Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 29. Realistic Expectations
Matt 20:28 the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Expectations in Christ: Expectations are all about the future – what we anticipate will come. We have seen false expectations and we have seen growing expectations, but it is only when we come to the Son of God that we find truly realistic expectations of the future. Only in Jesus do we see a clarity of purpose and direction and clear knowledge of where it was all leading. Indeed, we might say, that it is only in Christ are our own expectations accurate.
Even listening to John the Baptist, we sense a little uncertainty about the future but not in Jesus. John’s talk about an axe and fire and a winnowing fork (Mt 3:10-12) all have a strong Old Testament prophetic feeling about them, more of a feeling of judgment than anything else.
Jesus, on the other hand, came preaching that the kingdom of God had arrived, and he showed it as he cast out demons (Mk 1:25,26) and brought healing (Mk 3:5), both before the onlooking religious spectators who were amazed at the level of authority that was now there in their midst. When large crowds came he healed and delivered many (Mk 1:32-34). Matthew insisted he healed all of them (Mt 8:16). Being around Jesus was like being at a party – celebrations were the order of the day as the kingdom of God was expressed.
The Bigger Purpose: But that, of course, was only one part of Jesus’ reason for coming and admittedly it was a good reason, to reveal the love of the Father, to bring the blessing of heaven. But his bigger purpose – and it is bigger – is highlighted in our verse above: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was quite clear about that; his goal was to give his life as a sacrifice for sins. That was Jesus’ expectation and it was utterly fulfilled. Matthew is quite explicit about this: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) Again in Mt 17:22,23 and Mt 20:17-19 he says the same thing.
At the Last Supper “he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:27,28) From the outset, this had been his purpose, even as an angel had said to his earthly father, Joseph, over thirty years before: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) It was his sacrificial death that achieved that.
Fulfilling the Task: It was left to the writer to the Hebrews to sum it all up: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) When he rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, there was immense joy at the fulfillment of the task for which he had been sent, fulfilling prophecies centuries old: “my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isa 53:11) It had not been an easy path, but it was one he had been sure about. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, confronted by the awfulness of what was about to happen, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) Oh yes, he knew exactly what had to happen and why it had to happen and what would be accomplished.
The Conclusion: The wonder of that is revealed in John’s Revelation: “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests, to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth,” (Rev 5:8-10) That was the end of his work, million upon millions of human beings, purchased (ransomed), made into a kingdom of priests to serve God and rule on the earth.
And Us. Now for us today, we as Christians, whatever else we believe, the above must be at the heart of our expectations. This is the work of Christ that has established us, and all that we are promised for our futures is because of Christ’s finished work on the Cross. We can do nothing to add to it, just live it out. He has done it and now it is just to be received, to be appropriated by faith. Everything about my future hinges on this. This is a realistic expectation because Jesus spoke out that expectation for us and now his word declares it clearly for us. Our futures are assured; all my expectations of the future are ‘in Christ’ and they are good expectations, they are what we call Christian hope. Rest in that and rejoice in it. Hallelujah!