When I drive to work in the morning, I almost always take a travel mug of cold water with me. Not that I necessarily get so thirsty on the drive that a drink is going to be required, but it’s good to stay hydrated. Depending on how thirsty I am, maybe I don’t even take a sip on the way to work, or maybe the mug is half done by the time I get there.
Because I’m generally in a bit of a hurry to get out the door, most mornings my lovely wife fills the cup with cold water and puts in a couple of ice cubes to keep it cold. She’s been doing this for me for years, from when we lived in town but I drove out to Panmure Island every day, that’s a longer commute and I would often get thirsty. I appreciate her efforts, and because she has done this for me, I’m used having that cup of cold water on the drive in. I expect to have it.
In the past, when I used to drink pop more often, in the morning sometimes I would take a travel mug full of pop instead. I know, not as healthy an option, but probably not much worse than a large double-double from Tim Hortons. When we started to cut down on keeping pop in the fridge at home, I switched to taking water instead. Well, usually.
Ever have the experience of expecting something, but getting something else entirely? I recall one morning when Laura filled my cup, she put Sprite in it, but I had completely forgotten that we had any pop in the fridge. I was expecting water. So when I took a drink of it, when I took a big old mouthful through my straw, I was expecting cold, clear, tasteless, refreshing, non-carbonated water. But that’s not what was in the cup. That’s not what I got.
Now, I like Sprite. Back when I used to drink pop regularly, that was one of my favourites. But it’s not water. It’s sweet and it’s bubbly and when you take a drink of it, expecting water, it tastes like the sweetest, frothiest beverage in the universe. I can’t remember if I sprayed out a mouthful of it over the windshield of the car, but I was surprised. It did not meet my expectation.
Read Matthew 21: 1-17
1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied , and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. 12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying , Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Imagine for a moment that you are a Jew living two thousand years ago, a Jew who is waiting for the Messiah. At long last someone has come who fits all the evidence of being the Messiah. He has done wonderful miracles, He has taught like no one ever has before, and with authority that is unheard of from a fairly young man. People are saying that this is the long expected Messiah, the anointed one, the one who will bring Israel back to glory. He will cast off the oppression of Rome. And now He has come to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, when the city is filled with people. What better a time could there be to proclaim Him as king?
And so you wave and cheer and throw down your coat to make a pathway for the Messiah as He rides into the city in a fulfillment of prophecy. You follow along as He heads to the temple, the perfect place for the true king of Israel to be crowned. The moment is so near.
And then He does something unexpected. He arrives at the temple and instead of being crowned as a king, He starts overturning the tables and driving out the money changers and the animal sellers. Instead of being welcomed by the high priest, and being anointed with oil and having a crown put on his head, it says the priests were sore displeased. Instead of bringing glory and royalty, He brings disruption.
Then He leaves, and goes back to the little town of Bethany on the outskirts of the city. Not at all what you expected. Not at all what anyone had expected. Less than a week later, He’s dead, crucified by the very Romans that He was supposed to overthrow, after a mockery of a trial conducted under the authority of the very man who should have anointed Him as king. So much for expectations.
We all have expectations. We have expectations of ourselves. We have expectations of our families, our friends, our jobs. We expect things from all of them. Maybe those things happen how we expect, and maybe they don’t. But we also we expect things from God. Unlike the world around us, God is reliable, dependable, and eternal. We feel that if we put our expectations in God, we are not going to be disappointed.
And while we are correct to trust in God, to depend on Him, we cannot put our expectations on Him and expect that He will fulfill all of them. This has nothing to do with how dependable God is. It has to do with our expectations. Because what if our expectations are wrong?
You might be saying, no, my expectations are correct. They are based on what I have learned since I was a child. They are grounded in scripture, backed up by those who have a better understanding than I do. My expectations are solid, reasonable, and I hold to them. Well, that is well and good, but the people of Israel had expectations of the Messiah. They based these off the OT scriptures, their interpretations of them, and on their traditions. And those expectations were wrong.
Christ came to earth to save us from the power and the penalty of sin. He came to pay a price that no one else was able to pay. He came not to overthrow the law, but to fulfill it. He came that the world through Him might be saved. He came as a vital part, as a checkmate move, in a war between good and evil, between rebellion and obedience, between Heaven and Hell. But Christ did not come to fulfill our expectations. He came for a variety of causes, but that was not one of them.
If our expectations should line up with reality, so much the better. But God is not obligated to cater to us. People expect certain things of God, and when He does not necessarily deliver, they blame God for failing, for letting them down. But God is not to be blamed when we expect things of Him that were never part of His plan. Our understanding, our desires, our plans, our expectations are what is at fault.
What did Christ bring when He came 2000 years ago? He fulfilled prophecy, yes, and He brought light into the world, yes, all of which were things that an astute observer would have expected. But He also brought disruption.
People today look back at Christ and see someone who taught peace and love, forgiveness and contentment. That is all true, but it is only part of the picture. Let’s turn to Matthew chapter 10 to read a few verses. Reading from verse 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
That’s a far cry from peace and love, isn’t it? I came not to send peace, but a sword. A sword divides, a sword disrupts. A sword changes things. It does not maintain the status quo, not when it is used. It separates. And it causes pain.
Christ said that He brought a sword. That does not mesh well with our idea of a loving saviour and a caring shepherd, does it? A shepherd doesn’t carry a sword. But Christ is more than just a shepherd. If we were to read John chapter 1, verse 1, we learn that Christ is called the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And it Hebrews 4, verse 12 we read that the Word of God is quick, or living, and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, and divides between soul and spirit, bone and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.
How is that for a description of the sword that Christ brought? Separating between soul and spirit, I don’t know that you can get any more precise and piercing a division than that. Why would He bring this? After all, just a few chapters before this we can read John 3:16, God so loved the world. Why would a God of love send a dividing sword into the world? Why would He send disruption, instead of peace?
It’s not what we would expect from a God of love, but it is what was required. What still is required, in fact, two thousand years later. Because the world is broken, and it is filled with broken people. I’m broken. You’re broken. We are all broken. We are all as an unclean thing, as it says in Jeremiah 64:6, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Even our good deeds, our best deeds, our righteousness, it says in the same verse, are like filthy rags. Our best efforts are still broken. And how often do we really put forth our best efforts?
A former co-worker of mine had a sticker on the back of his chair that said “I always give 100% at work. 12% Monday, 23% Tuesday, 40% Wednesday, 20% Thursday, 5% Friday.” It’s amusing, but it’s not far from the truth. Most of us are far too slack about far too many things. You hear about highly motivated people? Those are just folks who are not quite as lazy as the rest of us. But even if I get up tomorrow, and decide I’m going to be the best person I can be, and I actually follow through on that, I’m still going to fall far, far short of perfection. If I got up tomorrow and decided I was not going to do one thing wrong all day, not one single sin, I doubt I’d make it to lunch. I doubt I’d make it through to the end of breakfast.
It should go without saying that we can’t remain in this broken, fallen state. For a time, perhaps, but not indefinitely. As God’s creation, separation from Him, ultimately, is death. Our broken condition is not acceptable, not viable. It needs to be disrupted.
We don’t want to be disrupted, though, do we? Because our broken, fallen state, terrible as it may be, is disturbingly comfortable. We might be a mess, but it’s our mess, and we are used to it. That’s how my office gets sometimes. And when I say sometimes, I mean quite often. It would be so much better if things were cleaned up, put away properly, and that which is not needed any more was filed away or put in the trash. But that takes effort, and it takes commitment, and so it doesn’t happen. Not without help.
We don’t need someone to come alongside us and tell us, there, there, everything is okay. Because it’s not. Christ came not into the world to send peace, but a sword. The natural, fallen state of this world is not okay. If I’m okay, and you’re okay, then Christ did not need to come. He did not need to die for us if we were okay. But He did die, because we were not okay. We need a saviour, not a cheerleader or a life coach.
The Jews thought that the Messiah would restore the kingdom to Israel. They thought He would fix everything. Everything that was wrong, everything that was in disorder, He would set it right. They thought they were ready for Him, but they were not. They thought He was going to come and thank them for taking care of things while they waited, but that was not the case. Yes, He came to deal with that which was in disorder, but that was vastly more far reaching than they had realized. The problem was not with the Roman government, not really. The problem was in their own hearts.
What did He do instead of getting rid of the Romans? Instead of confirming the decisions which the people of Israel had made, instead of telling them to keep to the same course, He told them to repent. He said “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” He brought disruption to their lives. Christ brought change, major change, to the people of Israel. Everyone who encountered Him, from the blind beggar on the street corner to the wealthy ruler in his palace, was challenged and was faced with change. All were presented with a choice – to listen and to obey, to follow God’s way, or to keep to their own way, to remain in their own fallen state.
So how did the people of Israel respond to Christ, and to how He challenged them? Let’s look at several examples. Let’s turn to Matthew 15 for a few minutes. 1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
He told the religious leaders, those who studied the law, primarily the Pharisees, that they were hypocrites. They said one thing, they taught a particularly strident way of keeping the letter of the law, and then they violated the spirit of the law, and felt no guilt about it. They were worried about the fact that Christ’s disciples did not wash their hands properly, according to the full ceremonial washing which was required by, as they said, by the tradition of the elders. But they allowed that if you dedicated your money to God, and said “I’m going to give all I have to the temple,” then you were not under any obligation to care for your aging parents. The money was already considered to be God’s property. How hypocritical, to claim to honour God while dishonouring their parents. No wonder Christ said of them, (Matthew 15: 8) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. That’s only one example, one incident. We could turn to Matthew chapter 23 and see the seven times in that chapter when Christ called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. And of course they hated Him for this. They thought they were keeping God’s law, even if they had little or no concern for their fellow man. Christ’s teachings represented a tremendous disruption to their entire worldview.
How about the priests? They were part of a sect called the Sadducees, and they were largely concerned with administering the temple and the sacrifices and all that went with that. As we read at the start from Matthew 21, Christ upended the money changers and animal sellers, and drove them from the temple. The livestock market, which was conveniently located right there at the temple, was run by the family of the high priest. They charged exorbitant rates for sacrifice animals, and you think we pay a premium when we exchange Canadian for US money, well, that’s nothing compared to the rates they charged for the half-shekel coin required to be the proper temple tax. When Christ put them out, I’m not sure how much of His objection to them was the simple fact they were selling animals and changing money where they should not have been, and how much was the fact that they were doing this in a highly dishonest manner. If I had to guess, I would suspect that the dishonesty was the larger problem. He accused them of turning the place into a den of thieves.
This of course was a disruption to the priests and their livelihood. They hated Him every bit as much as did the Pharisees. And even though the Sadducees and Pharisees did not generally get along especially well, they conspired together to get rid of this man who represented a grievous disruption to both of them.
Who else did Christ interact with? Well, at the other end of the spectrum, about as far from the wealthy elites, there were the sick, the poor, the lame. The bottom tier of society. We could look at a dozen different examples of how these people responded when Christ came into contact with them, but we’ll just look at one from John chapter 9. 1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
We’ll end our reading there. The story continues for the rest of the chapter, and describes how this man ended up in trouble with the religious leaders, because this healing was done on the Sabbath day. Ultimately he was put out of the synagogue, because he disagreed with their opinion of Christ, and afterwards, we are told how Christ found the man, and how the formerly blind man then believed.
That was a very disruptive day for the man who was born blind. He woke up that morning, unable to see, not even knowing what it meant to see. He had never seen, his eyes had never been functional. We don’t know, he might not have even had proper eyeballs. But Christ, the creator, essentially made new eyes for him, and once he washed his face, he could suddenly see. As he says later in the chapter, in verse 25, one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.
This was a man who needed change, both desperately and obviously. No one who looked at him would say this blind man was perfectly fine just how he was. When he encountered the Saviour, he embraced the disruption, he welcomed the change.
You might say, well, of course he did, he was blind, he was a beggar. Who wouldn’t want change from that sort of condition? Well, fair enough, although we can’t really look at someone who has had a life so very, very different from our own and assume that we know what they might prefer. But how about those who are not at the bottom, and also not at the top? How did people like that react to Christ? How did they react when He did not meet their expectations?
Let’s look at His disciples. These were largely working-class, small town folks, they were not the elite of society by any stretch, but they weren’t starving, either. Let’s look at the call of a few of them, in Mark chapter 1. Reading from verse 16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
We can see the call of another disciples in the next chapter, it is every bit as abrupt. We read at verse 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
These were men, doing their jobs, going about with their lives, and the Saviour came by and called them. They left their jobs, they left their homes, they left their stuff, and they followed. They left all, and followed Him. They embraced the disruption. While they may well have expected that Christ would be set up as a king over Israel in the near future, at least at first, they continued on. Even when things became difficult, and many who had followed turned back, we could read about this in John chapter 6, but we won’t for the sake of time, but they kept following. And apart from Judas, they all followed Him again after His resurrection.
We’ve seen those who responded with anger and hatred and rejection when the Messiah did not meet their expectations, and we’ve seen those who responded with acceptance and belief. But there is another reaction I’d like to look at now before we close. Turn to Mark chapter 10, we’ll read a few verses from there. 17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
We look at this as a sad and unfortunate response, but it is perhaps the most frequent, most typical response when faced with Christ, with the disruption that He brings. Instead of embracing the change, taking up the cross, people come to Christ, and go away grieved. Because while the Saviour’s invitation is to come as you are, it is not to stay as you are. “Follow me” He says. “Sin no more,” He says. “Repent,” He says. We don’t know what this affluent fellow expected of the Messiah, but it wasn’t this. His expectations were not met, and he was not prepared for it. He was not prepared for the disruption.
Disruption comes to us all, sooner or later. It can come in the form of a Saviour who loves you, who died for you, who holds out His hand and says “Follow me.” Or it can come when we look up from our sinful state, and realize that we are not so comfortable here, that the pleasures of sin for a season have ended. Or it can come suddenly, when we realize that the wages of sin are death, and the time has come to cash out.
This morning, we are all faced with a choice. Do I follow Christ, do I set aside my plans, my wants, my expectations, and follow Him? And you know what, if you decide to do so, every morning, you’ll have to make the same choice again. It’s not an easy path to walk. Christ never promised those who followed Him that they would be comfortable, that they would find it easy. Taking up your cross is not supposed to be easy. But it is a far, far better decision than the alternative.
All scripture takes from the King James Version