By GraceAnna Castleberry
Expectations. Christmas is the season for expectations. Expectations are at times necessary and good, but if they are unrealistic or self-centered they can become stumbling blocks in our lives.
We all have expectations. We have expectations for ourselves, our future, our spouse, our family, our friends, and even of God. Sometimes we judge people based on these expectations. If others do not meet our expectations, we are often angry and disappointed by their failure. Many times, we fail to contemplate whether our expectations are realistic to begin with.
Unmet expectations are bound to happen. We are sinful people. We let people down and others let us down as well. But we often allow unmet expectations to get in the way of what God is doing in our lives. We dwell on our disappointments instead of asking God to show us what He wants us to learn from the experience or situation that is turning out differently than we had hoped.
Jesus, He Is Not What You Expect
Over 2,000 years ago, there were a lot of people who had expectations about the coming Messiah. They expected Him to be an impressive and inspiring leader who would set the Jews free from Roman rule and bring political freedom. They expected the Messiah to be a triumphant and majestic king fit for royalty.
But Jesus wasn’t what they expected. He wasn’t what they expected at all. Jesus came from a poor family and was born in a stable. He was lowly instead of majestic, and his face was not one we would find attractive (Isaiah 53:2).
When He made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem just days before his death, he rode a donkey’s colt. The donkeys bred in Israel are much smaller than our American bred donkeys. Jesus would have had to bend his knees to keep his feet from dragging the ground. 
Even though He was God, He “did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). This lowly Messiah, however, did not preach an easy message. He called people to repent of their sins and be willing to forsake all to follow Him (Mark 10:21).
It was a hard message. And most didn’t accept it. John 6:41-42 says,“Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Later in that same passage, we read that as a result of Jesus’ teaching, “Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (v.66). He failed many people’s expectations. And because He wasn’t what they wanted, and because he preached truth, they rejected Him all together. They missed God Incarnate. Their “great” expectations caused them to miss what was truly great.
But those who had faith in Jesus had to lay aside all their own expectations and embrace Him for all He was and is. And when they did, they began to realize that He was not just their king but would also be their suffering servant just as the prophets had predicted. For some of the disciples, this realization didn’t take place until after the resurrection.
Peter, one of the twelve disciples, had a very difficult time accepting Jesus as our suffering servant. Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer and die and rise again. That wasn’t what Peter expected and he told Jesus, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). We should listen fearfully to Jesus’ rebuke to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). This rebuke is sobering because it teaches us that whenever our expectations are outside of advancing Christ’s kingdom, we are living contrary to Christ and His will.
Jesus, He Is Better Than You Expect
I don’t know what your expectations were this Christmas. Maybe you put expectations on your family or your friends or even yourself.
Or maybe you expected something from God this Christmas. We must always remind ourselves that Jesus didn’t come to this earth and die to meet our expectations. His mission always was and will be to glorify God and accomplish the Father’s will. If we come to God with expectations set on things outside of His Word and His will, we will be left disappointed and tempted to withdraw from Him.
But when we lay aside our selfish desires and embrace God for who He has revealed Himself to be, we begin to see God working. We begin to understand that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are higher and better than what we could possibly comprehend (Isaiah 55:8-9). And we see that Jesus is more glorious and majestic than what any of the Pharisees thought and modern day skeptics think. He is a reigning and sovereign King who will one day judge everyone and establish everlasting peace. And, if you know Him, His plan for your life is better than anything you could ever expect (Romans 8:28-29).
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a M.Div. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. GraceAnna holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Clemson University and is passionate about building into the lives of children, primarily her own two daughters. GraceAnna and her mom host a weekly radio program, Mothering from the Heart, which can be heard Wednesdays at 11am (EST) at WAGP.net. GraceAnna blogs regularly at www.graceannacastleberry.com and you can find her on Twitter @gacastleberry.
R.C. Sproul, The Gospel According to John in the “St. Andrews Expositional Commentary”” series (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010).
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