Isaiah 53:1-6, John 18:33-38
February 24, 2013
Be careful of Expectations. Now, I’m not talking about expectations in a positive sense. I’m not talking about the idea of awaiting anxiously for something, or anticipating good things ahead for someone or something. I’m talking about the negative side of that word. I’m talking about the expectations we sometimes have for someone else, where we want them to be a certain way or do a certain thing.
When we have expectations like that, and they don’t get fulfilled, they can lead to disappointment, and then resentment. Many relationships can be hurt because of that. And I’m talking about business relationships, family relationships, marriage relationships, and relationships between friends. Beware of expectations! Learn to love people for who they are, not what you expect them to be!
Ok, so much for the advice part of this message. But the reason I started with that today is that I’m thinking of this idea of “The Once Expected King.” I sort of borrowed that wording from the classic T. H. White novel entitled “The Once and Future King.” That’s the story of the King Arthur legend, and I’ve always liked the way that title sounded. So I sort of borrowed it. “The Once Expected King.”
What I want us to think about today is that the expectation thing was happening when Jesus came to earth. People expected certain things to happen when the Messiah came. We’re going to think about those things throughout Lent. And the first thing I want us to think about in that regard was the expectation the people had that the Messiah would be king.
There were, of course, many prophecies about the Messiah, and they generally fell into two categories. There was the “Suffering Servant Messiah,” and there was the “Conquering King Messiah.” And as you know, the people really wanted the latter! They wanted a king! Being under the thumb of Rome was abhorrent to them. They hated it! They wanted their freedom. They wanted their country back!
Several hundred years earlier they had won their freedom under the Maccabean Revolt. We’ve talked about that before. That took place during that 400 year time period between the Old and New Testaments. At that time this man named Judas Maccabees led the revolt that resulted in Israel’s freedom from the Assyrians. And in Jesus’ time, the people were hoping – the people were expecting – that the coming Messiah would be the one to do that again. I’ve often talked about how the scene at Palm Sunday mimicked the scene from the Maccabean time.
So all throughout Jesus’ ministry, the people were expecting a king! And that makes the scene we read about in Johns Gospel one of great irony! Pilate is questioning Jesus. And in that exchange, he’s asking if Jesus really is a king. He asked, “Are you King of the Jews?” And Jesus answered saying, “My kingship is not of this world.” And I hope you see in this scene that there is this hugely ironic exchange between this ruler in robes, who understood power and authority, and this prisoner in chains, who was the ruler of all – yet not like anyone expected! What an amazing scene this was!!!
Of course, behind this whole scene is the peoples expectation that the Messiah, when he came, would be king. And because of that expectation, when it didn’t happen the way they wanted it to happen, the people were disappointed and resentful! And so, in the greatest irony of history, they rejected the very one they had looked for for centuries! But let me say, that as strange and ironic as that might seem, it always begs the question, “What would we have done?”
It’s very easy to look back and to think how foolish those people then look now. But had we been there, would we have done any differently? That’s always a good question to ask, especially at this time of Lent. And believe me, it’s not an easy question! Would we have had the same expectations about the Messiah when he came? And then we might think of our faith today, and ask, Do we have expectations of God in our lives now? Do we expect God to do things and act in a certain way? And if we do, who is it that’s in control!
My friends, Lent is a season to ask ourselves those questions. Are we seeking to follow God? Or are we seeking simply to do the right things so that God will be happy with us and bless us – whatever we want to do? Very simply, are we seeking God’s will for us? Or are we seeking our will and hoping God will approve? Mark Twain once said, “God created Man in his own image, and we’ve been trying to return the favor ever since.” That’s what we’re doing when we put ourselves in the spiritual drivers seat, and seek to be in control ourselves! Were in danger of creating God in our image – or the image we have for him!
Sometimes people want to do that theologically. Maybe you remember the “name it and claim it” movement. That was a movement where people said that it was good to rely on the promises of God. Which is great! You can. But they took it from the standpoint of, “If you want something, find a promise of God in the scriptures somewhere, name that promise, and claim it for your own. And then youll get it.” But whenever I would hear that, I would find myself thinking, “Who’s in control here?!” And it seems to me that is the question! God’s promises are things to be grateful for, not to be demanding of!
When we think about our lives in this season of Lent, it’s so important to realize where we stand in God’s kingdom. And where we stand is always more a question of who God is, and not who we are! The infinite love of God and his amazing grace is the bedrock upon which our faith is built. You can’t read the Psalms without coming to that conclusion!! But it is a matter of a God who loves us – despite who we are! And that is truly an amazing love!
But, what about those times when we aren’t sure about that? What about those times when we fail and we find ourselves trying to wrest the control of our lives back from God. What about those times when we’re questioning our faith. Do we think that’s wrong? Are we afraid of questioning God, as if were going to be zapped if we do? Or are we afraid that, if we doubt God, he will somehow cease to exist? What are our expectations of God? Are we ever disappointed when he doesn’t act the way we think he should? Are we ever resentful about that?
Friends, Lent is the time to ask ourselves those questions. This is the time to step back and ask ourselves what we believe. And this is the time to reaffirm that God is the creator, and we are the “created.” We are his people and the sheep of his pasture! Whenever we lose that perspective, whenever we think we are in charge, then our expectations will be in control. And if they are, we leave ourselves open to disappointments and resentment.
Friends, use this time of Lent to know for sure who God is! Use this time to see yourself as subjects in his kingdom. And know that he is the mighty King who loves us and has given himself for us, so that we may be his people.
And to God be all glory and praise, now and forever, world without end, Amen!
Eternal God, we are your people. You have chosen to be part of our lives through Jesus Christ. Help us to know where we stand in your kingdom, that you are sovereign, and that we are in your hands. Help us to know that you love and care for us more than we can ever comprehend. And help us to seek your guidance and direction, and to have the peace to know that where ever you lead us, you will be there. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen!