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When Jesus disappoints!

It is a common experience of mine. I have prayed. I have sought God's will. I know that which I seek is not grounded in selfish ambition. There is no doubt in my heart that my request is in the right place. In fact under close examination I sense there's even some common justice to it. And yet, God does not answer or even respond. I feel even ignored by the silence of God to the request.  Indeed, in fact if I am very honest God's response appears humanly irrational and not quite in line with how I have always understood His truth. This is my experience. And it is an experience that is best summed by one word : disappointment. Many times God has disappointed me. He has not quite fulfilled what I expected.

These disappointments are particularly hard when God seems to meet the needs of other people and he seems blind to my own. It seems in those moments, God is purposely turning a blind to my concerns. It turns out, that in fact, I am not the only one who feels this way sometimes. Andrew Peterson' expresses similar frustration in his song the "Silence of God"  :

It's enough to drive a man crazy /  It'll break a man's faith / It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane / When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod / And the heaven's only answer is the silence of God / It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart/ When he has to remember what broke him apart / This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not when the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God / And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob / Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got / When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross / Then what about the times when even followers get lost? / Because we all get lost sometimes

This frustration that God does not always do what I expect was also shared by the crowd of Jericho. St Luke in his gospel narrative tells us in Chapter 19 that Jesus had entered Jericho on a high note. He had just healed the blind man and people were praising God right left and centre. With the miracle the crowd increased and by the time he entered Jericho it had swelled to such an extent that a local bad guy named  Zacchaeus who wished to take a glimpse at this Jesus struggled to get a look in. Not deterred by his short height, he run ahead and climbed up into a tree so he can see Jesus when he passed that way. To his amazement, Jesus comes along and looks up into the tree, and there he sees Zacchaeus! Jesus befriends him and invites himself to stay at his house to Zacchaeus' joy! The famous Galilean has picked him ahead of everyone else!

But then St Luke records a deafening reaction of the crowd : And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” [Luke 19:7]. The crowd sees Jesus going to Zacchaeus's house and they're upset. The crowd is disappointed at Jesus's attitude and actions. This crowd which not too long ago was celebrating and praising God at Jesus healing the blind man before entering Jericho has now become disappointed with Jesus! It turns out Jesus has let them down because he is doing things that they don't expect. He has not met their expectations. This Jesus is not who they thought he was! But how can this be? Why this mismatch of expectations? The clue to this answer lies in their accusations.

They are disappointed that Jesus prioritises the local bad guy. Prior to entering Jericho Jesus had placed the blind and poor at the heart of his mission. But now he seems to prioritise this local rich and fraudulent tycoon. Jesus' priorities seem wrong in their eyes. Surely a real Messiah would have seen that this is the last person to prioritise? The local financial terrorist is a source of injustice and if the Messiah is seeking to bring in a new order of things, Zacchaeus must be far from him!  But theres's also something to this. Jesus appears to have shut them out! Notice what they say, "He has gone in". The issue is not just that Jesus is prioritising Zacchaeus, but that they are outside while Jesus seems to opt for the Ritz of Jericho! Jesus appears to be staying at a lavish household of a very rich man rather than being out on the streets with them. No doubt some of them would have had the sick and many other needs. Why is Jesus not attending to their needs? In short, Jesus's priorities are not their priorities. The result is disappointment. When my priorities are not those of Jesus, disappointment is inevitable. 

They are also disappointed that Jesus is sharing intimacy with a scum. They clearly have Jesus figured out for a man of integrity. After all Jesus not too long ago before coming to Jericho had just told the rich young ruler that he must live out the commandments by sharing his possession with the poor. Jesus didn't  relax his injunction despite his love for the young man. He was uncompromising. But now when he arrives in Jericho, it appears he goes "to be the guest of a man who is a sinner". In those days, eating in a person's home was a significant act. It signifies fellowship and acceptance. What Jesus is doing is saying in effect saying, "I accept Zacchaeus the local scoundrel and will share his shame". They must have wondered, has Jesus been enticed by the wealth ? Is he looking for funding for his Jerusalem expedition? Or may be he is just plain ignorant? What the crowd fails to realise is not only that Jesus is big enough for any shame we all carry, but that standing next Jesus the Righteous One, we are all scum of the earth just like Zacchaeus. In short, they are disappointed with Jesus because they overestimate their own righteousness.  When I don't see myself as Jesus seems me, the result will be disappointment. When I see myself as one needing His grace, each passing moment will be a moment of thanks and not disappointment!

Above all they are disappointed with Jesus because he is unpredictable. The crowd want a leader and saviour that they can control. Jesus is not like a modern Hollywood celebrity who lives a predictable lifestyle. She shows up, signs autographs and stays in the lavish hotel where all the paparazzi can see her so that she can make the papers the next day. Such a celebrity though fiercely pretends to be an independent spirit is in effect owned by the crowd. The crowd tastes dictate how she dresses and how she behaves. They have a symbiotic relationship. The crowd needs her, she needs them. They are in a mutually exploitative relationship. Jesus is not like that. Jesus is the Lord of the Universe. His mission is not to please the crowd. Jesus only has one thing on His mind - to do the will of him who sent him. God's will is the only thing that motivates Him. So we see that throughout he refuses to play to gallery to enhance His reputation.

The unpredictability of Jesus is the hardest thing that I have found in my Christian life. I want 2 x 2 to equal 4. Simple rules. But God is a person. He is interested in me getting to know him and enjoy him forever. I am interested in God dancing to my tune. For the Lord of the Universe to become my employee. My sinful heart has no problem with Jesus's power, as long as he prioritise me and does what I want. It is the ancient satanic temptation that seeks to supplant God and in his place erect myself as the lord of my universe. It is that which makes me disappointed in Jesus. At the root of my disappointment is a heart that worships itself.

The answer to my disappointment is to rediscover that not only is Jesus the One on the throne, but ultimately that he has a different mission to my own. Jesus only appears to disappoint because like the crowd, I don't fully understand his mission in my life and this world. And what is that mission? It is stated plainly three to the crowd three verses later :  "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). The crowd know that Zaccheus is lost, but they don't get that it is precisely for people who are lost that Jesus came for. So Jesus reminds them of his mission statement. He has come to call all sinners in every place that they may be found! Because they don't understand this they are unable to understand his actions. Jesus only disappoints me when I want my mission to become His mission. When I want him to focus on my needs rather than His desire. The antidote to disappointment is there to make Jesus' mission my own. That mission is magnified on Calvary! Where Jesus paid truly sought me and saved me by His precious blood! When the mission of Calvary is front and centre of my goals and aspiration I can never be disappointed in Jesus!

Sadly, Calvary is not always near my mind. Too often, I think much of myself and my own needs. Too often, I look down on others. Too often I see only condemnations in the sinners of this world. Too often I desire retribution. Too often I want Jesus to give me what I want instead of delighting that Jesus is blessing others.  But here is where I find something positive in the hypocritical crowd of Jericho. They grumbled and Jesus heard them. I think there's something in that. They did not bottle it in! They couldn't. Jesus does not condemn them for grumbling.

I believe God wants us to come to him with our disappoints in Him. Max Lucado agrees when he says, "underline this fact: God has never turned away the questions of a sincere searcher. Not Job's nor Abraham's nor Moses' nor John's nor Thomas's nor Max's nor yours...".  And Jim Andrews also observes that : "Far from impious, it is imperative to tell God how we feel so long as we confess our base emotions without approving them. We need to clear our inner decks of toxic emotional waste. Otherwise this debris will poison our spirits. No one should ever complain that there is no one to whom we can talk. No man is an island where God is. Who understands our infirmities better than he does? Who has more power to alter our circumstances and restore order than God Almighty?". 

In short the cross of Calvary makes all the defence. Perhaps then, it is appropriate that Andrew Peter does not end the song where we left. No he concludes  by pointing us to Gethsemane where my disappointment where fully shared and met by God himself :

There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll / In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold/ And He's kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone/ All His friends are sleeping and He's weeping all alone / And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot / What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought / So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God / The aching may remain, but the breaking does not / The aching may remain, but the breaking does not / In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

So my prayer then when I am disappointed must be that of Jennie Evelyn Hussey :

May I be willing, Lord, to bear / Daily my cross for Thee / Even Thy cup of grief to share / Thou hast borne all for me/ Fill me, O Lord, with Thy desire / For all that know not Thee / Then touch my lips with holy fire / To speak of Calvary / Lest I forget Gethsemane/ Lest I forget Thine agony/ Lest I forget Thy love for me / Lead me to Calvary.


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