When I began teaching, I had some unrealistic expectations. I expected kids to sit quietly and learn, enthralled with every word that came out of my mouth. I expected amazing classroom discipline as kids began to realize the enjoyment of learning. I expected to make a difference in the lives of my students that was so amazing, they would never forget me. As you might guess, the reality didn’t quite live up to expectations. Kids struggled to learn, and when they did, quiet wasn’t always the best way to learn. I had discipline problems because I couldn’t instill the wonder of learning in every kid. Sometimes I wonder if I made any difference in the kids I taught. I knew of a few, but the rest – I still wonder.
Usually when reality doesn’t meet expectations, we’re disappointed. We expected more out of the situation – more out of life. The disciples had great expectations for Jesus. They recognized Him as Messiah and celebrated His entry into Jerusalem. Then, the reality of the crucifixion destroyed their hope. When they expected Jesus to be dead, He confounded their expectations once again and rose from the dead. Then, they expected Jesus once again to take on the mantle of the Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel’s place in the world. Jesus had a reality in store that was so much better. It took the disciples a while to recognize how much more His expectations were. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Kingdom of God was going to expand in a big way. Whereas before God only worked through His chosen people Israel, now there were going to be no restrictions on people developing a relationship with God through the forgiveness offered because of Jesus. The disciples expected Jesus to throw the Romans out and restore God’s Kingdom in Israel; Jesus offered them the reality of changing the whole world to bring them into the Kingdom of God. When they focused on Israel, Jesus sent them to the ends of the world. Usually when reality doesn’t meet expectations, it’s disappointing. In this case, though, the reality far exceeded the expectations. It took a while for the disciples to realize this call from God and sometimes they needed to be kick-started, but ultimately the disciples (learners) became apostles – spreading the gospel around the known world.
When we come to know Jesus, we often come because we recognize that God will forgive our sins, and we know we need that. The reality far exceeds the expectations, though, as God makes us ministers of His reconciliation with a world that needs His love and mercy. When we accept the free gift from God that brings us into a relationship with Him, not only are our sins forgiven, we begin to join in with the apostles who have proclaimed the forgiveness of God throughout the last 2000 years. We are changed and we begin to care about the needs of others. We are changed and we learn to forgive, even as we’ve been forgiven. (Ok, that one takes extra time.) We become less focused on our own needs and worry about caring for others. Instead of sitting in a cocoon of self-satisfaction because we have things right with God, we burst into the world as His ambassadors to proclaim the rule of God in the hearts and minds of all people who will turn to Him. We don’t get $2.00 worth of God, we get His full riches and begin to act with His heart for those who need to know of His love and mercy. So where are you today? Do you need His mercy and forgiveness for your sins – it’s there for the asking. Let Jesus come into your life and bring you that mercy. Are you a follower of Christ who hasn’t latched onto the message of the Kingdom of God? God continues to call you to action: follow Him and share His love with others. If you are already proclaiming the Kingdom of God to others, keep on doing it!
Oh Lord, I didn’t expect this much when I turned to You. I sought forgiveness and You made me a forgiver. Help me to show Your mercy and grace to people who need to know You as Your ambassador.