Have you ever had high expectations for how you thought something might go, only to have the event or outing or day flop? It’s easy for me to plan out things in my mind and imagine the course they’ll chart, only to be frustrated when my expectations don’t meet reality.
One of the themes we see highlighted in the gospels - and especially here in Matthew 11 - is that sometimes Christ doesn’t meet our initial expectations. As John the Baptist is in prison - the very man who was called the forerunner, the one who prepared the way of the Lord (Matthew 11:10) - he sent messengers to Jesus, asking if He was the promised one. Perhaps John assumed that, had Christ been the Messiah, he wouldn’t be imprisoned for preparing the way for Him.
This was a common thought for many of the Israelites, who were looking for a Messiah to defy the government, grant military power to God’s people, and restore the kingdom to Israel. But Jesus confirms that He is the messiah to come by highlighting His fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets. Perhaps He hasn’t brought military might or physical freedom yet, but the blind have received their sight, the dead are raised to life, and the good news has been preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5-6, Isaiah 61:1-2).
As we read on in Matthew 11, we are reminded how John the Baptist himself and the Old Testament prophets also defied the expectations of the Israelites. The people wanted prophets who cried, “Peace!” and refused to listen to the messages of warning and judgment. In the same way, many of them also rejected Christ. They witnessed His miracles firsthand (Matthew 11:20-24) and yet didn’t repent. The
Israelites in the first-century living in the time of Christ followed a long history of people who missed out on God’s activity because His work didn’t look the way they thought it should. After all, they rejected John because he didn’t dance and drink, and they rejected Christ because He associated with those who did (Matthew 11:19).
It’s really easy to get on our high-horses and judge the Israelites, isn’t it? How did they miss seeing Christ’s work? How were they so blind to the coming of the kingdom, right before their eyes? Yet I think so often my own sin and selfishness cloud my perception. My vision becomes myopic and my expectations for God focus on what I want for Him to do for me. Oh Lord, help me open my eyes to see You at work - even when my expectations don’t meet reality. Give me wisdom to know how to join You in Your work - to proclaim Your good news to those who are weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28)!
Matthew 11 (ESV):
1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”