Great Expectations

Triumphal Entry

Since this is the week leading up to both Easter and Passover (after all, Easter’s basis IS Passover, with an added tomb and resurrection), I thought that I would offer up some information that I don’t often hear discussed in Christian circles. It has to do with Passover and the coming of the Messiah.

It is common within evangelical Christian groups to talk about the return of Jesus as being in conjunction with the Feast of Trumpets, since both Jesus and Paul speak of trumpets being sounded upon the Lord’s return. Some are adamant that this will be the time when he arrives, and they actively look for this future event during the autumn timeframe.

But did you know that Israel did not expect the Messiah to arrive around Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets)? Instead, Israel expected the Messiah to return and deliver them during a Passover feast, just as God had delivered them from the Egyptians during the first Passover. Especially in light of the current day’s plagues of Covid-19, locusts and waters turning blood-red in various places, many religious Jews today—including some that Meg and I know personally—are in expectation that the Messiah will arrive this week.

We read about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus on “Palm Sunday,” when the crowds cried “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We are taught that Jesus was welcomed in this way because of the number of miracles that he had performed, including the recent resurrection of Lazarus and the expectation that the Nazarene was the ONE. I’m certain that these signs played into the people’s thinking, but I don’t believe that it was the primary reason they treated Jesus like a king as he rode on a colt from the Mt of Olives (two items which the crowds would have immediately recognized from Zechariah’s messianic prophecies in chapters 9 & 14).

Instead, Israel had always expected that their future redemption would begin at Passover, just as it first happened nearly 1,500 years earlier. As far as the crowds were concerned, this Passover was going to be the one. But after the “Triumphal Entry” Jesus did not act like the “redeeming Messiah” the people were looking for. He didn’t save them from their enemies. He didn’t “restore the kingdom to Israel” at that time. We shouldn’t wonder why the crowds went from adoration to damnation. He was a fake, as far as they were concerned. He had over-promised and under-delivered.

But we know the rest of the story. We have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We know that Jesus’ plan was to allow the “rulers of this age” to crucify him. We know what the crowds, and even Jesus’ disciples, did not know. He was—for the joy set before him—ready to give his life of his own accord. He was in control of the situation, but it wasn’t what everyone expected of the coming messiah. No one—not his enemies, his closest family, friends or followers—expected him to rise again on the third day. No one.

So, will we Christians react in the same way if Jesus doesn’t return when we expect him? What if there’s no pre-tribulation rapture? What if the bride will be delivered up to “tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake,” just as many Christians throughout the world already suffer today? Will we still call Jesus our “King” or will we “fall away and betray one another and hate one another” because things didn’t go the way that we expected?

The current Covid-19 pandemic should teach us that tomorrow might just look very different from our expectations. But no matter what we think tomorrow will bring, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

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