Is God Different Than You Expected? Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. His own siblings thought he might be crazy. The disciples saw him as a way up and out. They knew he was powerful but they weren’t really sure where that power was headed. The Pharisees saw him as an outsider, and they wanted to get rid of him. The Roman leaders didn’t know what to make of him.

The Heart of Expectations

Expectations may color our thinking, but they really don’t change the reality behind them. Things may not be what you expect, but they are definitely what they are. What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? And what if the wages of sin really are death? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).


A Matter of Perspective?

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom.

Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

Missed it by That Much

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Are we ever sitting in a cave like Elijah, expecting to see God in the whirlwind? Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

He is Who He Is

When the Lord called himself, “I AM”, he was referring to the fact that He is in the moment. He is now. He is what we need. But perhaps He was also referring to the fact that He is who He is, not who we expect Him to be… We are not the shapers of God’s identity, but we are the creation to whom He reveals himself. I cannot define God, because He defines himself.

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

Rumination on Expectation

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
When we reach the Judgment Day, will you be unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings, who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here:
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A Claim so Astounding That it’s Worth Investigating

Tucked within the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well, Jesus makes an astounding claim. “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26 NASB)

Not One of the Seven

While there are 7 great “I am” statements that Jesus makes in the book of John, this is not generally considered to be one of them…The “I am” statements are some of the strongest public claims Jesus made about his identity, but they are often symbolic or ambiguous, and stop short of making a literal claim to be the Messiah. Here, even though this statement is not one of the traditionally listed seven, Jesus removes the ambiguity.

woman claim

A Surprising Revelation

In this conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus makes perhaps the most direct claim recorded about who he is and why he came. Given the social climate of that day, it is interesting that he chose to reveal this claim to her. The Pharisees challenged him about his identity, but he never answered them as directly as he answered this woman. She was a despised Samaritan, a mere woman without status or importance. She was immoral by the standards of her day, probably on the fringes of polite society.

A lot of us feel too unworthy to approach God, or too far away from him to ever go back; the woman at the well proves that this is never true. Just like her, we can draw near to Jesus without recrimination or condemnation. If anyone approaches him with an open heart, Jesus never limits someone by what they know or where they’ve been.

Leaving no Doubt

This woman knew all about religion. Her perspective was colored by Samaritan heresy (indicated by the fact that she tried to draw Jesus into a discussion about whether Jews will worship in Jerusalem or on Mt Gerizim). But she does know something noteworthy: she mentions the coming one, who will answer all questions and settle all disputes.

Jesus’ reply is unequivocal: I am the Messiah. (He didn’t take two thumbs and point back to himself and say “Who has two thumbs and is the Messiah? This guy!”–but he could have.) He doesn’t use imagery like “I am the bread of life” or word pictures like “I am the door”, he just makes a simple, direct statement which is an astounding claim. “I who speak to you am He.” Jesus replies to her statement by saying, “I am the Messiah, I am the Christ.”

Is there prophecy about a savior? I am he. Are people looking for a coming king? It’s me. Did God send a Messiah to answer all questions and settle all issues? You’re talking to him. Jesus says in effect, if you’re wondering who is providing wisdom, leadership, and salvation: I am. So what does this claim have to do with you? If you have never investigated who Jesus said he was, and who he ACTUALLY was, you owe it to yourself to find out.

Who He Said He Was

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, men have even fought about it,
Whether a Messiah came to earth on God’s behalf.
Some folks try to underscore it, skeptics pretty much ignore it:
Some folks take it seriously while others only laugh.
Don’t Messiah’s all make claims? Really, aren’t they all the same?
You don’t have to listen to Messiahs, just because…

But if you’d investigate, you’d find one you could validate:
What if Jesus was exactly who he said he was?
That’s a question for the ages. Read about him. Turn the pages,
Think about the things he taught, and whether they are true;
Most agree they’re pretty good. Think about them. If you could,
Just ask yourself: What does this Jesus have to do with YOU?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here:
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here:
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: