False Expectations and Faith

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William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” and he’s right.  When we go into a situation with unrealistic or unhealthy expectations, we set ourselves up for pain, disappointment, and failure. Expectations in themselves are not bad, but faulty expectations is a recipe for disaster.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, was a time of high expectation and hope in Jesus’s day. Jews from all over the Roman empire gathered in Jerusalem to lived in huts for seven days to recall how their ancestors lived in huts during their exodus from Egypt. One of the most special parts of this feast was the ceremony of water. Every morning, the High Priest would dip a golden pitcher into the pool of Siloam and carry it to the altar in the temple followed by a parade of people. Trumpets would blast their horns, the temple choir would sing, and the people would cry out their thanks to God before the water was poured out at the base of the altar. The water ceremony expressed the Jewish hope that God would pour out His Spirit in them and send them a Messiah.

In John 7 and 8, we learn about Jesus’ experience at the Feast of Tabernacles. We also learn about the false expectations that the people had the Messiah, These false expectations blinded them to Savior that was right in front of them. Unfortunate, these three false expectations are still preventing people from putting their faith in Christ today.

1. Jesus must make a dramatic announcement to be the Savior (7:1-13).

Jesus’ half brothers thought they knew all about his aspirations. They knew all about his public teaching and the miracles he had performed. It was clear to them that Jesus wanted to be a big-time rabbi or prophet, but He couldn’t do that out in the countryside. So they challenged Him to declare his intentions in front of the crowds in Jerusalem during the feast.

Jesus turned down their invitation because “His time had not yet come.” Jesus refused the expectations that over people had of him. He lived instead, according to the Heavenly Father’s expectations for his life. We would all do well to follow Jesus’ example here.

Unfortunately, some people expect God to make some dramatic announcement as if He has to earn their faith. They refuse to put their trust in God unless He helps them out of this crisis, answers all their questions, or performs some obscure miracle. Imagine someone being rescued from an area that has been ravaged by a hurricane. A Coast Guard helicopter hovers overhead as a rescue worker is lowered down. Now imagine how absurd it would be if the victim, surrounded by water, peppered the rescue worker with questions and demanding to see he credentials and a detailed plan of how he would be saved before he allowed himself to be rescued.

2. Jesus must tell us what we want to hear to be the Savior (7:14-36).

Jesus eventually went up to Feast by himself in the middle of the week. When He got there, He was met with stiff resistance.  The Jews doubted Him because He taught with authority without going through the proper education process. The residents of Jerusalem questioned Him because He taught openly and questioned their relationship with God. The Pharisees tied to arrest Him because He challenged the status quo.

People make the same mistake today when they expect God to tell them what they want to hear. They want to hear, “You are ok and everything is fine.” They want their religious leaders to affirm them and all the choices that they’ve made. They want to hear about God’s love and acceptance but reject the idea that the same God might judge them for their sin.

The Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. In the event of an emergency, musicians on passenger ships at that time were expected to play light and airy songs to keep calm the passengers. As the Titanic took on water that fateful night, the band played on as if everything was ok. Some people might have been thankful for the distraction, but most of us would probably prefer the truth.

3. Jesus must come from a prominent place to be the Savior (7:37-53).

The religious leaders rejected Jesus because He was from Galilee. They ignored the fact that He has been born in Bethlehem and emphasized the fact the He grew up in the “back-woods, fishing country” around the Sea of Galilee. Like Jesus’ brothers, they couldn’t reconcile what they knew about Jesus with what they expected in Messiah.

Like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, some people expect God to come to them from a place of prominence. They want God in their life, but only if it enhances their image. They only want a church that is “big” and a preacher that is “popular.”

Jesus shared a meal with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Even though He was most the important person in the room, he wrapped himself in a towel and poured water in a bowl to wash the disciples’ feet. He served His followers from a posture of humility rather than power or prominence.

Jesus made a startling declaration on the last day of the Feast to clear up the false expectations that were swirling around Him (7:37-39). He told the whole world that He is the Savior because He is the only one who can quench their spiritual thirst. He was and still is the source of spiritual life. He was and still the One who has come to save us.

In our day and age, people have gotten used to writing reviews for the good and services they use, especially when shopping online. They usually leave a rating from 1 to 5 stars as well as any comments you think might be helpful to future customers. In Psalm 34:8, King David wrote an amazing “review” of the Savior. He wrote, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8, NASB). If you can’t agree with this “review” God and His grace, you need to make sure your false expectations aren’t getting in the way.

Image by rony michaud from Pixabay

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Save the Best for Last

daniel-christie-1137189-unsplash.jpgIn the first half of his Gospel, the Apostle John describes a series of signs that Jesus performed in order to show his true identity. These were more than just miracles, they were powerful acts done for a specific purpose: to show that the God of the Old Testament had come in all his glory. John is careful to only include signs that Jesus performed at or near Jewish festivals or institutions like the temple, a well, the Sabbath, and the Passover.

The first sign appears in John 2:1-12, where Jesus attended a Jewish wedding. Jesus showed the unsuspecting wedding guests and his disciples that God had saved the best for last. The first-century Jews believed in God and honored the Scriptures. They took time out for God at least once a week and observed the Sabbath. But God had something better for them.

Jesus attended a wedding on “the third day,” which is a clue that something special was about to happen. At some point in the celebration, the wine ran out. Jesus’ mother, Mary, had some sort of responsibility for the refreshments at the wedding feast so she asked Jesus for help. At first, Jesus seemed hesitant to help, stating that his “hour has not come yet.” Then Mary instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus asked them to do.

There were six stone water pots at the wedding, each with the capacity to hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. Clay pots were more common and affordable, but they could become “unclean,” so the Jews used stone pots for ceremonial washings. The Jews had a complex set of rituals and traditions when it came eating and preparing food (Mark 7:1-4).  They would not eat without washing their hands in a special way. This wasn’t about hygiene, but about proving their standing before God.

Jesus told the servants to fill the pots with water and take it to the head waiter. Somewhere between the water pot and the headwaiters’ lips, the water became wine. The head waiter was so impressed that he spoke to the bridegroom saying, “Most people serve the good wine first when people are most thirsty and can appreciate the high quality. But you’ve surprised us, you’ve saved the best for last.”

Contrary to popular opinion, this story is not about alcohol. The use of the stone washing pots and the words of the head waiter in verse 10 tell us the reason for Jesus’ first sign and the point of this story: Jesus as better than the religious rituals or traditions of the Jews. The coming of the Messiah was more important for God’s people than following a set of restrictive practices.

Like the ancient Jews, we have our own set of religious rituals and traditions that have a limited basis in Scripture and little bearing on our relationship with God. Unfortunately, like the Jews, we sometimes enjoy looking down on others because they do not follow our rituals or traditions. When we do we need to personalize this story – Jesus is better than our religious rituals or traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than what we wear to church, how many times we go to church, or how many times we “walk the aisle.” That doesn’t mean our rituals or traditions are worthless, it means they are a means to a greater end – faith in Jesus Christ.

Maybe you need to reevaluate your spiritual life in light of Gospel? Maybe you need to trust in Jesus, instead of some experience or practice? Maybe you need to follow Jesus and his leadership in your life. When you do, will know that God saved the best for last.

Photo by Daniel Christie on Unsplash