Jesus didn’t follow John the Baptizer’s plan for ministry success. He didn’t even subscribe to the same mission statement as the other religious leaders. John told his followers the axe was lying at the root, ready to chop down the unworthy trees. He had promised the chaff would burn with unquenchable fire. But Jesus didn’t seem to be pointing the finger of judgment. There was no smoldering woodpile of sinners.
This must have meant more than mild disappointment for John. He was sitting in prison because he had dared to stand up and challenge King Herod for Herod’s marriage to his sister-in-law. If Jesus were looking for some chaff to burn, he could start by lighting a match to King Herod, and get John out of prison.
Like John, each of us has our own expectations of the kind of Messiah we want. We don’t want a Jesus that does something unexpected. Some may want a fire-and-brimstone Jesus who points out where everyone else is wrong. Some want an advocate Jesus who will champion our favorite cause and demonstrate God is on our side of the issue. Maybe we want the gentle shepherd Jesus who will not demand anything of us, only assuring us the we are loved no matter what.
Sooner or later our expectations of Jesus will collide with the reports of what he is doing either in Scripture or in the world through his followers. And it will be unexpected, like this:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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. ~ Matthew 11:28-30.
Because we’re surprised by the unexpected, could it be that you’ve counted on your own version of what to expect? Like those who have made Jesus into an idol of their own making?
There is so much freedom in letting go of the expected. Wonder is allowed to percolate up when we let go of the outcome. Awe happens when we experience the unexpected. May that happen to me. Amen.