Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reading By Halves

What happens when we expect something that isn't? When reality collides with our vision of how things should be? Are we simply blinded by our expectations so that we just ignore the differences? Or if our eyes are opened, do we allow our disappointment to rule over us to the point where we attempt to mold what is into what we think it should be?

It seems I have spent a lifetime where my expectations have repeatedly been shattered by the light of truth...and I must admit am shamefully slow to adapt.

Even life as a Christian--I seem to continually expect God to do one thing through me, and He has something completely different in mind. If I seek the blessing, He may send a trial. If I seek glory through me for Him, He will teach me invisible submission. If I seek healing, He shows me how to live no matter the circumstances.

His word comforts me, though. It shows me I am not the only one having difficulty reconciling who He is with whom I expect Him to be.

In Jesus' final days, His chosen people, His disciples, His chosen inner circle--they all stubbornly, blindly held steadfast to who they thought Jesus should be.

The people of Israel in general expected to be saved by a military leader, one who would deliver them politically from the clutches of Rome. They made this clear when Jesus entered Jerusalem shortly before His death. Throwing their cloaks on the ground as Jesus rode by, the crowd shouted "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel" (John 12:13). In this verse, Strong's shows that "Hosanna" means "Save us." However, the people were making a political rather than a religious statement, begging Jesus to "Save us from the oppression of Rome!"

When it became obvious Jesus was not the political messiah they longed for, that His agenda and time line did not align with theirs, they turned on Him and loudly demanded His death. In a sense, they allowed themselves to be blinded by their expectations of what Messiah would be.

They clung to verses like those in Isaiah 9 that said "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore" (v.7). And they ignored those verses like those from Isaiah 53 that say "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering....But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (v. 3,5).

Only remembering and understanding half the prophecy, they allowed their disappointment to turn into hurt, deadly anger, dangerous emotions that led a once excited, hopeful crowd to murderous thoughts and demands.

Sadly, the disciples who knew Jesus best weren't much better--even they were blinded by what they expected, not hearing and understanding what Jesus' action plan really was, even when He spoke seemingly clearly to them of His death.

Scripture says, "Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You. But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's'" (Matt. 16:21-23).

It makes me shake my head to think that Peter--one of the three closest to Jesus--was conflicted between "man's" expectations and "God's interests."

Perhaps even Judas' betraying Jesus for a bag of silver was his attempt to force Jesus to claim His Kingship, to be the military ruler who would save Jerusalem and His people through a show of power, not through peace and self-sacrifice.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes, "The disciples' prejudices were so strong, that they would not understand these things literally. They were so intent upon the prophecies which spake of Christ's glory, that they overlooked those which spake of his sufferings. People run into mistakes, because they read their Bibles by halves, and are only for the smooth things. We are backward to learn the proper lessons from the sufferings, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, as the disciples were to what he told them as to those events; and for the same reason; self love, and a desire of worldly objects, close our understandings."

How many times are we so intent on looking for God's glory our lives that we fail to remember that to be like Christ, we must suffer as well?

Closer to home, how many times am I guilty of reading the Bible by halves so I don't have to worry about the issues that bother me, confuse me, seemingly conflict with other Scripture, and leave me scratching my head with more questions than answers?

God forbid we allow our expectations to control our understanding of who God is...or that we read for only the "smooth things" His word can show.

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