They expected that this would mean war: that they would push back against their Roman captors and take back their homeland. It’s not hard to see why, reading the original passage in Zechariah: “Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour…” When the Jews of Jerusalem cry out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” a landslide military victory what they’re expecting to come next.
And then Jesus responds to this welcome by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
Translation: it’s time for me to die. And if you want to be part of what I’m doing, you need to be ready to die too.
How often this happens in the lives of believers today! We wait patiently for the Lord, praying and longing for him to act, looking for signs that he will do what we expect. And then when he does show up, he’s doing something completely opposite what we hoped for.
Yet we know that Jesus’s plans were far greater than a military victory for Israel: he came to die so that he could “draw all people to [himself].” Instead of restoring a nation, as the Jews expected, the Lord made a way to restore the whole world to right relationship with Himself.
The Zechariah passage Jesus is echoing in John 12 says, “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” In your own life, Christian, while you wait upon the Lord, know that he may not do what seems right to you. But the gospel teaches us that he is always faithful to his promises. When the Jews expected a victory from Jesus, he died instead–and in so doing, he saved the whole world.
Prayer: Father, teach us to hold loosely our expectations of how you will act. Teach us to be confident of what we know of your character rather than what we want you to do in our lives. Help us to rejoice in all circumstances, knowing that whatever we might hope for, you will “restore to us double” through Christ.