Expectation vs. Reality
This week’s section of the Gospel of Luke takes us through Jesus ministry throughout the region of Galilee. It is in this section that we see Jesus ministry as both the revelation AND in-breaking of God’s Kingdom on earth. Throughout His ministry, Jesus upsets the religious leaders as He continually brings reversal to many of their assumptions about God, who He is, how He operates, what He values, what His Kingdom looks like, and how those who are allegiant to Him are to live.
Day 1 – Luke 5:1-6:11
We all have expectations about things: how our day will go, what we will do, plans for the coming year, how our friends or family will treat us, and so on. These expectations aren’t the reality. They are just our hoped for reality. This truth is fresh for all of us as we continue to try to manage our expectations during the COVID-19 crisis! We are in a season of not really knowing fully what to expect. It is hard to have realistic expectations when predictability has gone out the window…
Just like we have expectations in life, we also have expectations about God: what He is like, how He operates, what He will do. Many of these expectations have been formed by Scripture and reinforced by God’s faithful and unchanging character. But sometimes, we have expectations of God that are based on our own hopes, thoughts or desires, and not on the truths found in Scripture.
As we have been reading through Exodus and Luke together over the last few months, I personally have felt challenged by God to be careful about any attitudes or assumptions I have about God that make me expect certain things from Him, or specific outcomes in any given situation. Having expectations that are not grounded in the truth of Scriptures can lead to a lot of disappointment, and even damage our faith.
Ultimately, this issue of unmet expectations contributed to the failure of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Whether it was expectations about who the Messiah would associate with (obviously he should associate with righteous religious people, right? Not sinners, tax collectors, and the poor. And definitely never eating with these kinds of people, implying that he approves of them). Or expectations about how religiously pure the Messiah would be (he would keep himself ceremonially clean wouldn’t He? Never touching those with skin disease). Whether is was expectations about His ushering in of God’s judgement (certainly He will rightfully judge sinners, not forgive them) or keeping of religious piety (never working on the Sabbath, always fasting and praying at the appropriate times). The Pharisees and teachers of the law are so caught up in their own expectations of God that they completely miss Him when He is right in front of them. So much so that they actually become angry with Him and “begin to discuss with one another what they might to do Jesus” (6:11).
Friends, we must be careful about our own expectations too. We need to ask ourselves: Do they line up with the Scriptures? With the ways that God has revealed Himself in the past? We must ask God for wisdom, that we will be able to see Him rightly.
- Take some time now to write out some of the expectations that you might have of God. Are there specific ways that you are expecting Him to work in this season? Are there ways that you assume He is operating? What do you think about His character, how He works? What’s on His agenda? Write it down, even things you think/know are true.
- Then read over your list. Ask the Holy Spirit if there is a specific one that He would like to talk to you about today. See if you feel directed towards any specific expectation. If so, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about it. We do this, because throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus makes it clear that we need the Holy Spirit to interpret God and the Scriptures. Maybe the Holy Spirit will affirm this expectation or assumption to you as true (e.g. that if I confess my sin, God will forgive me. This is a true expectation! It’s in Scripture!). But perhaps the Holy Spirit may also reveal to you some expectations or assumptions you have that He needs to refine, refresh, or even get rid of (e.g. “If I am obedient to God, He will protect me from suffering.” This week’s readings will reveal that this is just not true! Look at the life of Jesus: He was good, He obeyed, and He still suffered).
- After you have brought this things before God, thank Him for empowering you, through the Holy Spirit, to know and understand Him in a deeper way today.
Day 2 – Luke 6:12-49
Today’s passage brings us deeper into our understanding of God’s upside-down Kingdom. Throughout this passage, Jesus takes our expectations about what the favor of God’s Kingdom might look like (wealth, provision, happiness, being spoken well of) and turns them around, saying that those who are truly blessed are those who are poor, who hunger, who weep, and who are hated or rejected because of Jesus.
This passage challenges us to look beyond our current situations and put our hope in God and His eternal Kingdom. If we are made only to live in this world, then we very well should pursue wealth, provision, happiness, and flattery. We shouldn’t love or forgive our enemies – they are in the way of our happiness! But if we are living not just for this life, but have put our hope in God for eternity as well – then living this backwards/upside down way begins to make sense. It is by living for the future (eternity) that we will see God’s Kingdom break in to our present.
- Pause now and ask God, “Father, are there any ways that I have been consumed with this present world, so much so that it has stopped me from living for eternity? What does it mean for me to live for eternity now? Show we what I can do to help your Kingdom break into my present, and the present of those around me.”
The second part of this passage places emphasis on the importance of faith lived out in our lives. It is not enough to believe the right things, our belief must influence how we live. Jesus reveals here some of the attitudes and practices that should characterize His true followers: love for enemies (6:27-36), forgiveness and refraining from judgement (6:37-38), humility (6:39-42), and addressing the evil motivations of our hearts (6:43-45). He says that if we hear His words and put them into practice, we are wise; those who build our lives on a firm foundation.
- Is there a particular attitude or practice mentioned here that you are struggling with in this season? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what might need to change in order for you to be able to hear Jesus’ words and put them into practice. Then pray for the faith and power to do it. God is faithful.
Day 3 – Luke 7:1-50
After Jesus shares some intense ideas about what faith looks like lived out. We then read 2 stories of people who’s faith is lifted up to us as examples. But these are unlikely candidates! A Gentile Centurion and sinful woman.
What set’s the Centurion’s faith apart so much that Jesus would explain, “I have not found such great faith even in Israel”? The Centurion recognized, believed in, and acted upon His trust in Jesus’ divine authority. “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” What a startling faith!
- Do you believe in the absolute, divine power and authority of Jesus? Whatever He says will be accomplished. How can you step out in faith today?
What is interesting, is that it is at this point that John the Baptist hears of all that Jesus is doing, and sends two messengers to ask Jesus if He really is the Messiah. Why does this man who baptized Jesus and heard God declare Jesus as His Son, this man who was the very prophet appointed to prepare the way for Him, now seem to be doubting? John preached a message of God’s coming judgement and repentance for sins. Perhaps this is not what John expected judgement to look like? How humbling it is for us to read this. It seems even John the Baptist missed it a bit. Might there be a chance we are still missing the truth of God’s Kingdom in our ways too?
The chapter ends with the story of the sinful woman weeping and pouring perfume on Jesus feet as He sits in a Pharisee’s home. The Pharisee is appalled. But Jesus says, “her many sins are forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” I don’t know about you, but I struggle to love others when I forget how I have been loved by Christ. The times I become more judgmental or selfish are the times when, in pride, I begin to trust in my own goodness. Great love comes from gratitude. We pour out to others what we receive from God. This is exactly why we take Communion regularly! So we don’t forget the gifts we have been given. “Do this in remembrance of me.”
- Are you struggling to love those around you? Do you need to be reminded of God’s great mercy and forgiveness today? Take some time to think about all that He has forgiven and saved you from. From there, go about your day, filled with the love of Christ.
Day 4 – Luke 8
Today we read the famous parable of the sower. We all hope we are the good soil, don’t we? But I once heard a speaker say something wise: “be careful not to assume that you ARE the good soil.” We should desire to be the good soil but not assume it. Otherwise, we may be unprepared for the devil’s attempts to take God’s Word out of our hearts, we may be unprepared for testing and temptations, or overtaken by life’s worries or riches and pleasures.
Jesus power and authority are further demonstrated as he and His disciples head out to sea and are confronted by a terrible storm, during which Jesus exercises His divine power over creation. Then, Jesus exercises His divine power over demonic power when He restores the demon-possessed man, and finally His power over sickness and death when He raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman.
Desiring to be the good soil but not assuming it means that we will be ready to fight against the attacks of the Devil and the world, trusting in Jesus superior power and authority over all these things.
- Are you prepared to face these obstacles today? Do you trust in Jesus’ absolute power, even when things seem bleak? How is the Holy Spirit directing you to be better prepared to face the obstacles presented to you?
Day 5 – Luke 9:1-36
All that has happened thus far has lead us to this point. Jesus calls his 12 closest disciples together and gives them power and authority to drive out demons and cure disease as well. They are then sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick. They go out, do what Jesus has sent them to do, and return to tell Him the stories. After their return, however, it becomes clear that the disciples somehow still fail to fully understand the authority Jesus has given them. When He asks them to feed the multitude of people who have been following and listening to Jesus preach, they respond rather helplessly with, “but this is all we have!” In an instant it seems they have forgotten the great depth of power and authority that has been given them! Sound familiar? Do we see ourselves in this story?
The chapter ends with a few crazy stories all packed together. First, Peter proclaims that He believes Jesus is God’s true Messiah. It’s after this affirmation that the rest of Jesus’ journey on earth is revealed. Jesus tells His disciples that He will suffer and die and then on the 3rd day be raised to life. This is then confirmed a second time in the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, where Jesus is visited by Moses and Elijah on top of a mountain and they talk about “his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” Finally, all of this is confirmed by God who appears in a cloud and says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”
Once again, God is revealing to Jesus’ disciples (and to us!) that His Kingdom’s arrival will not come about in the way anyone expected. It would come through His Son’s suffering, humiliation, and death. He encourages not to reject this, but to accept it.
- As we end this week together, take some time to reflect on all that you have seen, heard, read and learned this week. Then ask this question: might there be ways that I keep missing God and His Kingdom because I am unwilling to suffer as Jesus suffered? For He said, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”