Disappointment with God

Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021

Palm Sunday
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Kirk Schneemann
First Alliance Church
March 28, 2021
Mark 11:1-11

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Palm Sunday reminds us Jesus is LORD even in the midst of disillusionment.

Welcome to Holy Week! This is the time of year when we remember the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. Just a reminder, our Good Friday Service at 6 PM with our friends at The Tabernacle will be a time to remember Jesus’ death for us on the cross. It’s not a happy service, but while it was horrible for Christ, it was good for us. Hallelujah!

Palm Sunday was significant for several reasons which we'll explore today in the eleventh chapter of the book of Mark.

Jesus and his friends travel from Jericho to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. That might not sound significant, but the dozen-mile-or-so journey involved a long, hard climb from the lowest city on earth—over 800 feet below sea level—to nearly 3000 feet above sea level.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ” (Mark 11:1-3)

This has always fascinated me. Jesus tells them to steal a donkey! Actually, he only intended to borrow it, but notice he never tells them to ask permission to untie this colt. He anticipates objections, though.

A colt never ridden means this is something of a wild animal. It’s young so not necessarily dangerous, but it’s not used to riders, obviously. Jesus knows this. Maybe he knows the owner. Perhaps he had already rented it…or he simply had divine knowledge from the Holy Spirit. It’s obvious he doesn’t plan on keeping it, but it’s for a special purpose.

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
(Mark 11:4-6)

If the story ended there, I think it’d be pretty cool! Jesus gives them a command. They obey. He tells them what might happen and it does…exactly “as Jesus had told them.” Mission accomplished! Jesus is amazing!

What’s also amazing is his selection of a donkey instead of the warhorse typically used by royalty. God’s Kingdom is different than earthly kingdoms.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
(Mark 11:7)

Jesus is now the colt’s first rider. It submits, showing Jesus’ authority over creation. The cloaks or coats or robes may have been a makeshift saddle, perhaps making the ride easier for both the animal and its passenger. What happens next is quite a scene.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
(Mark 11:8)

We call today Palm Sunday because we envision palm branches which are plentiful in the Middle East, but other plants such as corn may have been used to create a path for Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem. This was their version of the red carpet Hollywood stars use on special occasions! Only royalty received such treatment.

Jesus’ arrival was a big deal! He was known for his teaching and miracles. The envy of the religious leaders surely made him even more famous and controversial. The Jews had been waiting centuries for the Messiah, and rumors were swirling that he was the One. Just as Moses delivered their ancestors out of Egypt, it was their hope that Jesus would save them from the oppression of the Roman government. Their King was coming!
King Jesus is the Messiah!

Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
(Mark 11:9-10)

This is their song. This is their chant. This is their hope. “Save us, now!” or “Please save!” is the meaning of “hosanna,” a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew phrase. They were crying out for liberation. They praised King Jesus with eager expectation. They were desperate, quoting Psalm 118:

LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! (Psalm 118:25)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (Psalm 118:26)

In Hebrew and Aramaic, this is how you say, “Welcome!” These people were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the saving of the people of Israel from slavery. They were excited, singing Hallel psalms used in festive processions and at the Passover meal. Their prayers were being fulfilled.

I sometimes wonder why we aren’t more passionate about Jesus. Sure, he’s not physically here, but he’s our audience when we sing. He’s the one we claim to follow. He’s the object of our worship. On Palm Sunday, the city was elected when Jesus entered. Could the same be said of us each time we gather? Should it?

Maybe we’ve become too comfortable with God. The longer you know Him, the more you take Him for granted, perhaps? This is not unique with God. I’ve met couples who’ve been married for years and they barely tolerate each other. What happened to the spark that caused them to marry in the first place? Where did the love go?

I used to think the voices shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were the same ones yelling, “Crucify him” five days later. I’m not sure. Maybe. I’m quite sure they quickly became disappointed, though. Why did he ride a lowly donkey instead of a majestic horse? Was he going to overthrow the government? Would the ancient prophecies of the Messiah ruling and reigning forever be realized now? How did they feel when the object of their hope was being nailed to a cross?

Life is filled with
disappointments. Following Jesus doesn’t mean everything becomes easy. In fact, sometimes it creates new challenges. A few years ago, New York magazine published an article on the science of disappointment which stated rather obviously “the feeling of being let down is actually one of life’s toughest emotional experiences.” But more than just emotional, it is physiological, linked to dopamine levels in the brain. Jonathan Merritt explains how it works in his fascinating piece on Palm Sunday and the Gift of Disillusionment:
Here╩╝s how it works: Your brain generates expectations about the future. Often these expectations are based on what you want. Something you perceive as good has happened in the past, so you begin to expect it will happen in the future. Before it even happens, your dopamine levels begin to rise in the rush of anticipation. Then, when that good thing actually occurs, you get a double shot of dopamine.
Do you know what happens when the good thing doesn’t happen? The dopamine levels crash. We don’t get what we wanted and we experience the displeasure of being wrong.
We’ve all been disappointed with life. We’ve all had people fail us. Sometimes they don’t even know they failed us…we just had expectations.
When I do premarital counseling, I tell couples I believe the secret to a great marriage is…realistic expectations. I know, you’re supposed to say Jesus, but we all know of couples who are happily married without Jesus…and miserable couples who claim to follow Jesus.
If you expect my sermon to last under an hour and I decide to preach for two hours, even if it’s a good message, you’ll probably be disappointed because you expected to eat lunch before 2 PM!
If you expect your basketball team to win the championship—which is always a high expectation—and they don’t, you’re disappointed.
Let’s face it, we like to be in control. We like to have things our way. We like people to do what we want them to do…and we’re quick to acknowledge when they fail to do so.
Hang with me for just a moment. Steven Covey in his classic
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, “Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen…responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response.
Have you ever heard someone say, “They make me so angry!”? They are letting their emotional life be governed by something outside their control. We can choose our response to situations. We can be response-able. Let me try to connect the dots.
I’ve often said
God created us in His image…and we often return the favor! We are tempted to think the purpose of God is to make us happy…and when He fails us, we may question, doubt, or abandon Him completely.
Disappointment with God is normal. We are disappointed when we have expectations that are unfulfilled.

If you’ve ever asked Pastor Donald how he’s doing, you’ve probably heard him say, “Better than I deserve.” What does he deserve? What do you deserve?

God is God…and you’re not. It’s perfectly acceptable to honest with God about your feelings, your doubts, your fears, and your hopes…but trust in God means…we trust Him. We follow Him. We seek His will, His plan, His understanding.

I’ve mentioned before how our District Superintendent, Thomas George, encouraged me to change my prayers from, “Why, God? to, “What are you up to, LORD?”

When we’re disappointed with God, instead of demanding our way like a child who can’t take every toy home from the store, we need to draw near to God and seek first His Kingdom. It’s a lot better than anything you or I could create! Just wait!

Another common emotion is disillusionment. We often view it in the same negative light as disappointment, but consider these words from Jonathan Merritt,
“Disillusionment occurs when God shatters our fantasies, tears down our idols, and dismantles our cardboard cutouts. It occurs when we discover that God does not conform to our expectations but rather exists as a mystery beyond those expectations.” – Jonathan Merritt, Learning to Speak God from Scratch
Disillusionment destroys the illusion that it’s all about us, that we’re in control, that we can put God in a box, that He was created in our image for our glory. Disillusionment helps us trade our will for His. It allows God to be who He is, not who we wish He was, making our expectations an idol.
On the first Palm Sunday, the crowd was excited to see Jesus, but they were surely disappointed…disillusioned…perhaps even angry to the point of yelling, “Crucify Him!”
In our current cancel culture, that’s essentially what people are yelling today. If you don’t conform to the latest trend, they’ll cancel you. Unfriend you. Boycott you. In some cases threaten to kill you. The people who preach tolerance seem to only tolerate those who agree with them. This past week people were calling for a basketball team to be kicked out of the NCAA tournament because the school believes in traditional marriage.

It’s easy for me to point fingers, but I don’t always behave well when I don’t get what I want…from God, my wife, my friends, …you!

It would be easy to dismiss this historic event as another nice story Mark tells us about Jesus, but there may be more going on than just a parade. It really comes down to a simple question Jesus once asked his friend Peter. “Who do you say that I am?”

Who do you say Jesus is? The crowds said he was the Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression. They were half-right. He is the Messiah, but his first visit to our planet involved a different mission. Rather than freeing us from Rome, he came to free us from the law of sin and death. He came to reconcile us to our heavenly Father. He came to offer eternal life, not merely make us comfortable for eighty years or so.

Who do you say Jesus is? C.S. Lewis said your options are liar, lunatic, or Lord. You can’t dismiss him. He has influenced our planet more than any other person. His claims are radical. His followers legendary. His message transformational. His death epic. His resurrection…well, we’ll talk about that next Sunday!

The last verse of our passage says,

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. (Mark 11:11)

He made his appearance, saw what was going on in the temple courts (which we talked about two weeks ago), and moved out of the city into Bethany for the night, a village less than two miles to the east of Jerusalem. Days later, he would be arrested and crucified on the day we call Good Friday.

Who do you say Jesus is? I say he is the Messiah, the King of kings!

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