When Jesus isn't What You Expected
Think back to when you were being recruited to go to your University to play your sport.You had all these hopes and dreams and expectations for what being a collegiate athlete would be. You could see yourself hoisting the National Championship trophy or breaking personal and school records. Before you knew it you were signing a letter of intent based upon these expectations.
Fast forward a few years and you are benched unable to help your team, or you got injured and now the hope of breaking any records has disappeared altogether. You think back to the days when you were being recruited and it just makes you confused and frustrated...how did it all go so wrong...this just wasn't what I expected.
Believe it or not, that's not an uncommon experience for college athletes. A lot of times we go into our athletic experiences with unrealistic expectations. We have an idea of what we want athletics to be for us, we have expectations of breaking records, lifting trophies, but what happens when our athletic experience is just not at all what we expected...often we experience piercing disappointment and confusion about our identity and purpose.
We have been following Jesus around Galilee for the last 10 or so chapters of Matthew and things are going pretty well for him. Word is spreading that this man named Jesus can heal the sick and raise the dead and everyone wants a piece of the miracle pie. The crowds and the people love him, but we get to chapter 10 and Jesus' tone starts to change. He warns of persecution and challenges ahead for his followers and immediately after this teaching, Jesus is met with some serious doubters and opposition in chapters 11-12.
One of these doubters was none other than his cousin and prophet...John the Baptist! In chapter 11 John is in prison for proclaiming Jesus and understandably a bit weary. Jesus is walking around Galilee healing the sick, raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind and...John is still in prison experiencing none of Jesus' miracle working power. You can probably see why he asks this question in Matthew 11:2&3.
"When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Wow, that's got to be hard to hear from your cousin, who also happens to be the one who had announced your coming as the promised Messiah who was to be the savior for Israel and the world only a few chapters earlier!
But why did John doubt here? Where is this disillusionment with Jesus coming from? Well remember John was a Jew and like any good Jew John would have read the books of the old Hebrew prophets. These Prophets talked about what would happen when the Messiah finally arrived. One particular prophecy was causing some serious problems for John... Isaiah 61:1...
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,"
Can you see why John might have been struggling with that last line of Isaiah 61:1? The Messiah (who John believed was Jesus) was supposed to be setting prisoners free, not being the reason people get put in prison! John had some unrealistic expectations of Jesus. John expected Jesus to come in and overthrow Roman authority, toss out the religious rulers of the time, and most importantly free those who have been wrongly locked up in a Roman prison cell...aka himself!
Jesus tells us something about false expectations in his reply to John's question in Matthew 11:4-6...
"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."
John's expectations about who Jesus should be were causing him to "stumble" or become offended by Jesus. He assures John that He is in fact the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 but just not in the way John expected. Jesus and John were talking about two different kinds of prisons. John wanted Jesus to deal with the physical prison while Jesus believed the real prison was a spiritual prison.
Jesus finishes his teaching in Matthew 11 with these famous words...
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (v. 28-30)
Jesus clearly believes that we have a spiritual condition that is more serious than any physical condition we find ourselves in. Jesus believed that the only true satisfaction in this life would come through a renewed relationship with God and that he was the "way" to that!
Sometimes we can approach Jesus with our own expectations of who he should be and how he should act in our lives. We expect him to always fix our physical circumstances and then when he doesn't we are confused and often offended by Jesus.
Like the athlete who expected championships and trophies, and is now disappointed by the lack of success, we as Christians can misunderstand Jesus and become disappointed in Him. Jesus did not come to fulfill our expectations he came so that we could have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10). False expectations lead to disappointment and confusion but faith in Jesus and who he is and what he came to do will lead you to "rest for your souls"!