Exchanging Great Expectations for Greater Ones...The Hard Way2
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
Yesterday we saw how Jesus came alongside these two men on their way to the town of Emmaus on Resurrection Day, but they were kept from recognizing him. Jesus asks them a question, and then another one, to open up a conversation where the disappointments and hopes of their heart might meet the wonder of the resurrection.
Jesus loved to ask questions. Cleopas and his companion are a bit incredulous that anyone could be so clueless, but they accommodate this stranger by filling in a bit of information about what’s happened in Jerusalem in these days.
It must have been fairly intriguing for Jesus to hear these men describe him without them realizing that he’s standing right there. The descriptions are rather flattering and positive, but the last sentence perhaps might have been disappointing to him: “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
This, of course, was the hope of most of the people of Israel from the Messiah—to get the land back, to kick out the Romans, to restore a powerful monarchy like the glory days of David and Solomon when the nations streamed to Israel looking for wisdom.
Jesus, however, had a different agenda. It turns out that their hopes were much, much too small. The weight of the disappointment they carried with them was in large part due to their own expectations. They had expectations that Jesus had no intention of ever meeting.
Expectations are difficult things to manage. To hope at all is to have some level of expectation. And if we stop hoping, we stop really living. So we can’t live without hope-filled expectations, but they sure do bring a lot of heartache our way.
Part of what Jesus wants to do here is to surface these disappointed expectations in order to do a significant amount of revision. Their expectations were somewhat reasonable given their context, but Jesus had much, much bigger (and better) thing in mind.
When we think about our own disappointed hopes and expectations, they always make sense to us. And Jesus is compassionate and kind, but he sometimes in his severe mercy he wants to do expectation overhaul.
Where in your life are you carrying disappointments that stem from unrealistic or even unhealthy expectations? Are you willing to let Jesus do some surgery on your expectations and “but I had hoped” areas in order to help you to see what he’s really up to?