In her book,Getting Involved with God, Ellen Davis recounts the story of a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor. They prayed fervently for her healing—and God answered. Only the healing was not for the brain tumor; her friend died fifteen months after her diagnosis. But she was healed from her crippling anxiety and sadness that had characterized most of her life. Sometimes God’s answers appear different from the questions we have asked.
Our reading for today examines what happens when God doesn’t seem to live up to the expectations we’ve set for Him. The Jews of Jesus’ day had clearly defined hopes for the Messiah, and so long as Jesus fulfilled these, they embraced Him and His message. As Jesus began to preach and teach and heal all throughout the region of Galilee, their adulation swelled. Their hopes of deliverance and redemption were embodied in this master teacher and miracle worker (v. 15).
Imagine their shock and disdain for His provocative words at the end of today’s reading. They had cast the hopes of the Jewish nation on Him, but He seemed to be implying that the Gentiles, not the Jews, would enjoy God’s favor. What had been worship turned into murderous rage. The expectations were shattered, and they determined to destroy the man responsible.
We know from other passages of Scripture that Jesus wasn’t denying that He had indeed come for the people of Israel (Luke 13:34). But it was also true that the misshapen expectations the Jews held of the Messiah and His kingdom would prevent many of them from embracing them. The Jews wanted a king. They wanted a winning team. They didn’t expect a crucified Jewish Messiah and a call to repentance. So, they rejected Jesus
We can be just as dense when it comes to understanding God’s kingdom. We each have our own pet expectations of Christ and what He should do for us. Because the concept of “kingdom” shapes what we pray for and how we expect God to answer, understanding it biblically is fundamental to our prayer lives.