(…continued) John and Jesus both proclaimed the kingdom of God, and both taught that people had to change in order to be ready for that coming kingdom. Both taught the need for repentance and forgiveness. But they had different starting points. John emphasized judgment and the destruction of all evil. That certainly is a Biblical theme and that day will come. Jesus said that too. But Jesus didn’t start there. His message started with mercy and compassion and with the theme of God’s patience, giving everyone time to repent and return to him. Jesus was not what John expected. He was much more. And since Jesus was truly the Messiah that John proclaimed him to be, it did not matter if John was in prison, or even if he would die there. Since Jesus was the Messiah, God had indeed come to save his people, and John would be alright; alive or dead, he would be alright.
What do you expect from Jesus? Are you expectations of him met and satisfied, or, are you disappointed? A while ago I read what a Russian man, now in his 80’s, wrote about his education in the former Soviet Union. When he was a child, the government was working hard to eliminate faith in God from the whole nation. They believed they could bring up the youth in atheism, and as the older generations passed on, Christianity would die out. One of the ways they did this was to disappoint the expectations the children had of God. This man told how the teacher asked the class if any of the students believed in God. Many of them did. Then he asked if any of them believed in prayer. Again, many of the children did believe in prayer. “Well then,” the teacher said, “Today we are going to do a little experiment. Everyone bow your heads and say a prayer to God and ask him for a bag of candy, and we will see what happens.” All the students did so, and, of course, no candy appeared. “See,” said the teacher, “prayer does not work. But,” the teacher went on, “I will tell you who you can trust in. You can trust in Joseph Stalin, our prime minister and president and leader of the communist party. Bow your heads now, and ask that our leader Stalin give you a bag of candy, and see what happens.” This time, when the students bowed their heads, the teacher went around the room and set a big bag of candy on each desk. He then told the students to look up. All were excited to find the candy, and the teacher told them the candy was sent to them by Joseph Stalin. “You see,” the teacher concluded, “you can trust in Stalin and in communism to provide for you more than you can trust in God.”
It was a cruel lesson, one that played on the crushed disappointments of children. But the power of that communist state, even though it was in firm control of the Soviet Union for 70 years, was not able to destroy faith. Much damage was done, but when freedom was again granted, there was a huge outpouring of faith, and a great hunger for spiritual help and guidance and truth. This is because inside all of us there is a deep longing for God than cannot be destroyed by the failure of a bag of candy to appear.
To ask if our expectations of Jesus are met is the wrong way to put the question. Everything we have and are is from Him. As Paul said to the Athenians, “It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.” Even our mind, which is asking the question, is from God. There is something within all of us that reaches out to this greater being, our Creator. John the Baptist’s question was not, ‘Is there a God?,’ but rather, he asked of Jesus, ‘Are you the one?’ We don’t know how John responded to the reply Jesus made, or even if he received it in time. But the Easter morning resurrection of Jesus from the dead convinced his followers that he was the one who had been promised. He would be the one who could meet all their expectations and never disappoint them, because not only was he the giver of this life and everything in it, he also was victorious over death. It was John’s job to prepare the way for Jesus’ first coming. It is for us to be ready, by faith, for his second coming, when all our expectations will be met and our hopes fulfilled in ways far beyond anything we could ever imagine.
II Peter 3:3-4…8-11 — Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” ...But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.
Romans 5:3-5 — We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Ephesians 3:20-21 — Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I Corinthians 2:9 — As it is written, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Acts 17:27b-28a — God is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.
Eternal God, your Son Jesus Christ
is the way, the truth and the life for all creation;
grant us grace to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer