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Holy Week: Of Palm Sunday and disappointment

March 25, 2013

Verse for reflection: [James and John asked Jesus]: “When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left.” (Mark 10: 37)

Several years ago traveling to Newton, Kansas for some meetings in the Mennonite offices there, I stayed for two nights in the home of a former colleague whose son, Ethan, was four years old at the time. While his mom and dad were upstairs getting ready for their job,  Ethan and I were finding our own breakfast.

Ethan proceeded to show me the cupboard with various boxes of cereal in it. There he found a new box of cereal with blueberries featured in the attractive bowl of cereal on the front.

“Ooh, this cereal has bwo-berries.” We both thought that sounded good so we got our bowls and carried them to the table.


Of course, when we opened the box, there were no dried up little blueberries (as I thought there might be). “No bwo-berries,” he said disappointed. I felt badly. Here I was the adult with how many years of experience with all kinds of boxes that pictured much more than they ever delivered, and I hadn’t prepared or warned him. To Ethan’s (and his parents’) credit, he got over his disappointment quickly and ate the cereal anyway, and I was reminded of how literally children take things and how often it sets them up for disappointment.

I remember one of my big disappointments as a child. I had two sisters and one brother. Mom and Dad announced there was going to be a surprise for everyone.P1020538

My two older sisters shared one bedroom; I slept in a room that served as the hallway, and my brother a separate room. When a furniture truck drove up with a brand new bedroom suite, we were all very excited. The deliverymen proceeded to carry the items up our stairway–all going into my sisters’ room. What was there for me? Or my brother?

I remember finally spying a momentarily-forgotten thin box in the stairway, waiting to be taken upstairs. I told my little brother, “Maybe this box is for us.”

But no. A quick peek revealed it was the mirror for my sisters’ bedroom suite.


Eventually, of course, the bedroom suite was “mine” too after the oldest went off to college, and eventually it was all mine when the second one left.  The lesson that stuck with me was never try to tell your kids that a surprise would be for them if it isn’t.

So what does this have to do with Palm Sunday and the week leading up to Easter?

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was greeted as a king after a great victory. His disciples must have thought he was finally getting ready to step forth and lead a revolution (some hoped) against the crushing oppression of the ruling Roman empire in their country. The day before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem  they were arguing about who was going to sit on Christ’s right or left in the Kingdom, and while Jesus answered talking about his heavenly Kingdom, clearly the disciples did not yet understand what lay ahead for Jesus or themselves.

By Thursday when Jesus ended up being betrayed and arrested, then tried and crucified, we know his followers were not only devastated and horrified by this sudden, violent turn of events, but deeply disappointed for all their own hopes and dreams for the future.

Thank God the story doesn’t stop there! The masterful preacher S. M. Lockridge once said in an eloquent sermon, “It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

As we begin this Holy Week, walking alongside (in our imaginations)  through the tragic and difficult experiences of Christ’s  final week of life on earth,  we can keep in mind the God who offers consolation, hope and victory over all of life’s disappointments, big and small. Even death has lost its sting when we know that ultimately there is life beyond the grave.

Action: When disappointments and discouragement loom large this week, focus on Christ’s heavy walk toward the cross. Allow the power and love of God lift you to peace and joy.


Adapted from Another Way newspaper column, first published March 2008; archives of columns here.


From → Faith, Family Life

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