Faithlife Sermons

Are Your Expectations, God's Expectations?

Year A, Palm Sunday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Believers have a propensity of misunderstanding the movement of God in their lives and the world. Few if any of us except the CIA, expected a pandemic to engulf nearly the entire world expect for a few isolated countries and islands. What do you now expect God to do? How will you respond if he does something different?


Pygmalion Effect

In Greek mythology a story is told of a king named Pygmalion who is also quite talented using his hands to sculpture. He fell in love with a woman named Propoetides. Unfortunately Propoetides was cursed by Venus and became the first prostitute. One day Pygmalion saw Propoetides prostituting herself in public. Pygmalion declared that “was not interested” in women. From then on he devoted his spare time to chiseling statues. Unexpectedly he considered one of his statues of a woman so beautiful and realistic that he fell in love with it.
In time festival a for the goddess Aphrodite. While he was presenting his offering, he wished for a bride who would be the living likeness of his ivory statue. Knowing the desire of his heart, Aphrodite granted his secret desire. When Pygmalion returned home he kissed his sculpture on the lips and the lips warm. He wondered what it meant so he kissed her a second time and the lips felt soft. In the next few minute the statue was transformed into a beautiful woman. Aphrodite had granted Pygmalion's wish.
Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture which changed to a woman under Aphrodite's blessing.
Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture which changed to a woman under Aphrodite's blessing.
From this story psychologist first proved that a teacher’s attitude can go a long way in shaping a child’s classroom performance. They have also demonstrated that the same principles apply in other situations. There is a story from the 14th or 15th century in the monastic community about 2 sisters, one older and one younger, who constant exchange tense words. One day the older sister decided that she was going to make a concentrated effort to interact differently with the younger sister. The older sister helped the younger preform who chores, encouraged her in their daily routing, memorize Scripture and explain the various things about living in a convent. When the older sister died, the younger one deep grieve. She was overheard telling some, “Sister, loved me more than any one else in the convent.” Eyes rolled because the other sisters knew that even after years of devoted love the younger sister was still a source of irritation for the older.

Jesus’ Grand Entrance

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While the Pygmalion Effect is a very powerful in relationships it does not always work. We see this in the story of Jesus’ entrance into the Holy City, Jerusalem. The TRIUMPH easily and accurately describes the processional led by Jesus. We are left with the impression that he was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. A person reading straight through the book would find this somewhat surprising. Prior to approaching the capital city, Jesus had spent a great deal of time with his disciples and away from the crowds. The Pharisees had increased their opposition to him. We would expect these factors would have muted the crowds enthusiasm but instead the crowds were waiting for his arrival to the Holy City. Rumors must have circulated throughout Jerusalem and the countryside of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This was not an ordinary miracle. Giving life to a dead man was nearly beyond belief. Everyone, the pilgrims coming from Galilee and other regions, and the citizens of Jerusalem want to see this Rabbi.
The actual story of his parade into Jerusalem begins with Jesus telling two disciple to go and secure a donkey and a colt. He obvious has made prior arrangements with the owner of these animals. The two disciples are told the secret code, “The Lord needs them.” Matthew explains that all this was done to fulfill what the prophet Zechariah wrote
Zechariah 9:9 NIV84
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
zech 9
Jerusalem had had a storied history of its king riding into the city on a donkey. After David defeated the army of his rebellious son Absalom he returned to Jerusalem in triumph but also humility and peace.
The choice of animals is significant. Kings and military leaders ride horses to display their power and authority. Jesus chose a donkey. This beast of burden symbolized a man of peace. It was usually reserved for the priests. Jesus donkey-ride into the city was a deliberate choice that required careful planning. Sitting on top of the animal, Jesus would be noticed by the pilgrims who were on foot. Jesus expected his supporters to conclude the obvious. He was neither surprised or displeased when they did.
The time for concealment is over. He does not try to hid his messianic claim. In humility he does not make the claim for himself but lets others so honor him. His actions may speak louder than his words but the messianic pronouncement comes from the lips of the pilgrims.
Matthew 21:9 NIV84
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!”
Ironically, Jesus and the crowd have very different expectations. Jesus is doing everything he can to tell the crowd just what type of messiah he is going to be. He does not come in through the main gate. He enters the city from a secondary gate. He rides an animal that symbolizes peace and reconciliation not conflict and war. Yet, he become fully engrossed in the triumphant procession. He has deliberately arranged for this event. He thought this through. He knew what he was doing and how the crowd would react. He knew his expectations were different from the crowds. So why did he do it? Couldn’t he have accomplish the same goal using a different approach?
I do not presume to know the mind of Jesus so, I hesitate to give a definitive response to these questions. However, the parable of the vineyard comes to mind as I reflect on these question.
I do not presume to know the mind of Jesus.
You may recall the story of the workers in the vineyard
Mark 12:1–9 NIV84
1 He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. 6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
The story is rather harsh but it captures God view of the people of Israel. God has tried over and over to call his people back to the covenant to no avail. This did not change with the coming of messiah. The people had their own expectations of what would happen when he came. Jesus did everything he could in hopes of awakening in the a new set of expectation but the people were not willing to give it up.

What about us?

We are not that much different than the people of Israel. We have certain expectations of what we think God will do. Most older Americans expected to retire on either their pension or their investments. Some have lost their pension and other have seen their investments decrease by nearly 50%. I wonder what all those Christians who are going to church during his pandemic will do when they become infected with COVID-19. They arrogantly now say, “Germs cannot infect me because the blood of Christ will protect me.” We shall see.
But before we drift too far, let us consider what are you expecting God to do in your life? Are you ready for the unexpected?
The nation of Israel was not and they failed to receive the son of God. Who knows what might happen to us if we fail to accept what God wants to do in our lives, even if it does not fit our expectations.
Teachers may be able to shape the academic achievement of if they have a positive expectation for their students. Manager may be able to increase the productivity of their employees by expecting a high level of production. But we will be greatly disappointed if our exceptions are not that same as God’s, because does not change his to fit ours.
Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture which changed to a woman under Aphrodite's blessing.
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