“John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
I'm thinking this week about how many times Jesus was a disappointment. About how many times Jesus could not meet the expectations of others.
John the baptizer comes onto the scene, proclaiming that the One is coming.... the One who was prophesied about. And when he arrives, John says, he is going to clean house. With Elijah-like fury, this one would come and destroy evildoers, striking the land with total destruction (Malachi 4).
And when John sees Jesus, he immediately senses it. He proclaims to everyone: this is the guy!
And then the months pass. And no one has been burned to a crisp. No revolutions have begun. And lots of people are being shown compassion. And well, it's just not what he expected. It's confusing. So John the Baptizer sends a couple of his disciples to let Jesus know that they've got some questions. Did John get this wrong? Maybe you're not the one we thought you were?
I wonder how Jesus felt hearing that. What a human moment.
This wasn't the only time Jesus left people disappointed. Jesus may have been a healer, but he also needed sleep when the sun went down. There were unhealed folks left out there plenty of days, I promise you. Disappointment.
Jesus refused to be made king when his people wanted to start a revolution and force him to lead them. Disappointment.
When Jesus talks mysteriously about taking his body and drinking his blood (a glimpse at how he would replace ritual religion with himself), a bunch of his disciples started to walk away. He just wasn't what they expected. Disappointment.
Philip looks at Jesus and says, "show us the father, and that will be enough." Sometimes we forget what was under the surface of that request from Phillip. Jesus was not enough. Disappointment.
I wonder how Jesus dealt with it all. He disappointed so many people, even while being perfectly faithful. What hope do WE have???
This is an issue we all deal with. Are any of us really what others expect? Universally, all of us have experiences with expectations and disappointment. Either we will disappoint those around us because we don't live up to their expectations, or we will disappoint ourselves for not living up to an unspoken set of expectations (that we have absorbed from the culture around us or from our own need to make everyone happy). Sometimes it doesn't even matter if the expectations are realistic or not. We still feel the sting of not meeting them.
I remember during the pandemic, how skilled I was at disappointing people. Every decision felt like a lose/lose as a leader. It was nearly crippling to know that even doing my best, others would be disappointed in me because I couldn't meet their needs and expectations. Now I can see that I never could have met every need, nor was that even my role. But I felt like it was. Expectations. And it almost destroyed me. I felt like giving up.
Have you felt that way sometimes? Home, work, school, marriage, family, friendships?
As we think about expectations and disappointments in our own life, I see Jesus coming to us in two ways. First, Jesus is our example. In the moments that others are disappointed in Jesus, he was able to remain deeply rooted in his identity and calling. He was able to continue walking forward without constantly needing to defend himself or change his purpose. He was loving, but firmly aware of what was his to do and what wasn't his to do. And it was all because of his constant connection with the Father. He was secure in his value, and independent of the expectations or disappointment of others.
But Jesus isn't simply our example. He is also our source of grace. There are times that we truly will fall short and disappoint people. We will make mistakes. We will act selfishly. We will lack wisdom. These moments of disappointment can lead us to paralysis, or they can lead us to the cross. Knowing that Jesus sees us as we are and still calls us beloved is a transformative reversal of crippling disappointment. Knowing that we are loved and given grace, we can walk forward beyond condemnation, fixing our eyes on Jesus and living to follow his call with confidence and love.
Wherever you may feel like a disappointment today, Jesus understands. He receives both the unfair expectations and the honest imperfections and reminds you that your worth is based on God's image in you, not others' expectations of you. There is grace upon grace to lift your head up and life a life of love today, fresh and free.
Jesus, thank you.