In Jesus’ day, there was an expectation about what the Messiah would be like, and Jesus did not fit it. Many thought the Messiah would be a mighty man who overthrew the Roman empire and liberated God’s people in a physical way. This perspective was so common that Jesus’ disciples rebuked Jesus when He told them that He was going to the cross (Mt. 16:22). James and John aspired to sit in positions of power (Mk. 10:37). John the Baptist seemed to think he would be in a better position than a prison cell. In his disillusionment he asked Jesus, “Are you really the one or should we expect someone else?” (Mt. 11:3). Jesus’ response to such false expectations is summarized when He said, “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Mt. 16:23).
Like the people of Jesus’ day, we all have our own expectations of God. We think He should do certain things and do them according to our timeline. We pray for healing and when it doesn’t come, we doubt. We pray for a job and when we don’t get it, we join John the Baptist in asking, “are you really the one?” Yet in our disillusionment, we need to hold close the truth that God loves us even more than we love ourselves. He loves us enough to give us what we need and not merely what we demand. When we pray for our circumstances to change and they don’t, we ask, “are you really the one?” We often think less of Jesus working to bring about victory in our lives over a lack of joy in every circumstance or over other sinful expectations that control our hearts. Yet these are perhaps the areas that God knows we need the reality of His messiahship most of all. And so may God continue to defy our expectations, because His love and His will are always better than expected.