Ian graduated from UGA in 2014 with his BA in International Affairs before interning with the UGA Wesley Foundation’s international student and media programs. Today, he serves as The Fuller Center’s Global Builders Coordinator — promoting the program and helping teams organize and plan trips to work with The Fuller Center’s international covenant partners.

True renewal comes from God, starts internally and works its way outward — and one of its most tangible examples is when we partner with a family to build a simple, decent home with Christian love in action.

Which Jesus are you expecting?

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”        Matthew 21:6-11

On what’s referred to as Palm Sunday, Jesus rides into town on a donkey and colt, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of how Israel’s King would return and re-establish his kingdom. Undoubtedly, the people didn’t miss this symbolic entry, because they met him in the streets with a “red carpet” of palm fronds and cloaks (symbols of power and celebration), shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The people knew Jesus was coming into Roman-occupied Jerusalem as a conquering king who would depose the occupying army and free Israel, and they praised Him for it. They took their own clothes to lay out a carpet of triumph for him to walk over and seemed ready to defy death and violence to lift Him into a position of Lordship. They really seemed to get it. And yet, just a few chapters later we see the crowds demanding that their Roman overlords torture Him to death via crucifixion. What happened? 

It seems the people of Jerusalem experienced what so many of us do: they had a vision for how Jesus’ role should look that didn’t line up with His own vision, and when those expectations collided they turned on Him in bitterness and disappointment. Their vision was primarily political, while Jesus’ was primarily spiritual. The people of Israel wanted new laws and government structures, while Jesus wanted renewed relationship and revived hearts. As we attend to the implications of Easter this year we need to ask ourselves the question Jerusalem forgot: are my expectations of Jesus in line with His expectations of Himself? Am I waiting for Jesus to vindicate my political views, or am I waiting on Him to renew my heart in compassion, patience, wisdom, and self-sacrifice? Is my vision primarily political and external or spiritual and internal?

To be clear, Jesus’ Kingdom does have political and socioeconomic components. He does instruct us to handle resources compassionately and responsibly. He does lead us to hold governments accountable to faithfully manage society, and to build structures that help the poor and oppressed. He was extremely passionate about these things and after He entered Jerusalem would go to the temple and physically drive out those extorting the poor (with a whip he made Himself). But Jesus has always been more concerned with our spiritual health than our political context, because He knows that if our hearts are hard it won’t matter who controls Congress or the throne.

The vision of Jesus, I would argue, is one of inside-out renewal. Just as Jesus was first raised up Himself and then raises up the whole church, true renewal comes from God, starts internally and works its way outward. As we see the unrestrained compassion of Jesus washing the feet of his betrayer (John 13:1-5) and asking forgiveness for his executioners (Luke 23:34), we can know that His compassion is also for us and His affection is for us. When we actually comprehend that He likes us and loves us and we allow Him to restore us to full communion with God, we can break free from the worldly cycles of tribalism and selfishness. It’s only then, after revival has taken over within us, that we can build economic, political, and governmental structures that truly reflect the vision of Jesus and the will of God. The spiritual and internal always precedes, and ultimately determines, the material and external.

Millard Fuller, with all his drive and charisma, spent the best parts of his youth on building a business empire that would make him great. He thought he was doing a good thing: providing services, taking care of his family, fulfilling a dream. But eventually he realized it was all empty, and it wasn’t until after he gave it up and turned his life over to God that he was able to build something that truly mattered. Once Millard restarted with the interior of his relationship with God he was able to rebuild his family, then a community, and then a ministry that still impacts hundreds of thousands around the world and, by degrees, makes the world look more like Heaven day by day. He submitted to the renewal God wanted to do in his life, and it produced an “empire” far more impactful and renowned than anything he’d built himself.

So as we meditate this week on the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of His resurrection let’s seek to do the same thing. Let’s allow Jesus to have His way in our lives, rather than choosing how we think the world should look and trying to fit Jesus in as a cog (even an important one) in that system. Let’s expect Jesus to be who He is: a loving King who changes our hearts in order to change the world.

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