Expectations. We all have them, whether they are expressed. Our expectations tend to color the way we see the world. They give perspective and meaning, whether real or imagined, to our experiences. When our expectations are met or are exceeded, (ok maybe that only rarely happens) life is good. But when those expectations are not met, even if they haven’t been clearly defined, we get frustrated. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. The disciples are there in Luke 9.
Jesus sends out the 12 with His power and authority to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. The disciples get back and can’t wait to fill Jesus in on all the cool stuff they have done. They experienced a taste of the messianic kingdom to come. The kingdom that Jesus, as the King, came to bring. They were caught up in the same fervor that the rest of the nation felt as they anticipated the Messiah. They expected that He would bring in times of refreshing and healing, but they also expected that He would, as the Son of David, be a Warrior who would lead the nation in overthrowing Roman rule. And now as the disciples have been with Jesus, seen Him at work, and have experienced some of that same power, they see themselves as generals in the King’s army. Like Joshua, they are ready to take the promised land.
Then Luke includes the story of the feeding of the 5,000. That’s a lot of people. You guys know…5 loaves, 2 fish. They’re in the wilderness. There’s 12 baskets left over. The imagery is meant to remind the disciples of Israel’s past to instruct them about their future. Jesus is teaching them something important not only about Himself, but also about themselves. John 6 makes it more explicit. There was another time when Israel was in the wilderness, and the nation was miraculously provided for, and it wasn’t as they were entering the promised land to do battle. But it was during a 40-year holding period as they awaited that time. And far from the conquering warrior-leader named Joshua, there was a humble, servant-hearted leader named Moses. The latter is what Jesus is calling them to. So instead of being the military élite who will lead the people into battle against the Romans, the disciples are being called to take up the role of shepherds who nurture, provide for and protect the flock.
If that wasn’t disturbing enough, Jesus then says something even more shocking. After Peter confesses that He is “the Christ of God” (think the LORD’s Anointed, like King David), Jesus says that far from the glory of a Conquering King, He would be rejected and killed and raised the third day. Talk about unmet expectations. At one moment, they are in with the Guy who’s going to change everything and return Israel to its former glory. The next, He says, “Guys, I’m not going to be around that much longer…” And then He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and of the Father and of the holy angels…”
They must have been stunned. The cross was not only a symbol of horrific pain and death, but it was also a symbol of great shame and disgrace. In fact, friends and family of one who was crucified would deny knowing him. And Jesus says, “Far from parading at the front of the army, following Me looks like humiliation and disgrace and even death. Forget the temporal glory.” As is so often the case, Jesus says that even though it looks like you are losing, you’re winning. And if you think you’re winning, there’s a good chance you are losing. Those ideas are wrapped up in the Greek word that is translated ashamed (to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity). Jesus contrasts the cross with life, and shame now with shame later. He says leadership is not lording, but serving.
And I find that I am so like the disciples. I want the kingdom now, not later. I want to feel like I’m winning, not losing. I want to be respected, not humiliated. I want to celebrate, not suffer. I want ruling, not serving. I want Jesus, the Conqueror, not Jesus the Suffering Servant. And often I’m frustrated.
But the good news is…one day the disciples expectations (and yours and mine) will be more than met. A day when the kingdom comes, when winning is apparent, when following Jesus looks like “well done”, when suffering is finished and celebration begins, when Jesus is seen as the Conquering King because He was the Suffering Servant, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God, when seeing is believing and believing is seeing, when we experience an eternal weight of glory, when we see the Father face to face. O what a glorious day!
Until next time, stay salty.