Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,
We definitely love being surprised – at least in some areas of our lives. At our birthdays for instance related to any presents we might receive. Or on the occasion of an invitation for an outing organized by friends who don’t yet reveal the ‘where and what’, when maybe the only hint we have is the kind of clothes we are asked to put on. We just love the thrill that comes with situations like these, and we seek more of these emotions in novels and movies as we follow the hero of the story along his or her journey.
However, there are aspects of our lives where surprises are less or not at all welcome. Especially, as we are living in a world where people aim to control everything from machines, to people, to even the weather. It’s hard to avoid being influenced by such a mindset and allow oneself to just let things go and see how they develop. After all, who wants to be accused of not having tried their best to arrive at a favorable outcome – no matter how ‘favorable’ might be defined?
Often then, our grip tightens and we put in a lot of effort to stay in control of situations in order to ensure that no surprises would threaten our desired goal. And in fairness, there are some areas where we probably shouldn’t. We’ve been given talents and responsibilities, and we definitely shouldn’t just bury those talents or take a ‘Laissez-Faire’ approach towards responsibilities entrusted to us. Sadly, the newspapers are full of stories were especially the latter went terribly wrong.
When it comes to relationships, things get even more complicated. Especially, when there are high hopes projected onto someone, or when there is a dependence or interdependence. The time of Easter, which we have just commemorated, and all the events that led to this historically, yes even cosmically relevant event, also bearsthe markings of surprise.
As Jesus revealed to His disciples more and more about the actual purpose of his presence on earth, His ministry, and His final journey up to Jerusalem, His followers were negatively surprised by what they heard. It was not in line at all with what they had expected or had been taught about who this potential Messiah would be.
Most of them walked away disappointed. Looking at the word ‘disappointed’, it’s interesting to see what happened. Firstly, it’s in the ‘passive’ so it’s something that happened to the disciples, i.e. something that Jesus did to them as he revealed more about Himself and His mission. The disciples walking on the road to Emmaus expressed this clearly as they, unknowingly, encounter Jesus. They tell him in Luke 24:21 “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
So, they were ‘dis-appointed’ because in their hearts and minds they had ‘appointed’ Jesus to be a redeemer of Israel. Someone who would be coming with might and power, as a new king, like David, victorious in worldly, political, and military matters.
But even before that, the disciples were surprised, if not terribly confused, by Jesus’s teachings, which ran counter not just to what they had hoped to see and hear from their Messiah. Counter also, compared to anyone in history who had spoken with such authority about the future of a people, a kingdom to come, and His own rolein all of that. Again, their surprise and confusion were based on their preconceived ideas about the person addressing them.
And us? What about us today, as we claim to be followers of this Jesus, this Messiah, this King of kings and Lord of lords? As we pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done’, do we know Him better now than these disciples then? Now, that we live ‘on the other side of the cross’? Now, that we can look back at 2000 years of Christianity? Now, that we have access to study the Word of God in ways unthinkable in the past?
Would we be still surprised if Jesus came back today? If we saw Him face to face, heard Him speak, establish His kingdom, rule the world? Would it be different from the way we encounter Him already now? From the way we hear Him speak through his word now? From the way he has established His kingdom in our hearts today? From the way He rules in our lives?
I have no doubt that all of us would fall on our faces, just like Daniel and John have, if we were to see Christwith our own eyes. However, despite the overpowering display of splendor, might, and glory, I hope and pray that we would still recognize Jesus by His just and loving nature, as He would be placing His right hand on us, saying: «Do not be afraid. It’s me.»
Grace and peace,