The Big Tent Show

I had begged my parents for years. The Holland Civic Center’s giant marquee would annually advertise the circus coming to town. Maybe it was because Curious George was my favorite book growing up, maybe it was the TV shows I watched as a kid that highlighted the majesty of the circus, but I would annually beg my parents to take me to “Big Tent Show.”

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In the eyes of my 9 or 10 year old self, the circus could not disappoint… Or could it? I remember sitting in the padded upper deck seats. I remember seeing the trapeze artist flying through the air. I remember the man standing on top of animals trying to get the crowd hyped. I remember the oddity of some seeing zoo animals in the Civic Center.

But I also remember the dimly lit lights and flashes of fire that startled me even from a distance. I remember the pungent smell of large animals in a small space. I remember the piercing sound of super-fast mini-bikes screeching their engines as they drove in circles. I remember asking my mom and dad if we could go home early because I had had enough.

My longing, my expectations, and my hopes for an epic day at the circus were crushed. The circus was certainly sensational, but not in the way I expected.

The scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem was also quite sensational, with the fanfare of the townspeople, the banner of palms lining the streets, the smell of the TWO animals that Jesus rode as he entered town. And that doesn’t even mention the chaos of the temple courts as Jesus flipped over tables in anger. Then, in potentially the most sensational and dramatic scene of the entire day, we see the temple authorities seething in anger as Jesus heals people, children shouting Hosanna in the background. It might be compared to a first century circus.

For the faithful followers of Jesus, expectations couldn’t have been higher. This was the time. It was finally going to happen. The Jesus they had been following, the one they had devoted their lives to, would finally reveal himself as the true Messiah, the king of Israel, and he would take over the Roman occupation and restore Israel to its promised place.

I wonder at what point those expectations began to wane. When did they realize it wasn’t going to go as they expected? Jesus had a different way of exercising His kingship. Sure, their shattered expectations would eventually be redeemed once they understood that Jesus wasn’t coming to be only King of Israel, but King of the Universe, but first they had to experience a tragic loss.

My hunch is that you too have lived with failed expectations, some far more heartbreaking than a disappointing day at the circus. While it is still mysterious to me how God is involved in those tragic events, I am convinced that He is, just as He was for those first century disciples. God can redeem and use them for good in different or unexpected ways.

As we enter into Holy week on Sunday, maybe one thing we can do is reflect on ways our expectations of Jesus have changed over the years and be open to the new revelations of God in our lives.

Grace & Peace,
Nate Schipper

Matthew 21:1-17

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
        and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 Then Jesus entered the temple[c] and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
    but you are making it a den of robbers.”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard[d] the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

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