The people were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
- Luke 7:16-19
Many times, it’s the things we read and hear that create expectations for us - and those expectations are normal and can be healthy and good. Sometimes they can get out of whack, though.
John the Baptist, and the people of Israel in general, had a lot of expectations built up around the Messiah because of things they had heard from the scriptures. The challenge for John is that scripture covered a lot of ground when it came to the Messiah. Looking back now, with a couple thousand years of Christian interpretation layered on top, a lot of scholars would say that some of the messianic passages in the Old Testament were about Jesus’s first coming and some were about his second coming. But John didn’t have that distance.
So from messianic passages like Isaiah 11:1-5, John and others would have expected Jesus not only to come with wisdom (“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding” 11:2), but to destroy Rome (“He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked” 11:4). There were many such passages as this.
So when Jesus shows up he starts to define himself. He doesn’t want others’ expectations of him to limit him.
How much do you get your expectations of Jesus from what others say about him verses what he’s showed you himself? How might you learn more directly from him?