Garry spoke on ‘Great Expectations’ last night, looking at Palm Sunday from the angle of how God sometimes seems a disappointment. Matthew 21:1-11 and John 12:12-15 tell us the story of Palm Sunday, how the Jews welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, seeing in Him all their expectations of what Messiah would be like and would do.
The Jews expected the Messiah – the long-awaited Anointed One of God – to come to Israel, defeat the Romans and establish the kingdom of God on earth. The disciples had absorbed this expectation (see Luke 24:19-20, Acts 1:6) and believed that Jesus was even now, on the donkey itself, fulfilling prophecy. Expectations were high.
Jesus had repeatedly taught that He would not do things the way they expected Him to. Matt 16:21, Matt 17:10-12, Matt 20:17-19 all speak of His impending death, but at this time, no one understood that God’s kingdom would be ushered in through sacrifice and atonement. Within days, all the disciples’ expectations were crushed as they witnessed the arrest and crucifixion of the One in whom they had placed their hopes.
The psalms repeatedly speak to us of people’s disappointment with God (see Ps 22:1-2, Ps 42:9-10, Ps 44, Ps 74, Ps 88). We often feel forsaken or forgotten by God. Plans rarely seem to work out the way we expected them to (look at the lives of Joseph and David and see how they had to persevere and endure through great trials before they saw the fulfilment of the promises of God.)
What’s the source of our disappointment?
1) Often, we misinterpret the promises of God. He speaks to us and we think we understand, but His words are filtered through our own expectations and understanding, leading to confusion and misunderstanding.
2) Our theology can be wrong, as the disciples’ was.
3) We expect God to work within our timescales and fail to understand His timing.
How do we react to disappointment?
1) We can turn away from God, believing that God has let us down and not been faithful. Disheartened and dejected, we can lose faith and become hard-hearted towards God.
2) We can bury our disappointments, fencing them off because we are frightened of working through the pain of difficult questions. Pain is never pleasant and so we hide our disappointments away, unaware that they are still corroding our lives and festering within. The result is that our lives lack congruence: we are like the supermarket trolley with wheels that don’t want to pull in the same direction!
3) We can take our disappointment to God (as the Psalmists did). He is big enough to take all our questions (though He may not answer them all and often asks as many questions of us as we do of Him!) That way, we allow Him to work in our disappointment and to change us.
How do we handle disappointment?
We need to know what we believe before we hit problems! We need to have a secure understanding of who God is so that when troubles come, we can stand on His promises and His character. 2 Cor 1:20 reminds us that no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus. Hebrews 10:23 reminds us that ‘He who promised is faithful’. The bottom line is that God is faithful and will keep His promises. At the right time and in the right way, God will deliver. Hebrews 6:10-12 reminds us that what we hope for will be fully realised. God places Himself as our guarantee and will not let us down.