Expectation is defined as believing that something is going to happen or believing that something should be a certain way.
It is a belief that is centered on the future, the foundation upon which something excellent is expected to occur. When something doesn’t live up to our expectations, it gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. If something happens that is not at all expected, it is a surprise. An expectation about the behavior or performance of another person, can often close our minds to the truth.
Jesus suffered high expectations from the Israelites who had been waiting a long, long time for the promised Messiah. In the year 587 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar's army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon (modern day Iraq).
The year 587 BC marks a turning point in the history of Israel. From that time onwards, Israel was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpowers:
Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. The people clung to the written promises of a Messiah, to deliver them from foreign occupation, oppression and cruelty.
Jerimiah 23:5-6 “For the time is coming, says the Lord, when I will place a righteous Branch upon King David’s throne. He shall be a King who shall rule with wisdom and justice and cause righteousness to prevail everywhere throughout the earth. And this is his name: The Lord Our Righteousness. At that time Judah will be saved and Israel will live in peace.” That is just one of the 365 Messianic Prophecies found in scripture.
When you are waiting for something that you want so badly, the longer you have to wait, the more your expectations grow.
In today’s reading of Mark chapter 2 we see some of the negativity that surfaced, from the very people Jesus came to save, because of their great expectations.
Mark 2:1-11 (NLT)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. We have another such reference in today’s reading of Mark 2 starting at verse 23 “One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:23-28 (NLT)
The phrase “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14 (NLT):
“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him.
His rule is eternal, it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”
The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.
The Jewish religious leaders who criticized Jesus could not accept this. Jesus did not meet their expectations of the Messiah.
Granted, they were at a disadvantage, just as we are today.
With the death of Malachi, until the birth of John the Baptist, some 400 hundred years, the people were without a prophet of god.
There was no spokesman of God for guidance, so they had to interpret scripture for themselves. Amos prophesied of this time (Amos 8:11). "¶Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord".
This pivotal change had major consequences as people attempted to understand and live the law without a prophet’s authoritative teachings and interpretations.
Because of this, the people divided into groups with varied political, religious, and social agendas.
They also differed in their beliefs and traditions about the Messiah. The religious groups tried to live the Law of Moses as they understood it, but each group interpreted the scriptures from such varied perspectives, that Jewish society became more and more divided.
As a result, the true understanding of who the Savior would be, became confused.
Without a prophet to guide them, the Jews debated the meaning of the scriptures and about who the Messiah would be.
So many expectations had built up among the different groups during this period, that the groups did not know how to recognize the true Messiah when he came to them. Since interpretation of the word of god was left up to man, there were different interpretations then, just as there are now. And just as there is no one unified Christian religion today, there was no one unified Jewish religion then.
With no prophet of God to guide them, the different groups placed a bigger emphasis on rituals and traditions and practices, instead of the word of God. They were well versed in the scriptures but they disagreed on so many points of interpretation.
But, the Jewish high priest and the religious leaders and the Pharisees and the Seduces and the Essenes and scribes and even some of the followers of John the Baptist, did agree on this one thing: Jesus did not meet their expectations of the Messiah.
We see another example of this in today’s reading of Mark 2 when Jesus was asked why his disciples do not fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the bridegroom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the bridegroom is with them. But someday the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Jesus reference of himself as a bridegroom would be picked up right away by the followers of John the Baptist, because John himself used this same analogy when they came to him about a question of purity. John 3:25-30 (LT)
One day someone began an argument with John’s disciples, telling them that Jesus’ baptism was best, So they came to John and said, “Master, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you said was the Messiah, he is baptizing too, and everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.”
John replied, “God in heaven appoints each man’s work. My work is to prepare the way for that man so that everyone will go to him. You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him that is all. The crowds will naturally go to the main attraction, the bride will go where the bridegroom is! A bridegroom’s friends rejoice with him. I am the Bridegroom’s friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
John made it very clear that he was just the messenger, preparing the way for one mightier than he “the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop and unloose.” He was only the groomsman, the best man so to speak, preparing the way for the Bridegroom.
The Jewish religious leaders, also being well versed in scripture, would recognize Jesus’ reference as the Bridegroom. The writing of the prophets contained such language concerning the Messiah who was to come.
Isaiah 54:4-8 (NLT) “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.
For the Lord has called you back from your grief as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband, says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back.
In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.”
In the Old Testament the Bridegroom was God Himself, bringing love and forgiveness, joy and peace to His Bride, His chosen people, the nation of Israel.
But Jesus uses this picture of the Bridegroom and applies it to Himself.
He was the fulfillment of those Old Testament promises.
Jesus was clearly claiming to be the messiah. The tragedy was that neither the Pharisees nor John’s followers recognized Jesus for who he really was, the Bridegroom of Israel.
Instead they saw him as a “gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”
But the hardest thing for them to except was what Jesus said in next two verses of Mark 2: 21-22 “Fasting is part of the old way of doing things. The old way of thinking. “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”
But no one after drinking the old wine seems to want the fresh and the new. They say “The old ways are best”
The new life Jesus was preaching would need new forms of expression, new structures, new patterns of worship and prayer and service. Because the new life Jesus brings is new and better and radically different.
But the Jewish high priest and the religious leaders and the Pharisees and the Seduces and the Essenes and scribes and even some of the followers of John the Baptist, they couldn’t except this new way of thinking; they couldn’t except the ‘good news’ of the gospel that Jesus preached; they couldn’t get past their great expectations for the Messiah. To them “The old ways are best.”
In conclusion and as preparation for sharing these emblems before us; we must make sure that we are never trying to bottle up the new wine of the Kingdom in old wineskins. God wants us to enjoy the love and joy and peace which only comes from a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
It cannot be just a new patch on an old life. For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when the kingdom of God will encompass the whole earth. For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay—the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command—will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy.
The Israelites waited a long time for the Messiah to come, most of them are still waiting. But some of them, like us, are waiting for his return
Acts 1:10-11 (NLT) "As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them.
They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!"
Matthew 24:36-44 (NLT) "However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the Flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the Flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes."
"Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So be prepared, because you don't know what day your Lord is coming.
Know this: a homeowner who knew exactly when a burglar was coming would stay alert and not permit the house to be broken into.
You also must be ready all the time. For the Son of Man will come when least expected."
As our wait for the return of the Son of Man grows longer, don’t let your expectations grow with it.