This can be a hard time of year. It’s still kind of dark, it’s still pretty cold, and let’s face it, your bracket is
probably looking pretty rough. Am I right? Or maybe you’re one of the Americans out there who isn’t
mourning over the state of your predictions because, well, we know it isn’t because you’ve guessed
correctly. No, it’s because you’re not participating in the drama that is March Madness. Even if you
choose not to entangle yourself in college basketball, you are going to encounter disappointment in
your life. Maybe even a lot. And you’re not alone. In our scripture today, we find one instance after
another of unmet expectations. Let’s jump in.
We begin in verse 17 with the rich young ruler, eager to inherit eternal life, but disappointed that Jesus
would call him to forfeit his material goods for a life of following Jesus. Then in verse 26 his disciples are
shocked that Jesus would say it’s difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. In verse 33, Jesus,
their Messiah, tells them that horrible things will happen to him, he will be killed and then rise. And last
in verse 35, the brothers of thunder, James and John, looking to the future, ask to be seated in glory
next to Jesus. They can’t even really comprehend what they’re asking, and I can’t imagine they could
handle knowing how the next few months of their life are going to play out anyway.
We are people of expectation, aren’t we? We make a vision of the future in our minds, mapping out
our day, our week, our life even. It can be helpful and wise to do that sort of thing. It helps prepare us
for things like an upcoming project or deadline, or even preparing dinner for your family. And God
encourages us to think ahead. In Luke 14:28, Jesus encourages people to consider the cost of following
him. Think about what is expected. But if you’ve lived for any length of time, especially through the
year 2020, you’ll know that expectations often don’t turn out the way we had planned.
In fact, sometimes I wonder whether it isn’t even good for us to know too far into the future.
Sometimes we’re not ready to handle the reality that lies ahead of us. For example, if you had told me
in March 2020 that the next two years of my life would be drastically different because of a global
pandemic, I might have wanted to just curl into the fetal position. I mean, I kind of wanted to anyway.
But here’s the thing. God’s kingdom seems to consistently turn things on their heads. No one of you
mature adults can enter unless he is like a child. God’s immense kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed. It
is incredibly difficult for the rich and seemingly righteous to enter. The first will be last and the last first.
In so many instances, God’s kingdom is completely upside down from our expectations. And that’s not a
bad thing; but it can be hard. It can feel unsafe to let go of your plans. It can feel disorienting to release
your expectations and pursue something completely opposite. But in so doing, we release control as
Lord over our own lives. We step down off of the throne of control. And if we’re following Jesus, we
install him there are leader of our life.
When James tells Jesus in verse 39 that he is able to drink the cup that Jesus drinks, he doesn’t realize
that the cup is martyrdom. I’m guessing he imagines it’s a rich cup of wine, not the bitter cup of
suffering and death that he will experience at the hand of Herod. I don’t think he can take it in just now.
But I’m also certain that when it comes time for James to drink that cup, he wouldn’t take back his vow
for a second. See, when we put Jesus on the throne to be Lord of our lives, he doesn’t guarantee
comfort, ease, or happiness. I’m pretty sure he knows full well the suffering you will encounter. Even
when our expectations aren’t met, Jesus has something far better for us, even when our road leads
through pain and heartache.
My encouragement to you today is this. Maybe your life doesn’t look like what you expected. Take
heart, even in the midst of wildly unmet expectations, Jesus is there with you and his plans work out
even through the darkest valley. His promises are sure. The eternity he has waiting for you is far better
than what you will experience in this brief life. And it’s possible that your suffering is an opportunity for
his glory to be displayed, either through your deliverance in this life, or your faithfulness and deliverance
in the life to come. So grieve your unmet expectations, it’s good to grieve them, so you can come to
terms with the present reality, and what Jesus has for you today. God loves you deeply and is entirely
good. His plans may be difficult, but the God of redemption has bigger plans than you could probably
imagine, so keep holding on, keep talking to God, he is faithful.
Would you pray with me? Lord, our lives are in your hands. Help us to trust you. Help us to believe in a
future that is good. We know that your steadfast love endures forever, let us live with open hands and
embrace what you have for us today. Amen.