In Matthew 21, we read about Jesus descending into the city of Jerusalem. Prior to this entry, he had been ministering in the Galilean region: performing miracles, raising the dead, and teaching the Scriptures. And he had developed quite a following.
In Jerusalem, Jesus was met by scores of Jews waving palm branches in the air. Covering the streets with their coats to honor Jesus, each of them cried aloud, "Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!" Hosanna means "come save us; come deliver us." And while this may sound like a sweet song of praise to the Messiah, context reveals there was more to their plea than meets the eye.
The Jews had long been under the oppression of Roman rule...and they were tired of it. They had convinced themselves that this prophet, Jesus, was a revolutionary who would lead them in overthrowing the Romans and establishing a new government. Being fully convinced of this, the Jews were expecting nothing less than a physical king to lead a physical war in order to inaugurate a physical kingdom. They wanted freedom so bad they could taste it. It was the utmost desire of their hearts and they pleaded with God to give it to them. But praise God that he did not give the Jews what they wanted. Praise God that he, in fact, denied them what they most longed for.
Often, in God's Kingdom, not getting what we want is actually the better gift. Praise God, in his sovereign goodness, that when the Jews wanted a noble king on a throne, God sent a baby in a stable. Praise God that when the Jews wanted a warrior on a horse, he sent a peacemaker on a donkey. Praise God that when the Jews wanted the enemy to be slaughtered by the Lion, he sent the Lamb to be slaughtered for the enemy.
If Jesus had given the Jews exactly what they asked for, the world would still be under the curse of sin.
If it had been up to the Jews, the "bad guys" would have been expelled and punished, and the "good guys" would have remained and ruled alongside Jesus. But the Jews had mis-calculated their own condition. Because when it comes to standing next to the Holy Son of God, we're all bad guys.
"None is righteous," Paul says in Romans 3. "...no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
We are all fallen sinners. We are all God's enemies by both nature and choice. And thanks be to Jesus that he is not like Santa Claus - tragically giving us what we want because of "good" external behavior. Thanks be to Jesus that despite our being "bad" (i.e. prideful, lustful, murderous, slanderous, idolatrous wretches), he gave us a better gift than we would ever have asked for. He gave us himself.
Becoming our sin and bearing our rightful punishment, Jesus' body was hung on a cross and his blood was poured out so that we might see the Father's love and surrender our lives to him - the Giver of the Better Gift.