As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. ”This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ”From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. ”For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
During the time that Wenda and I lived in Memphis we took in an annual conference in Nashville at Christ Church. During one of those conferences, at about four o’clock one afternoon several policemen showed up in cars and on motorcycles. They were there to direct traffic, and from about five o’clock until service time they were desperately needed. Not even standing room was available that night. About twenty minutes into the service the mystery was revealed. Ushered to the platform from a side door was Robert Schuler.
I will never forget his opening words to that packed assembly: “I know what I am here for. Now, let me ask you, What are you here for?”
I cannot explain to you what happened at that very moment. It was as if the corporate breath went out of that congregation and they were left speechless.
Long before Robert Schuler, Someone greater than us all asked that all important question. I read the account of that this morning. In a series of three verses, Christ asked the same question three times: “What did you go out to see?”
When we read the gospel records of the life of Christ, I think we can pretty much conclude that none of His words were idol words. All of His words were spoken out of purpose, on purpose and carried purpose. That being said, how important must the purpose be in these words given the fact that He spoke them three times?
The first thing I would ask you to notice is what the question isn’t. The question does not begin with ‘why’ but with ‘what’. He did not ask; Why did you go out? The line may be a bit thin here but it’s a line we need to note. A “why question” would address the issue of motive. But a “what question” addresses something different. A “what question” addresses the issue of expectation.
This morning I want us to take a very honest look at this whole issue of expectation. In approaching this I will try to keep myself disciplined by following this structure: First – What is an expectation? Second - Who has expectations? Third – What are they based upon? Four – What is the danger of them?
Let me begin by defining the word. It would require a very large slide to contain the full definition of the word ‘expect’ along with the related forms of the word. What will appear in the slide is what is at the core of all expectation; and here it is: “Tosuppose, think ; to consider probable or certain.” Another key word that comes up in the definition is ‘belief’.
Take all of this to the question Christ asked and it looks like this: ‘When you went out into the wilderness, what was the set supposition, the set thought, the considered probability andcertainty – the set belief of your heart?’
John the Baptist had an incredible number of people come into the wilderness to see him. In fact they came from all over Judea and beyond. Many writers have suggested that there was upwards of one million converts who were baptized under John’s baptism. Every one of those people – along with all who came and left without being baptized – made a journey. That journey was from wherever they were to the place John was.
In keeping with the story, Christ is simply saying this: Every one of you left where you were and made the journey to where John was because of a particular or certain expectation of heart. And all of us in this house this morning need to understand and accept the same truth regarding the moves we have made and the journeys we have engaged in throughout our lives. We go through life carrying particular expectations. And when we come into a new setting – be it relationships, be it new opportunities, or be it new environments of various natures – guess what comes with us??? Expectations!
We should now understand what the core reality of an expectation consist of. Beyond that, I have touched upon the second point in my intended structure: – Who has expectations? The answer quite simply is that we all have expectations of one kind or another. I have had people tell me that they have learned to never have expectations because every time you do you will get hurt. So let me ask you – what is the expectation in that confession? And the answer is, they expect that they are always going to get hurt.
Others may put it this way – and usually when they go here they are quite passionate – “I expect absolutely nothing.” All that means is that your expectation is nothing, and even nothing is an expectation. The point is this: Whether you are expecting the entire world, or expecting absolutely nothing we all have expectations.
Understanding what an expectation is and understanding that we all have them, we now come to the third point of the message: What are they based upon? To state this differently, what is it that forms our expectations?
As you might appreciate, to fully answer this question would require a great deal of time and research. I do not want to be overly simplistic in this, but given our time reality and reflecting some of my research I feel confident that our expectations have been formed by all the raw data that has touched and come into our souls over the course of the experience of life. All that has been imposed upon us and all we have imposed upon ourselves; the choices that were made for us and the choices we have since made ourselves; all that has poured into our souls through our sensory realm – all of that is shaping our expectations.
Take that back to our definition of the word expect or expectation and agree with me thatsomething has shaped our suppositions, our set thought or mindset; something has created and built what wenow consider to be probable or certain: something has shaped your setbelief. That ‘something’ has been and is all the dynamics, details and components that make up the sum of your experience. This involves everything from attitudes, to words, to behaviours.
We come now to the final consideration of this message, which is this: What is the danger of expectations? I think it is obvious why this question becomes critically vital. I think it is obvious why Christ felt compelled to ask this same question three times: “What did you go out to see?”
The point is this: What you went out to see is going colour, define and interpret everything you see once you get out there. That is the unhealthy reality of firmly set expectations. This sets us up for all kinds of negative consequences. The truth is, life rarely if ever fully meets our expectations. When it doesn’t we discover all kinds of negative reactions such as anger, resentment, bitterness; we resort to blame and accusation. Failed expectations lead to disappointment and disillusionment. And often the response to this is bailing out of the relationship and/or fleeing to a new environment. And the cycle starts all over again because you carry those same expectations into your new relationships and new environments.
Let me ask a couple of questions: Are you a critical person? By that I mean this – Do you first see what is right in an environment, or do you first see what is wrong? When your child brought home the report card with an ‘A’, did you see what was there, or did you see only what wasn’t there- an ‘A+’?
The second question is this: Are you easily and quickly offended? By that I mean are you always stumbling over people?
When we find ourselves in this place of being critical or easily offended – and let me just say that we all have our times with these issues – but when we are there we tend to look outward and conclude this: If someone would just wipe that black mark off the new gym floor I would not be a critical person; and if that person who offends me all the time would just change I would no longer be a person who is easily offended. In other words our view is that we are stumbling over things in our environment – and/or we are stumbling over people in our relationships.
Vital Question: Is it possible that what we are actually stumbling over are the set expectations we have regarding our environment and the people in our relationship circles? If so, then my personal healing begins not with environmental changes nor relationship changes – my healing begins with relinquishing my expectations to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This was not included as part of the original structure but let me finish with one more question: How did Jesus address the issue of their expectations?
From verse 9 through verse 14 Jesus told them exactly who John was, what his purpose was, and where he fit in the unfolding purposes of the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus told them the absolute truth concerning the one they went out to see. And that is the critical point in all of this: When the truth of the word and life of Christ collides with my expectation the best decision I can make is to surrender my expectation to His revealed truth.
That is what these words in verse 14 are all about: ‘And if you are willing to accept it…’ That is the issue at the end of the day – when His truth contradicts my expectations, when His will calls me into realities outside of my expectations; when His purpose positions me in relationships I was not expecting – will I release my expectations to His truth?
And then comes the final word in all of this; verse 15: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” You cannot separate your expectations from your ears – from what you listen to. And we are either listening to the voice of personal, subjective experience and all the factors that have shaped it, or we are listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He reveals Biblical truth. Determine where your ears are and you will determine what is shaping your expectations.