Our society has “progressed” to a point where we expect everything to be bigger and grander all the time. If it is not big enough and grand enough it is deemed “boring.” As I thought about this and considered examples, one of the first things that came to my mind was the Super Bowl half-time shows. From the first Super Bowl in 1967 through 1990 the entertainment was primarily college marching bands, high school drill teams, inspirational groups such as Up With People and Tops In Blue. There would be the rare appearances by a known entertainers like Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams and Mickey Rooney; and, if you know anything about those stars at all, I am sure you can imagine what their entertainment was like. In 1993 the featured star was Michael Jackson – with no marching band or drill team. From then forward it was a race to bring bigger names and more extravagant shows, with very rare appearances of those marching bands, etc. The shows morphed into productions that have gotten more outlandish and risqué. They have gone from the expected family-friendly exhibitions that anyone and everyone could enjoy to the unexpected shows filled with vulgar exhibitionists and you have to send children from the room!
But then I thought about it for a while and had to wonder if our Biblical forefathers were that different from us today. For example, the prophets had spoken for many years about the coming of a Messiah – a king for the Jewish people. Yet as the Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi, you find the people of Israel still living in violation of the laws that had been given to them; and, they were probably discouraged because they saw no sign of their mighty warrior king arriving to save them. They chose to ignore the many miracles and the fulfillment of every promise made by God up to that time and failed to believe that those prophets spoke truth. “Although comfortable retrospect might chide the Jews for their lack of faith, it is easy to understand their true discouragement. Others in later centuries – Jew and non-Jew alike – whose primary focus is on a physical rather than a spiritual kingdom, or the coming of the end when they mistakenly expect it, will suffer the same disillusionment. And saddest of all, when the Messiah finally does come, he will be so unlike the Jews’ preconceived image of him that most of them will not even recognize him.” * They were looking for something bigger, grander and more extravagant.
But, it happened. A child named Jesus is born – His mother Mary, a very young woman that miraculously conceived a child while still a virgin and His father Joseph was a simple carpenter. Mary and Joseph probably were not unlike most other young couples of that day. However, their child was born in a barn, with only barn animals as witnesses. The baby was then placed in a manger – a feed trough for those barn animals. That is certainly not what you would expect for the birth of a Messiah – a King.
It is likely that Jesus’ childhood was normal for young boys of that day. He ran and played and began learning the trade of his father – all the things that you would expect. But at the age of 12 we have something unexpected. He and his parents along with many others had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. When their caravan left to return home, unbeknownst to his parents, he was left behind. Discovering him missing Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem in search of him. They found him, probably at least 5 days later and he was sitting in the temple discussing deep scriptural issues with religious teachers. In Luke 2:47-49 (NLT) it says “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. ‘Son,’ his mother said to him, ‘why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.’ ‘But why did you need to search?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they didn’t understand what he meant.” I would say that entire episode was unexpected in so many ways; and, I suspect that the next 18 years of His life were filled with many more unexpected things as well.
At approximately 30 years of age Jesus’ life changed forever. He began to teach and preach and recruited a group of men to help him with His ministry. He began to perform miracles and gained more believers and followers. Who would have ever expected a humble carpenter to have such capabilities?
Story after story in the Bible relay facts to us that are totally unexpected. Some of the better known are how Abraham at age 100 and his wife Sarah at the age of 90 unexpectedly have a child. Moses was 80 years old and apparently had a speech impediment when he was unexpectedly sent by God into Egypt to save the Israelites. David was between 16-19 years of age when he witnessed the soldiers of Saul too fearful to stand up against a 9’6” tall seasoned Philistine fighter that daily maligned them and their God. But he unexpectedly stepped up and stepped out armed with only a sling and some stones and killed Goliath. Jesus sat alone by a well, having sent His disciples away for supplies. So what does He do? He unexpectedly reaches out for help from a woman, but not just any woman, a Samaritan woman. (The Samaritans were a group of people with which the Jewish people did not associate.) He revealed Himself to her as the Messiah and she spread the word resulting in many Samaritans coming to believe in Him.
After about 3 years, His ministry here on earth was coming to an end and He had fulfilled prophesy after prophesy; but, the final and grandest fulfillment of all was soon to be completed. He was to make His triumphant entrance as the King of the Jews into Jerusalem. Did He arrive on a big, beautiful white horse? Was He in a big, powerfully built chariot? Those are how you might expect such a King to present Himself. But instead, his arrival was on a donkey – actually a donkey’s colt. How unexpected was that?
The lessons we need to learn from all this is that “…God frequently fulfills His promises in unexpected ways.” ** We need to “expect God to fulfill His promises, but don’t make the mistake of forming expectations for exactly how He’ll do it.” ***
“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.” Zechariah 9:9 NLT
“…God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 NLT
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’” 1 Corinthians 3:19 NLT
Written by Karran Martin – October 22, 2019
*Page 1338, F. LaGard Smith, The Narrated Bible
** & ***Page 294, Chris Tiegreen, The One Year Devotional – Worship The King