After church on Sunday Rowan asked me if Palm Sunday was a happy day or a sad day. I understand his confusion. I sort of feel the same way.
On one hand, there’s a feeling of celebration and joy in the air. We wave our palm branches exuberantly over our heads; we shout “Hosanna! Hosanna!” There’s a palpable feeling of anticipation and expectance as we hear about Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. And of course, we, unlike the Israelites, have the benefit of knowing how the story turns out. We know Jesus’ entrance was indeed triumphant, though not in the way everyone first imagined.
That’s pretty much how I explained it to Rowan. I told him Palm Sunday is the official beginning of Holy Week, and that because we know about Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, we look forward to that day of celebration and thanksgiving with hopeful anticipation.
But I also told Rowan that sometimes we’re not much different than those ancient Israelites who draped their garments on the dirt road and shouted “Hosanna!” as Jesus rode into the city on the back of a humble donkey. Sometimes we have very clear expectations of how we think Jesus should work in our lives, and we quickly do an about-face when our expectations aren’t met exactly the way we imagined and hoped.
Like the Israelites, not only do we expect Jesus to save us, we expect him to save us in the way we think is best.
I’ve been living the reality of Palm Sunday in real time these last few months. Time and time again I’ve planned out exactly how God was going to redeem my situation (A new publisher! A better book proposal! An unexpected book deal! A new job I’ll love even more than book writing!), and time and time again I’ve been left with my mouth agape and my hopes dashed when The Plan as I had envisioned it didn’t materialize.
I’m learning, though, I really am…albeit slowly. I’m learning the faith and trust to keep shouting, “Hosanna!” — “God, save me!” — even when his plan doesn’t seem to remotely resemble mine. Even when I don’t see his plan at all. I’m learning the faith and trust to keep waving my palm branch, even as my arm grows tired. I’m learning the faith and trust to keep laying my garments down in the road, even when I can’t see the way through the dust and the grit.
Maybe it’s because I have the benefit of hindsight. Maybe it’s because I can look back at the mountains and valleys and the twists and turns of my life up to this point and see with my own eyes how God has worked his good, often in the most unexpected, unanticipated ways. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen evidence, strong and clear, of the goodness of the Lord, not only in the land of the living, but in my very own land and my very own life.
Maybe it’s because I know how the Holy Week story turns out, and I believe it. Jesus was indeed crucified, died and was buried. But he also comes again.