“The Unexpected Jesus”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

There is a famous Charles Wesley hymn entitled “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”.  Certainly, there is plenty of Scriptural justification for applying that adjective to the Lord.  As the words of Zechariah in Luke 1 and Simeon in Luke 2 attest, the Jews had been waiting anxiously for the Messiah for centuries!

However, there is another sense in which Jesus’ coming was unexpected, and this sense is prominently displayed in John 7.  Throughout the chapter, nobody knows what to make of the Messiah they actually got.  7:4 tells us that His brothers did not believe in Him.  7:12 describes the dispute between the Jews who thought He was a good man and those who thought He was misleading the people (correct answer, none of the above).  In 7:27, some argue that because they knew where Jesus came from, He couldn’t be the true Messiah (never mind Isaiah 9, Micah 5, etc.).  Likewise, the chief priests claim in 7:52 that Jesus’ Galilean origin disqualifies Him from being a prophet. 

Ultimately, most of the Jewish nation rejects Jesus because He doesn’t fit in their Messiah-shaped box.  He doesn’t seek out the people they think He should seek out, He doesn’t tell them to do what they think they should do, and He doesn’t solve the problem they think He should solve.  The Jews turn aside from Jesus, straight into the downfall of their nation in 70 AD.

Today, we might shake our heads sadly at those foolish, foolish Jews.  However, we are better off considering whether we are behaving like them.  Even though the gospels reveal Jesus to us, the Jesus in the minds of most in our society doesn’t look much like the Jesus of the gospels at all.

Most Americans are looking for a Jesus who is an unconditional grace and blessings dispenser.  They don’t have any interest in discipleship or living holy lives.  Nonetheless, when they have problems, they want to be able to get Jesus to fix their problems.  This does not involve repentance, humility, or life change; instead, it’s about Jesus slathering their brokenness with His love.  Then, when their lives have improved, they want to put Jesus in the attic until the next time they need to feel better. 

Such expectations will keep them (and us) from any meaningful encounter with the Lord.  Jesus did not come to kiss our boo-boos.  He came to die a hideous death in our place because our sin was that bad and nothing less could help.  He doesn’t let us do whatever we want.  He demands utmost obedience because we owe Him everything.  His work doesn’t leave our lives unchanged.  It leaves them transformed.

This is the Jesus of the gospels, the Jesus who calls us to follow.  Either we pick the cross up, or we don’t.  However, indifference will meet an inevitable end—a shattering encounter with the Lord who will come one more time in a way that no one expects.