Disappointment with Jesus
In Luke 24 we’re introduced to Cleopus and a companion, perhaps his wife, who are making the seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They’ve been in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and what they witnessed there has not only broken their hearts, it has shattered their hopes.
And they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:14–21)
They had hoped that he was the one—the one that the Scriptures had promised and pointed to—the one they had been waiting for. But they had seen him condemned and crucified, dead and buried. And all of their hopes were buried with him. But then some women in their group reported that he was alive. And sure enough, those who went to the tomb found it empty.
These disappointed followers couldn’t make sense of it. They expected Israel’s redeemer to be crowned with glory in Jerusalem, not crowned with thorns outside Jerusalem. They expected him to throw out the Romans, not be crucified by the Romans. They expected that he would improve their lives, not lose his life. They had seen Jesus’s miracles of healing. They had seen his exercise of authority over nature and the demonic realm. They had taken to heart all of his talk of the kingdom of God and they were ready for his kingdom to come, his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
As Jesus walked with these two who didn’t recognize him, he questioned the shape their expectations had taken saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25) Then Luke tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Jesus showed them from Genesis and Exodus, from Job and Psalms, from Isaiah and Jeremiah, that if they had understood the pictures and the patterns, the promises and prophecies, they would have known that the Messiah would suffer to accomplish their redemption. They wanted the redemption without the rejection, the saving without the suffering, the glory without the humiliation. They had in mind who they wanted Jesus to be, what they wanted him to accomplish in their world and in their lives, and their own timetable for it to be accomplished.
And I get that. Because sometimes I do too. Sometimes we, too, end up disappointed with Jesus because we want the miracle, the answer, the reconciliation, the restoration, the healing right now. We don’t really want to wait for God to work out his salvation plan over the course of a lengthy historical process. We want everything he has promised right now. We don’t want to wait.
All the kingdom of God is promised to be—with its perfect justice, abundant provision, complete security, pervasive healing under the righteous rule of a good king—we want that now. We’ve had enough of the kingdom of the world and its ways of injustice and oppression, famine and need, violence and fear, disease and death, tyranny and tyrants. We look around and sometimes wonder, Lord, what are you waiting for? We’re still praying, “May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we want to add: “Now would be good.”
But trusting God not only means trusting that he will fulfill his promises. It means trusting that he will fulfill his promises in his timing, and that his timing is perfect. Our perspectives are limited; his isn’t. Our wisdom is limited; his isn’t. Our patience is limited; his isn’t. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9). He has a plan and he is working out that plan in his perfect timing. In that perfect plan, all who are joined to Christ are experiencing all that he has promised in part now and trusting him for the rest later. We’re waiting for him to come again, and when he does, all of his promises will be completely and finally and gloriously fulfilled.
What do we have now? “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:7–10).
The Anticipation that Wakes You Up
So let me ask you: What are you waiting for? What anticipation keeps getting you up in the morning? What is the fuel that drives your hopes as you look into the future? And is it really worth waiting for? Is what your hopes are set on really worth your investment of so much anticipation?
Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, Cleopas and his companion show us what—or more accurately, who—is worth waiting for, watching for, praying for, hoping for. And as you see him, perhaps you recognize that there needs to be a readjustment in your life, a re-ordering of desires and dreams in your life. The only way you or I can begin to desire lesser things less and less, and to desire greater things—the greatest person—more and more, is to do what these saints in the story of Jesus did.
Like Mary and Joseph, we have to see our need for, and esteem God’s provision for, our cleansing—a sacrifice to pay for our sins. As we do, we’ll treasure Jesus as the once-for-all, all-sufficient sacrifice we have waited for.
But trusting God not only means trusting that he will fulfill his promises. It means trusting that he will fulfill his promises in his timing, and that his timing is perfect.
Like Simeon and Anna, we need the Scriptures to produce and shape in us a longing for Christ to come again to bring his promised salvation to its full fruition. We need the Holy Spirit to work in us a devotion, a willingness to deny ourselves, a commitment to pray for God to bring to consummation his restoration of all things through Christ. We need the Holy Spirit to implant in us a longing to see his gospel made clear and compelling to people from every nation so that we become willing to sacrifice to that end, perhaps even give ourselves to that end. Otherwise, we’ll simply set our hearts on lesser things—like our next vacation, or getting the better house, or getting our kids through school, or getting to retirement age. What a bore. What triviality. But it’s where our hearts go without something greater to long for, to pray for, to give ourselves to, to sacrifice for, to wait for.
Like Cleopas and his companion, we need to center our expectations of Jesus on his suffering and glory, not simply on how we can get him to accomplish our shortsighted, short-term salvations. We need the Scriptures to shape our understanding of why Jesus came the first time—and what he will do when he comes again—so that our hearts will burn within us. We need what is to come—when we hear the loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, I am making all things new!”—to shape our fondest anticipations, so that our waiting becomes worthwhile, so that our waiting becomes worship.
My friend, don’t waste your waiting. Learn while you wait. Serve while you wait. Love while you wait. Give while you wait. Pray while you wait. Imagine as you wait. Believe as you wait. Be willing to suffer as you wait. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
Don’t fill these waiting years with worry, with complaining, with demanding now what God has reserved for later. God has too much goodness in store for you to squeeze it into the number of years that he gives you in this life. His plan is to give you far more than you could ask or imagine for all eternity. You may feel some disappointment during this lifetime, but you will not ultimately be disappointed by being willing to wait for everything God has promised to be delivered to you beyond this lifetime.
Let’s be people who genuinely live by faith, people who are so convinced that Jesus will provide everything we truly need and that he will be all that we deeply desire, so that can stop demanding so much from this age and this world. Lets anchor all of our fondest hopes in the age to come, in the world to come, in our Savior who is coming. And let’s be willing to wait—to wait patiently, wait expectantly, wait eagerly, believing that, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).
Nancy Guthrie is the author of Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus.
Turn to the Lord in prayer and in his word during times of despair and discouragement. He is near and read to defend, protect, and preserve those he loves.
Father in heaven, in spite of all our uncertainties and all our embattled anxieties and all our discomfort, we say, great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.
This gospel meditation by Paul David Tripp encourages us to turn to Christ in our hardships, taking even our most difficult moments to him.
In the midst of Nancy Guthrie's incredible pain, God was at work.