When expectation and reality do not match, we often have a strong response. We are elated when the car repair bill is far less than estimated, and just as easily frustrated when a home appliance goes on the fritz. The longer we live, our expectations become more deeply rooted. Imagine how ingrained our expectation would be if, for 50 generations, our family had been told to expect a specific thing to happen? The build-up would be incredible. Fifty generations is a long time for wait for one single event to occur. This is how it was for the Jewish people leading up to Jesus’ birth.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, they had been expecting a Messiah. Their expectation, created over those hundreds of years, was a warrior king, a defender, someone to settle all their scores and, ultimately, position their people at the top. When we look at Jesus through the lens of the Jewish people’s expectation, we can see why so many of them dismissed him as their long-awaited Messiah.
Prophets like Nathan, Micah and Isaiah divulged details to the Jewish nation over long periods of time of what Jesus’ arrival would be like, how he would live and, ultimately, how he would die. These were well-known to the people by the time Jesus was born. Yet, even with all of the needed information, many Jews completely missed their Messiah. When their expectation was not met with reality in the birth and life of Christ, many rejected him all together.
Do we do the same thing today? Do we have a crisis of faith when our expectation of him collides with reality? For most of us, the answer is yes. We struggle, sometimes deeply, with the difference between what we expected and what has happened or is happening. What do we do when we find ourselves between expectation and reality? Romans 12:1 is our answer and it says we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices before the Lord. In other words, lay it all down before him. Lay it all there at his feet — unmet expectations, resentment, confusion, worry, anger, fear —lay it all down and see what he does within your heart to bring about a change you could not have imagined.
In the eyes of his own people, Jesus was not fit to be their brand of king. Yet he came to the world with more splendor and power than can be humanly understood. They could not see it because they were looking with their eyes, not their hearts. When expectation and reality collide, look to Jesus with your heart. It’s there you will find him.