Expectancy for Expectations
[Pastor Elizabeth is on vacation and asked Travis Rogers, Jr. to serve as guest speaker for this week]
2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to [Elisha,] the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
First, the author is clearly not writing to the Jewish community, as Matthew’s Gospel had done. Because verse four reads: “Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.” No Jewish person needed to be told what the Passover was, it was a part of their lives since the day they were born.
Second, John follows up on a theme from the Gospel According to Mark from our texts two weeks ago. That was where the people had heard about the works of Jesus and they were convinced that it was a prophet of old. Herod was sure that it was John the Baptizer back from the dead. In other words, everyone expected something they had already known or experienced.
It was out of their range to expect something new. Their expectations were set in stone. Literally.
When Jesus fed the 5000 in John, chapter 6, the people immediately thought of the prophet Elisha from the Second Kings story. The people were looking for signs and wonders. They were looking for their conditions to be changed. They never expected their hearts to be changed.
We also bring a set of expectations into our Christian lives. We pray our sorcery prayers wherein we ask God to change our situation, to change what is happening to us. CS Lewis said, “I don’t pray to change God. I pray to change me.”
And yet, we pray for God to change this or that. Even Jesus prayed, “I don’t want this cup of suffering but change me to accept your will.” One philosopher said, “Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
When Paul said that we need a renewing of our minds, he was including our will, our expectations. In fact, we need to remove our sense of expectation.
The poet Langston Hughes wrote:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Look at what happened to the expectations, the dreams, of the people of Jerusalem when their expectations/dreams were deferred? They expected Jesus to be the military Messiah who would overthrow the Roman occupation and liberate Judea from Rome. After all, the name Jesus means liberation. Their expectations were of their own design, wanting their situation to change but never wanting themselves to change.
When the expectations, the dream, was deferred…it exploded. The same people who called on Jesus to save them—Hosanna means save us—were the same people who said, “Crucify him!”
Expectations are a set of things we wish to come true, hope to come true, pray to come true. And it is always based on our calculations of what we need or want. When I married Nicole, I told her that I have no expectations.
But I have great expectancy.
What is expectancy but the hopeful and cheerful anticipation of something wonderful happening. It is not a wish list—it is a life of optimism and assurance that God does all things well.
The people following Jesus around the Sea of Galilee expected healing of the sick and wondrous signs to be done by Jesus. They expected Jesus to act like the prophets of old. But they had no expectancy of something even greater. They expected their wounds and deformities to be healed. They expected their stomachs to be filled. But they never expected the wounds of their hearts to be healed or the longings of their Spirit to be satisfied. Their expectations killed their expectancy.
Jesus came to feed them with his teachings but they wanted bread and fish. When Jesus had fed the multitude, they refused to see him as anything but a prophet. Later on, when crowds were gathering around Jesus, he sadly described them as only following for the loaves that had given them their fill. He then goes on to say, “Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life.”
How sad they were, how sad we are, when the stuff of this life is all that matters. When our expectations are set so low, we have no joy of expectancy.
Expectancy requires trust. We simply trust that God has our best interests in mind. We keep in mind the words of the Lord to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:11—“I know the plans I have for you, plans for your well-being and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Faith in God’s faithfulness for our good and not our harm is the stuff of hopeful expectancy.
Or you can just eat the lefse and the lutefisk.
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