When Jesus Doesn’t Meet My Expectations

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Not What She Was Expecting

My wife and I were engaged a little over five years ago. Leading up to our engagement she had all the evidence necessary to know that I intended to propose to her: we had gone ring shopping together and actually purchased the ring, we had talked about our love for one another, and we had made plans for our future together. Even though she had all this evidence, when the time came that I actually proposed she was at first confused when I asked her to marry me.

I had not yet met her father, and she was sure based on our conversations that I would, like any good Christian young man, ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage before proposing. Unbeknownst to her I had previously called him to ask his approval with the intention of surprising her at her favorite location on earth with a proposal. Even though she had all the evidence to know the proposal would be coming, her expectations for when, where, and how it would come were not met. Instead, I was able to surprise her with a wonderful memory on the Oregon coast.

Evidence and Expectations

In Luke 7:18-35 Jesus is asked by the imprisoned John the Baptist is He is the one they should look for, or if there is another. Clearly, John’s expectations of the Messiah coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16-17) were being challenged as he spent many nights in Herod’s prison. Jesus answers John by providing evidence: healing the sick, curing diseases, and driving out demons. He then tells John’s disciples to go and deliver the message of what they had seen with their eyes to John: “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them,” (Luke 7:22). Jesus was alluding back to several OT texts (Isaiah 28:19, 35:5-6, 42:18, 61:1) and connecting His ministry of mercy to the Messianic Scriptures.

When John’s disciples leave, Jesus talks to the crowd about expectations. He asks them what they went out into the wilderness to see (vv. 24-26). The first two questions imply a negative answer. The crowds did not go after John thinking he was a weak man, or privileged or well to-do. They went after him because they believed him to be a prophet. Yet even in that realization, their expectations were wrong. Jesus says that really John was the greatest prophet, and the greatest human born this side of the kingdom age. However, in the age to come the littlest, smallest, most insignificant individual would be greater than John, the greatest person prior to the kingdom.

Jesus’ words are received well by the common people and tax collectors, but the Pharisees and Mosaic law experts rejected Jesus’ message, just as they had rejected John’s (vv. 29-30). So Jesus addresses this response in vv. 31-35. The leaders of the Jews (Pharisees and law experts) were like bratty children in the marketplace whining because they passersby do not perform as they desire. They do not dance for the flute, or mourn during a dirge. Jesus then applies this parable by saying John came as an ascetic (not eating or drinking) and the religious leaders called him possessed. Jesus, on the other hand, came eating and drinking, but those same leaders mocked Him as a glutton, drunkard, and friend of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus comments here on how there is no pleasing the Jewish leaders. They will never be satisfied with John or Jesus unless they would meet their expectations. Jesus concludes by saying “wisdom is vindicated by all her children,” (v. 35).

Adjust Expectations Accordingly

Christians and non-Christians alike today have many expectations for Jesus. Non-Christians might expect that if they trust Christ they have to become a boring religious law keeper, hypocritical, and never having any fun. In my own life, the opposite has been true. Some Christians believe that if they are faithful to obey God’s word (to the best of our ability) that God will pour out showers of (material) blessings on them from heaven. This is an example of expecting more than we should. But there are also times we expect too little. Do pastors and preachers prepared their sermons with the expectation of seeing lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God? Or have we come to expect little fruit because of our secular society, godless culture, etc.?

I suggest there are many areas where Christians today follow the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day by treating Jesus  as if He existed to fulfill their self-interests. But Jesus is not required to perform for you on command. Contrary to much popular thought, Jesus did not come to meet our expectations. In many ways He came to shatter them and rebuild them according to His purpose. Rather than being disappointed when our expectations are not met, may we reexamine our expectations for Jesus and allow Him to shatter mistaken conceptions and reform our thoughts to mirror His. And may we rejoice that God does not always give us what we expect but knows what we need, and His loving plan exceeds our expectations.

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