So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13
As we read the gospels we see the progression of Jesus’ ministry and popularity come to a climax with his triumphal entry. People are laying down their coats and palm branches—a sort of rolling out the red carpet tradition—while praising him and the city is stirred up. The Pharisees exclaim, “Look, the world has gone after him” (Jn. 12:19). Many believe. Mission accomplished. Credits roll.
But we know the story doesn’t end there. God has a much bigger ending planned. It’s hard to believe that within a week Jesus would be tried and crucified—the crowds would turn and against him demand a detestable criminal be released instead of Jesus. What happened? What made the crowds so fickle?
The man the crowds followed healed the sick and performed miracles. It seemed he had the favor of the world on him. But shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus became more and more a source of controversy. He overturned tables in the temple and drove people out with a whip; he spoke in confusing parables and talked about dying. The people began to doubt and the Pharisees fueled it with their own darkened hearts. Their promised king wasn’t supposed to die, he was supposed to conquer the Roman Empire and be, well, a king. They had an idea of what God was going to do and how he was going to do it, and Jesus didn’t meet their expectations.
We all have the tendency to put God inside a box. We predict how he’s going to move in certain situations, and it can challenge the very core of our beliefs when he doesn’t meet our expectations. Our struggle might be confined to just one aspect of our faith, like finances or a troublesome relationship. We can believe God in some ways but not others.
Robert Robinson wrote in his famous hymn Come Thou Fount, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” The question is, will we be faithful when God doesn’t show up the way we want him to?