Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Lent: On the Way to the Cross 2

Expectations. We all have them. Expectations can control us; they usually shape us. What are our expectations? Lent can transform our expectations. Consider Mary and Peter as their expectations were transformed.
Since I was a little guy I’ve heard that when Jesus asked Peter who he (Jesus) was, Peter blurted out “Messiah!” But no sooner than he had those words out of his mouth and Jesus was already revealing to Peter that he (Jesus) would be the kind of Messiah who would be crucified. No sooner than Jesus had those words out of his own mouth and Peter was giving the Lord a few instructions on what Messiahs were like — the one thing clear in his mind was that he expected the Messiah to reign on a throne not from a cross.
Where do we learn that these were Peter’s expectations? From the Jewish world. I would suggest to you that Mary herself is a good source for the same expectations. Only this time we don’t have to rummage through all kinds of sources and documents. Instead, we can go straight to Luke chapter one.
Here are Mary’s words:

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called* the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Gabriel tells her that she is (1) highly favored, (2) that the Lord is with her, (3) her son’s name would be Yehoshua/Jesus — Joshua evokes Land promises, (4) he will be Son of the Most High God, (5) that he will rule on the throne of David, and (6) will reign forever. [That is, her expectations were for a restored community of faith, Israel.]
Talk about hope coming true. Mary’s expectations give legs to Peter’s expectations. Peter, with his brother Andrew, followers of John the Baptist, met Jesus early on — John 1:40-42 — and heard from his brother that Jesus was the Messiah. And that he would be given a special role as “Rock.”
Expectations. Mary expected her son to be Messiah, ruler from the throne in Jerusalem — forever. Peter expected to be somebody special because Jesus was the Messiah.
Neither of them knew at this point that their expectation for what the Messiah would be would undergo one of the most serious reversals history could ever know. A throne would be transformed into a cross.
What are our expectations today? Are they shaped by the cross or by the throne? Do we expect to rule or to serve? [What are the expectations for our churches and communities of faith? Do we expect to grow and become prestigious?]
Let us walk with Mary and with Peter — if we follow them we will end up at the cross.

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Ted Gossard

posted February 26, 2007 at 6:41 am

Thanks, Scot. We truly need this reminder to shape our thinking and our lives. It’s all about following Jesus. But what does that mean? Pretty clear, if we stay in the gospels, and keep poring over them.

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chris jones

posted February 26, 2007 at 7:03 am

do we apply your insights to our personal lives only? i mean, should our communal lives exhibit the cross also?

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Scot McKnight

posted February 26, 2007 at 7:23 am

Good question … one that will emerge forcibly in the life of Mary. The community element is in Mary’s mind with Messiah but that community element will be transformed.
But, I confess to focusing here on individuals. It could easily be expanded and so I added a question in brackets thanks to your comment.

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posted February 26, 2007 at 9:55 am

Thanks for flagging expectations. They’re huge today and sometimes seem to control our perspectives. We expect that God will take care of everything and it will all go well – so I guess it’s more throne than cross. Sometimes in the “not yet” things don’t go the way we might wish. Expectations appear to drive our faith rather than being a product of it. And when that happens we may be holding God hostage – meet our expectations or else.
On individuals, communities and churches. When we’re following in the footsteps of the crucified and risen One, I think, our expectations will fall into their appropriate place.

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posted February 26, 2007 at 3:12 pm

I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Any where in the Bible do you see the disciple of Jesus practicing lent? Jesus giving the command to do lent for 40 days before the cross? Where in the Bible do you see authority for lent? Fat tuesday is a day of abusing the grace of God. Romans 6:1-ff Paul says shall we sin that grace may increase by no means we have left that old way of life. Romans 12:1-2 tells us to be living sacrfices not just for 40 days but 365 days a year. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow him. Christianity is 24/7. We are saved by grace. Lent is it not a work? Eph. 2:9 tells us that we are saved by grace not works that we can boast. Grace. How wonderful is that grace that we have been given. We can’t earn it. We can’t Lent to get it. It is a gift of God paid at the highest price the blood of Jesus Christ. So tell me if you can where fat tuesday, lent is in the spoken of by Jesus and mentioned in the Bible.

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Scot McKnight

posted February 26, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Wow, preacherman, you grabbed your pulpit there. Lent is obviously not taught in the Bible, but a precursor is: Day of Atonement. It was a day when Israel was to afflict itself and not work. Lent is a Christian adaptation of that.

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posted February 26, 2007 at 5:37 pm

The Day of Atonment is under the law of the Old Testament Jesus tells us that he has come to complete the law. Romans talks about that we are now under the law but under the law of grace. Going back to Eph. 2 would not lent be works? We are saved by grace through faith. I think as Christians we should understand that their is nothing that we can give up or atone for 40 days in order to recieve the grace of God. It is a gift of God. So if Jesus came to came to complete the law and we are now under the law of grace does it make any sense at all to lent?

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posted February 26, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Lent is not about earning your salvation or anything of the sort. It looks to Christ’s own period of 40 days of fasting as its guide. Ask yourself, what purpose that time serve for Christ and you might start to discover the meaning of Lent.
No one is under the illusion that giving up chocolate for 40 days or some other cultural lenten practice like that earns them a place in Heaven.

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A Different Karen

posted February 26, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Thanks, Scot. I hadn’t realized what image of Messiah Mary would have had in her head and how justified she was to have the image. I guess I always thought she suspected he’d have to die. As a mother too I wonder what must she have gone through to see all her high hopes and the future of her son change like that? When was it that she began to understand and how did her heart struggle to submit to God? How I wish the Bible had preserved more of her story for us!

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Scot McKnight

posted February 26, 2007 at 10:22 pm

I think Simeon’s sword opened her eyes to some dark realities, but I’m not sure how much of that she comprehended. As with the others, it took her some time.

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