When Jesus Fails to Meet our Expectations

My dad, with a sweet spirit, enjoying life as he can at age 92. 


Mark 8:31   Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


Peter had openly declared that Jesus was the Messiah when suddenly the conversation shifted to suffering, rejection and death. With his affirmation of Jesus as Messiah, Peter had brought with him all of the connotations of that term. Jesus was to be a great military leader, a Davidic Messiah, who would save the people from the earthly authorities. Jesus’ description was a paradigm that didn’t fit into Peter’s thinking. 

Peter’s rebuke of Jesus was severe. The language reflects a long and unpleasant conversation. The very word “rebuke” is linked to the verb that Mark used to describe the way in which Jesus rebuked unclean spirits. Peter was absolutely shocked by what Jesus said because Messiahship and suffering were incompatible concepts. 

Jesus knew the plan for his life and any human who was not in support of this plan was ultimately aligning themselves with the cosmic forces of evil. Hence, Jesus’ sharp rebuke of Peter. 


Rarely do we hear a message on suffering in the Christian life. Instead, we love to hear about the joys and success that come as a result of following Jesus Christ. The prosperity gospel has gained much traction around the world because that is a much prettier paradigm than following a Messiah who is persecuted, suffers and dies. Peter didn’t like the idea at all and was deeply disappointed that Jesus would not be meeting his expectations. 

When life becomes stressful, we may also develop false expectations of the Messiah. Somehow, I think that we are tempted to gauge our spiritual life by the absence of difficulties. We tend to think that if life is going well for someone, then they must be experiencing the blessings of the Lord as a result of their faithful walk with him. 

These days I am journeying with my dad who is not the man he used to be. He keeps telling me that getting old is not for sissies. His eyesight has deteriorated and hearing is a challenge. Reloading batteries into his hearing aids is one of the biggest struggles of the day. Getting out of the chair and keeping himself from falling by using his walker becomes a major victory. I watch him as daily life is one big challenge, but in the midst of it all, he has a sweet disposition. He tells me that there is no need to be upset or frustrated because this is just where he finds himself in life. He trusts in the Lord and has no expectations of things getting better — except when he passes away. Because of the many years in which he has traveled this life with the Lord, he has learned that suffering, pain, and even death, are part of the pathway, and he joyfully continues to follow. 

I have other friends and acquaintances today who are dealing with cancer and death. There are others in lands where they are being persecuted for their faith. These folks have learned to continue trusting even, when at first glance, it appears that Jesus is failing to meet expectations. 

I am learning that oftentimes, even in the midst of difficulties, God is at work.  It’s in those tough moments that the Lord is weeding out that which needs to be removed. Therefore, we may see the hand of God at work more clearly in the midst of trouble, than in peace. Peter had to learn to see Jesus in the new paradigm, and so do we. When Jesus is at work in this world, there will be trouble. Learning to trust in the midst of a difficult time leads us into a deeper walk and understanding of our Lord. If Jesus is failing to meet our expectations, then we are the ones who need to re-evaluate our understanding of who he is as our Messiah. 


Lord, help me to learn from you n the good times and in the bad. Amen. 


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