I can’t say with certainty what kind of Messiah the Jewish people were waiting for two thousand years ago. However, I’m fairly sure that Jesus was not it.
I imagine that many were waiting for a powerful king. A revolutionary. A fiery-tongued savior with a sword in his hand.
What they got was a carpenter from Nazareth who spent his time with the wrong sort of people.
I’m sure that if any of the disciples had been told before meeting Jesus that their Messiah would turn out to be a local carpenter who turned the other cheek, they would have been disappointed. What about the glorious daydream they’d worked up during the long years of their wait? Why couldn’t God do it that way? What kind of promised-kept was this?
And yet, I doubt that any of those men felt disappointed as they began to preach after Pentecost. I think they would have said that the Jesus-who-is far outshines the small revolutionary of their earlier imaginings. By then, they could see reality with God’s own eyes, like Stephen, who “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
God’s plans often surprise us. It seems they rarely play out exactly as we’ve pictured. And yet, I do not think it is a matter of trading our beautiful hopes for God’s slightly-less-exciting version. Ultimately, this life is not about the sacrifices we make for God. It’s about God’s unbelievably good love for us.
Accepting God’s version may sometimes look like settling for less, but it is always, always more. It is always better.
Jesus was and is the ideal Messiah. A king and a servant. A lion and a lamb.
God has long been writing the perfect story. In the world. In our lives. At Advent we remember how good the story is. We also remember that we haven’t even made it to the ending yet. The villain has not yet been vanquished.
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
The world’s happily-ever-after is not yet here, but it is breaking in. Can you see it?