We often prepare ourselves for something, gathering supplies and preparing ourselves for what we anticipate, only to be disappointed or frustrated when it doesn’t happen. This is exemplified by our expectations of the weather based on forecasts we hear or see on our phones, which can often be incorrect. It leads us to question what we are truly prepared for and how we have planned for the future. Are we responsible and save for a proverbial rainy day, or do we live with a “you only live once” mentality? While we should make many practical preparations, it’s important to consider how these translate to our spiritual lives.
Matthew’s description of Jesus’ arrival in the holy city shows truth and irony. He is welcomed as the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel, who he truly is; however, when Jesus reveals what this means, the people will reject him. Jesus will reveal himself as a different kind of Messiah than what was popularly expected, and the people will withdraw their support.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 21:1–11.
When the people of Israel anticipate something, they tend to act in accordance with their expectations when they see them being fulfilled. This anticipation often leads to a narrow focus on what they expect, such as the Israelites anticipating a king to remove the Romans. However, the resulting letdown and frustration can be severe when unexpected things happen. The people of Jerusalem, for example, waited for their Messiah to act in accordance with their desires, leading to disappointment when those actions did not materialize. Ultimately, our disappointment when anticipated events do not come to fruition can leave us feeling more sad and angry than if we had never anticipated them in the first place.
The antidote to the disappointment of our anticipations is waiting on God to bring things to pass. While we might grow impatient waiting, the growth we gain in waiting will prevent us from allowing our hearts to be broken because our anticipated act did not come to fruition. Patience helps us to endure trials and hardships, develop perseverance, cultivate hope and faith, and gain wisdom. God builds strength in us when we patiently wait on God’s will to come to fruition. The first step in preparing our hearts for God’s coming Kingdom is building up patience. The people of Jerusalem lost their patience when Jesus stopped performing according to their plans, and the shouts of “Hosanna” quickly turned to “Crucify Him!”
While it doesn’t require any work to anticipate, to truly prepare our hearts for Jesus coming as king, not to rule by might, but by grace requires the work on our hearts. We cannot do this work alone but allow ourselves to become obedient to God’s dominion over our lives. Jesus calls the disciples to prepare for His entry into the Holy City. These instructions were specific and called on the disciples to do something that may have been odd, but they followed through and carried out Christ’s instruction exactly and precisely. Grace doesn’t always make sense, but it always gives life. Therefore, to properly prepare for the King, we must be led by grace, which leads to hope and peace in our world.
The people of Jerusalem didn’t understand what they were hailing into the city. Jesus’ humble entry fulfilled the messianic prophecy, but the takeover wasn’t going to be through military might but through humble obedience on a cross. With the actions during Holy Week, Jesus opens the door to salvation, and the victorious king defeats sin and death. This week’s worldview shift forces us all to set down our visions of might and allow our hearts to be prepared for God’s coming reign.