Great Expectations!

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As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:15-22 [ESV]

Crucifix | Basilica of St. Ursula, Cologne, Germany | December 2021

Some months before Diane and I got married, the young girl in whose parents house Diane lived asked, “Can you wait for your wedding?” I suspect she had heard people say, “I can hardly wait” for Christmas, a birthday, or some other event. So she put the question in an odd way. Diane had no choice. And knowing human tendencies, she might have been quite able to wait. In fact, she had no choice. Neither did I. And while we could hardly wait there was an even greater expectation in Jesus’ day. The people were anxiously looking for the Messiah.

On that day more than 46 years ago, I would not have settled for anyone other than Diane. And she for me. We wanted each other. And when she walked down the aisle I was delighted…even though the  shoes that I had rented to go with my tux were killing my feet! She was definitely worth the wait!

So here’s John the Baptizer, calling people to repentance. And there was revival in the land. People were coming out to him – to the Jordan River – a journey of maybe 50 miles – depending on what route you take. There is a lot of excitement. Anticipation. Hope. Fervor. The Holy Spirit was at work. But so was the sinful flesh.

People must have been coming for the wrong reason. After all, John calls them a brood of vipers. But one thing they were set on was to correctly attach their hopes to the true Messiah. So they questioned in their hearts whether or not he was the Christ. Should they put their hopes in John? 

In a word, “no.” John was not the Christ, the Messiah. No, they should not put their hopes in him. But we should definitely not chide them for their anxious anticipation, nor their inner yearnings for this one to be The One. Nor should we be too down on them for attaching false hopes to the appearance, ministry, and reign and rule of the Messiah – the coming King. We do this too.

As wonderful as my beloved wife may be, she is not my Savior. Nor am I – by a long shot. We may help each other along the way, and keep each other pointed toward our true Savior. We may be good for each other. We may even have proper hopes for the blessings we each bring to the other. But we are neither one’s messiah. 

Some people will tout one political candidate over another as the savior of America, freedom, Democracy, or peace in our time. Others may yearn for the superstar doctor to attend to them when they’re ill. Still others long for a financial partner who will bail them out or solve all their retirement woes. Those may or may not be false hopes.

But we must be clear: Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Son of God is the True Messiah. He alone saves. Whoever points us to him is a great blessing and one to be appreciated. I hope I do this for you. But I’m not your Savior. Most all of you know that. All of you should. 

One more thing…let’s be clear on our expectations. We too easily settle for too little from our God. We too often underestimate our needs and God’s goodness and gifts. Let’s expect great things from God – truly great things. And let’s wait for him, whether we’re trying to conquer worry, loneliness, grief, illness, disappointment, or any sin that besets us. He’s not only worth the wait. He’s the only one who will fulfill the truly greatest of expectations. 

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