way to Jerusalem, the great city. They came early so they could purify themselves, so they could be prepared, so they could be ready.
Once there, they were told by those in charge to be on the lookout for someone. If Jesus, that man who defied logic and whose actions surely were gaining attention by the Romans, were to show is face, those who saw him were supposed to let those leaders know. They wanted to know, so they could take him into custody and stamp out this blatant defiance of the social order (let alone him raising Lazarus).
But when that crowd hear Jesus was coming, they went out to meet him. They didn’t tell the leaders, they threw caution to the wind and went out. They went bringing palm branches to wave before their coming king. They had their ideas of what he was going to do and what kind of king: lead a rebellion against the Romans, overthrow those chief priests who cared for themselves, bring an end to the current empire and raise a new kind of Kingdom where God is the head. The crowd had their own expectations of what kind of king Jesus was going to be.
I’m reminded of this as we celebrated Palm Sunday this past week. We had our palm processionals and I was among both of them. I was among that crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. And like that crowd I have my own expectations on the kind of King and Messiah Jesus will be. We all do. We all have our favorite images of Christ. We all presume to know what Jesus is like. Like that crowd, we all assume to know what Jesus is about.
The interesting thing is that Jesus confounded that crowd’s expectations on what a King will be like. He came in riding not on a glorious war-chariot, but on top of a donkey. He came in as the humble king of Zechariah’s prophecy. The beginning of Holy Week came with unmet expectations and confusion and it would continue on throughout the week. Both on Thursday and Friday, Jesus acted in a different sort of way than one expects a leader to. Jesus didn’t fit their expectations.
Like the crowd, we have our own expectations of Christ. May we be aware of what things we expect Jesus to do for us this week and lay them at the feet of Christ.