April 21, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles-Jesus

This morning we are starting a new message series called Overcoming Obstacles. We are going to be looking at some major Bible characters and the obstacles they overcame. Everyone of us faces obstacles throughout our lives…the challenge is to face them and overcome them. We learn through our own trial and error, but we can also learn by looking at the lives and examples of others.

This morning, being Palm Sunday and all, I thought I would start with Jesus. It might be hard for some of us to think of Jesus as having overcome any obstacle…he was God, wasn’t he? As God he should have been able to simply side step any challenges. But being fully human Jesus was subject to the same challenges and difficulties you and I face on a daily basis. The biggest of which was dealing with the expectations of others.

You and I face expectations all the time. We have expectations for ourselves and nearly every area of the world we enter has expectations for us…

There are expectations of law…it is expected that you won’t speed through a school zone…it is expected you won’t run red lights or drive away from an accident.

Your boss has expectations for you…that you will show up on time ready to work…that you will be honest about your hours…that you will work hard.

Your family has expectations that you provide for them…that you will love them.

When Bri was little, her pediatrician did all the standard weight and measurement things doctors are supposed to do. We were told Bri was normal weight and healthy, but she was above average in height and verbal skills. The doctor then warned us this could cause problem we needed to watch out for. Because she was taller and spoke more clearly teachers and other adults would automatically assume she was older and lay expectations on her she would be unable to fulfill because of her age and development.

Luckily Bri was just a brilliant child who never did anything wrong…

We all face expectations. But sometimes those expectations can become a burden…these are the expectations that no matter how hard you try…you just can’t live up to, and so they weight us down. And if you add in the weight of others failing to meet the expectations we have of them…we can enter this horrible cycle of disappointment that never seems to end.

And Jesus offers us some great insight into this area of expectation. See, Jesus failed to meet a lot of the expectations laid on him, and He failed to do so on purpose…

Jesus was not the Messiah people expected.
Today, Palm Sunday, really represents a day of broken expectations…
Mark 11:7-11 tells us 
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,“Hosanna!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people are shouting and cheering, they are welcoming a prophet who just might be the expected Messiah…and yet by the end of the week…they turn him over to the occupying Roman government and hang him from a cross.

I used to ask, “What could cause them to make such a dramatic shift?” Now, I know…Jesus didn’t meet their expectations….and nothing brings out the worst in someone than when their expectation are not met.

The Jewish people expected a Messiah to ride in on a white horse, vindicate all their suffering, and lead them to overthrow their Roman rulers…Jesus, however, rides in on a donkey, talks about another Kingdom, heals and feeds and cares for the poor and the hurting…but does nothing about the Romans. He isn’t talking about overthrow…he talks about loving your neighbor…he talks about turning the other cheek…this isn’t the Messiah they expected, and when those expectations aren’t fulfilled they want to crucify him. 

But they weren’t the only ones who felt betrayed by Jesus not fulfilling expectations…

Jesus was not the Messiah the Pharisees expected either.
If this man was going to be the Messiah, much less a prophet, the religious leaders of the day had some expectations. They expected him to conduct himself in a way that represented the Jewish faith well. They expected to be treated with respect. They expected him to socialize with the right kind of people. If you are a religious person you do certain things…and Jesus didn’t live up to their expectations.

Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.””

Jesus was expected to hang around with certain kinds of people…and he hung around with tax collectors and sinners. They were appalled that he would eat with these men and women who willfully sinned against God! 

The Pharisees knew their people had suffered much…been exiled…all because they had turned from God and committed sin. Now, this man who claimed to be a prophet and possibly even the Messiah was eating with the very people who caused God’s judgment to fall on them in the past.

In Matthew 12 Jesus has the audacity to heal a man…on the Sabbath! 

Matthew 12:11-14 says,
“He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”
Breaking the Sabbath was a serious offense. The OT Testament warns against those who break the sabbath…they even stoned a man for gathering wood for a fire. It is one of the 10 Commandments. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy!” And here Jesus is doing “work” on the sabbath. 

Again…Jesus does not live up to the expectations they have for him because any real prophet would live according to the commandments!

But let’s make this a little more personal…

Jesus was not the Messiah His disciples expected.
All those following Jesus had their expectations of who Jesus would be, what he would do, and how things were going to go…and He failed to meet those expectations too…

In John 6:26-27, Jesus feeds more than 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 small fish. When the people realize Jesus has slipped away they go looking for him, and Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 

They wanted him to be a miracle-worker! Best food program and medical offered by anyone! And Jesus refused to be the monkey dancing to their music…

It might be expected of the followers at large, but you would think those closest to him would be better informed and more understanding, but they weren’t. 

John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus and announced his arrival, had failed expectations.
Matthew 11:2-3 says, “When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Some see this as depression brought on by his time in prison, and that may be part of it. But I think it was blown expectations. John, the fiery preacher who dressed like an OT prophet and called people to repent of their sins, expected Jesus to bring the pain to the sinners…and Jesus was offering grace and forgiveness. John was looking for something else.

Even members of the 12, felt it too. I believe the primary reason Judas betrayed Jesus is because Jesus was supposed to bring a Kingdom, destroy the Romans, and set up the disciples as His leaders…and Jesus wasn’t doing that. So Judas, a man always looking for an opportunity felt it. He betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be killed because Jesus wasn’t living up to his expectations. 

Even after the resurrection and all they had seen…they still didn’t get it. Jesus is about to ascend into the heavenly realm and Acts 1:6 says, “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

They had expectations and Jesus wasn’t meeting them.

There were all these expectations swirling around Jesus on a regular basis and He refused to succumb to them…

We too have expectations of Jesus…and he refuses to be held to some of those expectations.

Jesus failed to live up to the expectations…he refused to live up to those expectations because

Jesus knew who he was made to be…
At Jesus’ baptism it says, Matthew 3:16-17, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 

Jesus knew God had a purpose for him and that he was loved by God. There may have been times he didn’t feel that love or closeness, but Jesus trusted in God’s purpose and love for Him, and that enabled him to push through the expectations others tried to lay on him.

For us this holds true as well.  Simply knowing God’s purpose for us and knowing He loves us can help us overcome an abundance of bad expectations. We are not looking to please other people…we are not looking to be meet their expectations. 

God has a purpose for you and you are loved beyond anything another human being can offer. I believe God says the same thing over us as He said about Jesus…This is my child, whom I love; and I am well pleased!”

This doesn’t mean there aren’t times when we are hurt by the expectations of others. We have all lost friendships and been hurt by family members and others at our church and at our work because of a failure to live up to expectations…we have all been there and will face them over and over again in our lives.

The challenge is to recognize them as faulty expectations and live whole-heartedly for the one who really matters.

Everyday I make a choice will I live up to the expectations others have of me or the ones God has for me…I don’t always do this well. Everyday I make the choice to allow the expectation based love others have for me dictate my actions or recognize that God loves me without condition…there are expectations He has for me, but they are they expectations based on a deep understanding of who I am and an infinite love fro me.

So often we live our lives trying to live up to the expectations of others…expecting others to live up to our expectations…and when people fail to live up to expectation then anger and frustration erupt.

We expect someone to act a certain way and they don’t so we get angry. They expect us to behave a certain way, and we don’t so they get angry. 

We even get angry when we fail to live up to our own expectations for ourselves. On Wednesday I watched as several of the kids in my class played basketball at lunch. One kid, who doesn’t shoot well, kept expecting himself to make these long shots from behind the 3-point line…and when he didn’t make them he got more and more frustrated. I could see him getting angry with himself for missing them even though there was no reason for him to expect that because he has never been a good shooter and especially not from that far away.

It isn’t that we should do away with expectations though…just that we should have a healthy view of them. 

Steve Jobs once said,
“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

I believe the same thing is true when we realize that God’s opinion is the one that matters…our identity is based in Him and not what others think…and our greatest sources of love comes from Him. When these are in order then we are able to appropriately manage the good and bad expectations of others and of ourself. 

It isn’t the expectations that are the problem…we all have expectations…the problem is when those expectations make us feel like less, make us fell less loved…and they are not expectations we are equipped to meet or called to live up to.

This morning you might be struggling with the obstacle of expectation. Others have laid expectations on you and you cannot possibly meet…maybe you have laid some expectations on others and there is no way they could possibly meet them. And today you need freedom from those expectations…

No comments:

Post a Comment