Expectations and Reality Letting Jesus be Jesus

Expectations are a force to be reckoned with!  All of us can attest to this.

In relationships when expectations aren’t communicated and/or met, that’s when things get dicey.

At our places of employment we don’t always manage our expectations well.

When setting goals we don’t always adjust our expectations appropriately so as to account for our foibles and scheduling snafus of various sorts.

In other words, our expectations can really impact our lives.

I think, however, that there’s a mostly unexplored arena when it comes to expectations — namely this: We often have very specific expectations of Jesus that he simply is not going to meet because they run counter to who he has been revealed to be in the Scriptures and in our lives.

Jesus and Expectations

After Jesus fed 5000+ people, he immediately had to deal with their misplaced expectations.  Look at John 6.14-15:

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Do you see it?  Jesus performed an amazing miracle in the midst of lots and lots of people…and those same people then began to think very highly about him.  They wisely identified Jesus as a prophet, which is surely true (at least in part).  But Jesus discerned what they were thinking, specifically that they wanted him to be their king whether he wanted to or not.

And while Jesus will be the ruling king of kings some day, that day had not come then (and has not come yet either).  Jesus had different plans, plans that didn’t line up well with the expectations of the people.

So what did Jesus do?  He withdrew to a solitary place.  He not only did not meet the expectations that were hoisted upon him, but he executed a full-on retreat.

What is behind all of this?  There must be more to this story.

There is!  The vast majority of the people whom Jesus interacted with during his earthly ministry were Jews living in Palestine.  They had for quite some time been ruled by Rome, with a long list of rulers who pre-dated the Romans.  Many of the Jews of Palestine were sick and tired of being dominated by others, being taxed by foreign authorities, and having their religious freedom impinged upon with the introduction of gods from other lands.

In other words, many Jews who lived in Palestine during the first century were ready for a political change.  And one of the most common and popular conceptions of the messiah, God’s promised deliverer, was that he would come as a military conqueror, setting the Jewish people free from their oppression.

Jesus, however, didn’t have military conquest as part of his messianic blueprint (at least not yet).  And he refused to be boxed into doing something just to fulfill the expectations of the people.

As a quick aside, we can really learn a lot from Jesus right here!  How often do we get sucked into the vortex of people-pleasing?  How often do we let the expectations of our families, friends, spouses, churches, societies, cultures, etc. impact our decision-making?  It’s not bad to consider the opinions of others when making decisions, but it seems silly and ultimately dangerous to follow the whims of others no matter what!

Our Expectations Today

All of this talk about some of the Jewish expectations of the first century has me thinking about the expectations that we demand Jesus fulfill today.  What are they?  What are some of the things we want Jesus to do for us, our way right away?

Here are a few that come to mind immediately:

  • We expect health and wealth when we have faith in Jesus.  This expectation is nefariously stoked by prosperity gospel preachers and leaders who claim that if we “seed” their ministry with our offerings, then we will be guaranteed a large return on our spiritual (but very financial) investments.  But those of us who don’t fall for those shenanigans still fight the constant pull toward thinking that God somehow owes us health and wealth anyway.
  • We expect inner peace and freedom from large external anxieties when we follow Jesus.  We think that if we are “in the center of God’s will” that everything will be hunky-dory for us and we will feel right and good on the inside.
  • We expect that things will be easy for us when we believe in Jesus.  We’ve been told that God won’t give us anything that we can’t handle, so we assume that we will never be thrown another curve ball after committing ourselves to Jesus.
  • We expect that God will vindicate our thoughts, opinions, and political leanings as a result of our faith in Jesus.  We think that since we follow Jesus, then what we think is not only right but that it’s the only way of thinking about things.  Thus, God will step in an prove us correct, right?
  • We expect that God will ensure that our kids will turn out “right,” that our friends will never leave us, that our parents will learn to respect us as adults, and that our spouses will always put our interests before their own.
  • We expect that if we follow Jesus, that he’ll help us get rid of all temptation from our lives.  We’ll no longer have to struggle with lust, over-eating, gossip, materialism, and the like again!

And, friends, the list could go on.  We want to “make Jesus king by force” too, though what we want his kingly power to accomplish in our lives may be a bit different than what many first-century Jews wanted.

Here’s the truth: We want to use Jesus’ kingly power to do what we want, to fulfill our desires, to make our expectations come into reality.

But that’s just not how it works.  Jesus is king.  And Jesus does what Jesus wants to do.

Luckily for us we catch a really strong glimpse of what’s central to Jesus in the Bible.  In 2 Corinthians 5.19 Paul tells us what Jesus wants to use his kingly power for — to reconcile all things to himself and to commit to us this same task.

So instead of pushing for Jesus to accomplish what we want, why don’t we instead accomplish what he wants!?  Why don’t we join him in his will to make all things right!

 

What do you think?  How do our expectations play out in our relationships with Jesus?  Let me know in the comments below!

Jesus Always Provides But always in his way and in his time

Jesus provides.  Always.  But not always how we want.  Can we trust him?  Can we be patient?  Can we be okay with loose ends?  And will we let his provision impact the way that we provide for others?

Jesus Provides for People

In John 6 we see that Jesus had become really popular.  People were following him around.  Lots of people.  And on one particular day Jesus took his disciples up on a mountainside.  The crowd of people followed him up there too.

And when Jesus looked out over them, he knew that the people were hungry.  They must have been far enough away from somewhere for folks to eat, so Jesus asks one of his followers, Philip a question.  He asked, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6.5).

Immediately after this question, Philip and then Andrew seemed a bit confused about who Jesus was and what he was capable of doing by how they answered his question.  But Jesus took a little boy’s lunch and he miraculously turned his lunch into enough food for 5000+ people with leftovers remaining.

But the really cool thing, at least to me, is that Jesus had the people sit down and he served them until everyone had enough.  Jesus’ provision was total.  His miracle didn’t provide a bite or two for everyone.  Nope!  Instead, it provided enough for everyone with plenty remaining.

Friends, Jesus still provides this way today too.  Despite us being like Philip (focused on strategy and not what Jesus can do) and/or Andrew (trusting Jesus but also had a bit of doubt), Jesus finds ways to provide for us.  His provision doesn’t come in ways that we expect.

We think that we need to use our own strategies and resources.  We think that maybe Jesus can do it but then we hedge our bets when push comes to shove.

But he provides.  Always.

But Matt, how do you know?

Well, let me tell you where I’m coming from:

  1. The Bible is full of tons of stories of how God provides for his people.  And since God’s modus operandi never changes, he’s still in the business of providing today too.
  2. As I have read Christian history and seen the thousands of stories of how Jesus provides for all sorts of people (pioneer missionaries, pastors, families, academics, peasants, royalty, and normal people), my faith in Jesus’ provision only grows.
  3. I’ve witnessed how Jesus provides in my life and in the life of my family.  In fact, in the last two years I’ve been on the receiving end of Jesus’ provision a ton – with moving to our current neighborhood, with our son’s adoption, and with being commissioned as an urban missionary.  Jesus provides and I have seen it in our lives over and over and over!
  4. And I’ve seen how God provides for the churches I’ve been a part of and I’ve seen how he provides for my friends and family.  I’ve heard the stories.  I’ve seen the tears of joy.  I’ve listened to the testimonies.  I’ve been there to witness the evidence firsthand.

Jesus Provides But Do We?

When we see a group of people in need, how do we respond?

Well, if we’re honest, we don’t always respond well.  Better, I don’t always respond well.

Sometimes I think things like this: do they deserve to be provided for?can’t someone else use their resources to provide for them?,  I already have done so much; it’s someone else’s turn, etc.

I operate as if I live in a economy of scarcity, even though the God of the universe is the one who provides for me and calls me to provide for others.  I, and we, don’t have to worry about giving  from our stack.  Sure, it might go down for a bit, but Jesus provides, like he always does.

But when Jesus provides, he expects us to provide or others in return.  Will we?

Will we provide for those in need?

Will we take whatever we have access to, give thanks to God for it, and ask him to multiply it for his purposes?

Will we step out in faith, freely giving whatever we have since it’s not ours to begin with?

Will we be greedy or generous with what Jesus has provided?

Will we respond to the way Jesus provides by imitating him or bowing to our selfish desires?

Friends, let’s band together, starting today.  Let’s be radically generous.  Let’s sacrifice our time, our resources, and our talents for the benefit of others.

Let’s respond to God’s blessing by blessing others!

Are you ready for this challenge!?

Let’s do it!

 

What do you think?  Does Jesus always provide?  And how are we to provide for others in response? Let me know in the comments below.