Holy Week: A Lesson in Expectations

This Holy Week, I’ve been pondering what it must have been like for Jesus to let go of expectations. At heart, that’s what I think Holy Week required before anything else. And there were so. many. expectations of which he needed to let go:

-the expectation of the disciples for him to keep being “the guy”- the rabbi, the leader, the one who knows what is actually going on around here

-the expectation of his followers for him to become a political leader and make their lives better in all the ways people perceived that

-the expectation of his detractors for him to fail in some kind of way that would discredit him–this one alone had to really sting to let it go, knowing some of his detractors would see the cross as exactly what they’d hoped for

-the expectation of being the Jewish Messiah, which Christians believe he was, and Jews believe he wasn’t, and both are totally understandable viewpoints to hold

-and perhaps, most difficult, the expectation of what God would do after the cross, which was a hope more than it was likely a promise, because as far as we can tell, Jesus traveled up that hill without any guarantee of Easter at all

Expectations are such private, personal, deep and tricky things. They feel close to the chest, like our own skin, and also like body armor that is meant to shield us from the world may in fact have in store for us. Mostly, though, I think expectations are like sinking sand. There’s just no stability in them at all. They are tendrils of imbalance, and if we’re smart, we release them before they grab hold of our ankles.

Usually, we don’t. Only after the fall do we realize our expectations led us into misunderstanding or wrongful projection or naive wishing. The ground of reality hits hard, and our egos (if we’re lucky) get shattered a little.

So, in reason number eight bazillion why I just love Jesus, I think about Holy Week, and I ponder what it must have been like for him to willingly release himself from expectations enough to do what he did and walk into a high-stakes political game that most likely had one end. I wonder how Jesus, who I imagine so easily could have continued to be “the guy,” who so easily could have turned his populist message into political power, who so easily could have denounced his detractors and made a show of force, who so easily could have said yes to all the expectations we wanted to put upon him…didn’t.

He did not become what we wanted of him so that he could become what we needed instead.

And at the bottom of all of that, he released the expectations of any shallow kind of faith, any elementary level trust stuff in God, and just went full out on giving into a God he hoped would bring something good even out of this.

What strength.

What centeredness.

What integrity.

It’s why I try to follow him, why I trust him, why I think his human life is the one example worth patterning above all others.

This Holy Week, I live in reverence and deep gratitude for Jesus’ strength to let go of all that we tried to saddle him with, even when it became replaced with a cross.

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