Starting: Starting Point

We all have specific expectations about many things. Think about a family. They all get along really well until one of the expectations isn’t met. For example, how the dishwasher is loaded, how a sandwich is cut, or how the toilet paper is hung (flap down or flap up).

And we’re all like this.

We think we’re starting at zero in every situation and relationship – a clean slate. But we aren’t.

We don’t start at zero with any person or thing. We don’t even start at zero with God. 

We start with a set of expectations.
1. We have expectations of each other in every relationship, whether we realize it or not.
  • Husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Parents/siblings
  • Bosses/colleagues/direct reports
  • God – who He is, what we can count on Him for, what He’s going to do

2. Almost all conflict and disappointment in relationships, whether personal, professional, or faith-based, stem from unmet expectations of each other.

3. And here’s the catch: Sometimes, we don’t even know what our expectations are until they’re not met. Because they’re hidden, they’re under the surface.
  • One study concluded that up to 80% of our expectations of others are assumed and never expressed.

This is complicated enough regarding our starting point with other people. It gets incredibly complicated when it comes to our relationship with God and Jesus because we EXPECT:
  • He’s going to act in a certain way in a certain situation.
  • He’s going to answer our prayers because they make so much sense to us.
  • He’s going to intervene in our world how we want Him to, how we need Him to.

Some of us have given up on expecting anything. We’ve become cynical. Cynicism is self-protective. We start not to expect much because we don’t want to risk the pain of disappointment (again).

What if we could make a small but profound shift in our starting place with Jesus that would transform all of that?

On Palm Sunday, we come to the beginning of the Super Bowl of the Christian faith. There’s a Bible story that recounts a specific event that goes with this day. It’s why we wave the palm branches around and sing “Hosanna.”

Let’s call it what it is. It’s an odd story that we’ve gotten familiar with.

Matthew 21
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This is like asking someone to borrow their car. It’s another one of those times where Jesus’ disciples must have thought, “Um, okay?”

Matthew 21
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

Matthew does this a lot – he points to prophecy from the Old Testament as a way of saying, “See? This is the guy they were talking about.” The Jewish people would have picked up on the references. They knew the stories and legends.

But think about this scene – a donkey’s colt. This is not a donkey, it’s a small donkey. Very underwhelming. There is no way to ride a donkey in a dignified way. It would be like borrowing the smallest, lamest car in the parking lot. If you were a king, you’d get the biggest, coolest-looking horse you could find, or a chariot with spikes on the wheels to make your grand entrance.

Matthew 21
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This is like attending the best worship night ever! The donkey thing was a little weird, but everyone got over it. Hosanna means God save us! Saves us from what? The Romans? Oppression?

Everyone had very specific and very high expectations of Jesus. What’s interesting is that these same people who were going crazy would be the same people who call for His death in a week because He didn’t meet their expectations.

Have you ever been in a tricky situation and tried to make it work as long as possible until it didn't and quickly fell apart? It could’ve been a business venture, a choice of contractor, a vacation, or a relationship. That’s similar to what happened here.

We hold onto our expectations of Jesus as long as we can until we can’t anymore. Then, we have this crisis of faith.

What if the issue was never Jesus but the expectations we had of Him going in? The Starting Point. 

Something we all struggle with is feeling desperate for Jesus to do something for us rather than having a desire for a relationship with Him, to walk through life alongside Him.

Matthew 21
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’[a]?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

The religious people were upset because Jesus messed up the system that allowed them to have God and still be in control of how things should go. Most of them believed in the idea of a Messiah, but they knew exactly what they wanted that to look like.

Many things have set up shop and are doing business in the temple of our hearts. We're okay with Jesus until He starts messing with those things.

This is where most of us run into a problem.

Think about these people. They wanted a Messiah. We do too. We want God. We even sing about it. But things changed when it quickly became clear that God wouldn't work according to their plan. And to be honest, that's true for us too.

We desire God, but often, we want God to do something. It's an expectation.

We have an assumption of how He should act. Where in your life do you know exactly what God should do? Where do you know how it should go? Where do you need it to go?

But what if that wasn't about your faith or Jesus but your starting point? What if it's a starting point leading you somewhere but not where you think?

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