24 April 2016

What do you expect?

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, 
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way before you.’
~Matthew 11:7-10 NLT
 I've often wondered at this passage, because it's so plain. The Jews didn't expect John the Baptist to look or act or sound they way he actually did. They thought they had everything correct, and so they expected John to appear within the priestly class, or in the government. True to the flesh, they expected John to be pleasing and socially acceptable. From Jesus' reference to the swaying reed, it seems the Jewish leadership also expected John to be pliable and subject to their influence and instruction.

Instead, they got an "uncivilized" man. A wild man in the wilderness. Someone who spoke things no one wanted to hear, who sounded crazy, whose appearance wasn't refined or fashionable, and who, in my understanding, had little patience for the ways in which the scribes and Pharisees had hedged up the way (Matthew 23:13).

How many of us have built up expectations about how God will fulfill various prophecies? Or have firmly-set ideas of what a prophet looks like, or acts like, or even believes? How many times do we reject the words God is desperately trying to give us, the ways He is earnestly trying to reach us, because we are prejudiced against the messenger? Oh, for the things I rejected, I missed entirely, because they didn't fit my "weak reed" expectation.

Father God, open my mind and heart to see You in places I haven't yet expected. Continue to dismantle my expectations and constructs and replace them with truth from Your word, made clear and carried into my heart by Your Spirit. Thank You for being the ultimate iconoclast, Father, and for the way that Your love rushes in to fill every space when the molds are broken, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!