Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 19.
What I Read Today: Luke 7-8.
What Stood Out: Luke 7: 18-20, “John’s disciples informed him about all these things. So John called two of his disciples and sent them to Jesus to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
And…Luke 8: 22-25, “One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. Now a violent windstorm came down on the lake, and the boat started filling up with water, and they were in danger. They came and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are about to die!’ So he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they died down, and it was calm. Then he said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ But they were afraid and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!'”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
A few years ago I heard a news story about which nations had the happiest people. I thought the United States would be a place of generally happy people…I mean, comparatively we’ve got it pretty good, right? We were 23rd. Not too shabby when you consider the number of nations on the planet, really. We finished behind Canada and Costa Rica. We pound those nations in World Cup Soccer qualifying but they’re happier than us. Way ahead of Pakistan and Iran and folks like that, though, so that’s good.
The winner? Denmark. And they have astronomical taxes!
The reason? Low expectations. They have a culture that tends to expect the worst from life, so anything remotely good that happens is a pleasant surprise.
My mom was the same way. She set the bar of expectation low, even on things like a football game. Now, she didn’t care much about football, but she loved her college team. She started every game with, “The Tide will probably lose today.” If you know anything about the ’70’s, the Tide won pretty much every game that decade. But every Saturday with that phrase.
And I see the folks around Jesus in these chapters all having expectations. My guess is that these people all had extremely high expectations of Him. I mean, the circumstances around His birth, his mom treasuring these things in her heart. The belief that the Messiah would come to redeem Israel, and they believed the primary way He would redeem them would be as a military leader.
He’d win a war.
He’d establish a Kingdom.
He’d rule the world and glorify God.
And now, he’s in a rural Middle Eastern town, avoiding the religious elite (the little matter of wanting to throw Him off a cliff might’ve had something to do with that) to the degree they sent folks out check up on Him, and spending all his time with the poor and infirm and sinners.
Even John the Baptist sent his students to ask Jesus if He was truly the Messiah. Think about it from John’s perspective. It probably didn’t escape his mind the things his parents told him about the circumstances of his birth…and how it correlated with Jesus’ birth. He’d lived an extreme life involving everything from not touching wine or cutting his hair and living in the harsh Jordan region wearing goofy clothes. He was supposed to announce the Messiah. Now he’s in jail. And Jesus isn’t anywhere close to a throne and certainly isn’t leading a military. If anything, His political career is spiraling downward.
“Are you the One, or is there somebody else I need to be looking for?” Unmet expectations.
A Roman military leader has a slave who is deathly ill. Sends for Jesus because he believes the prophet can heal the slave…even from a distance. Jesus does so and commends the Centurion for his faith. Met expectations.
A dead man is being carried out of town by a grieving mother & other mourners. Jesus touched the stretcher (making Himself ceremonially unclean) and the young man comes back from the dead. No big deal. A crowd surprised by this kind of power. There’s something different about this prophet. Expectations more than met.
A prominent Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. A woman with an awful reputation comes in, anoints him and worships him by crying at Jesus’ feet and wiping her tears with her hair. The crowd can’t believe it when Jesus praises her efforts while rebuking the very host. The host and crowd have their expectations blown, while the woman of ill repute’s high expectations were probably exceeded…what with getting saved and all.
After a time of teaching the disciples about the nature of His ministry, Jesus goes into the countryside and spends all sorts of time with the down & out. He heals their illnesses. He cast demons out of people. He alienates His own family (expectations unmet?) by keeping them out of the inner circle. A regions pigs (and economic livelihood) go running into the sea because Jesus sent some demons into them instead of a local man…surely they didn’t expect that to happen that day.
Then a storm hits when the disciples are in a boat away from the crowds. Keep in mind that they had seen and heard about all the healings, the forgiveness of sins, the pigs, the demons outcast, the teachings about the ministry/Kingdom, all of it. I’m sure they had all sorts of expectations from the moment they were called to follow…
…and after they wake up Jesus (interesting enough) because they think the boat is going to break apart, their leader chides them for their lack of faith and stills the storm.
In the quietness of fear and amazement that ensued…
…they had to recalibrate their expectations.
Even the wind and sea obey Him.
And today I’m thinking about the expectations and how they affect my emotions.
When things aren’t going so well, I tend to get like John. In the darkness of the prison I never thought I’d be in, I wonder if He is exactly Who He says He is.
When the answers to prayer come along, I tend to be all about high-fives and free pizza.
When I see something I didn’t expect, whether it’s a big deal like my pigs going into the metaphorical oceans, it leads to confusion and doubt. Or if it’s something little like learning from a teaching time, I tend to put Him in a box that makes me comfortable.
Today, I’d really like to do what I can to get rid of the unrealistic expectations and just let Christ BE…
…be Who He is.
…and be awed by Who He is.
…and be in reverence for the work He is doing, whether it’s forgiving a friend who has blown it or curing someone I know of Stage 4 cancer.
Just breathe and experience Him, and let my expectations be blown away so I can better answer the question, “Who is He when all of life happens?”
I don’t need to have low expectations to be happy with that. My guess is He’ll meet whatever expectations I have and then some.
(Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 9)