This is the Record of John
It’s odd to call the bible “funny,” but stories like the one told through this song do tend to make me chuckle a bit. I love that between the bindings of this sacred book, amidst profound proverbs, mystical miracles, and puzzling parables we see so many instances where people are just straight up wrong.
In John 1:19-28, the Levites and Pharisees immediately assume John the Baptist to be Elijah, the Messiah, or a prophet.
In Matthew 2, we see how Herod fears Jesus as a competing earthly emperor, and tries to have the Christchild killed.
In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asks Peter who people say He is, and Peter’s answer is “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
What strikes me about all of these wrong answers is how they all reflect the same idea: we tend to measure the future by the metrics of the past.
The Levites and Pharisees assume John the Baptist is either a reborn Prophet of old, or the Messiah himself.
Herod lives in a world of leadership through force. That’s all he’s ever known, and so he assumes (along with most of the Jews, to be fair) that the Christchild has come to build armies and create an empire like all leaders before him.
People of His time assumed Jesus was a reincarnated prophet, because the expectations they had of Christ didn’t line up with this hippie, hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors.
Expectations are fickle friends. They can align you with good ideas and outcomes and help you prepare for them, and they can be blinding as well. Expectations can make you reticent to accept that good which didn’t fit into your perfect version of the world, or even turn them down.
Can you imagine the gospel with an emperor Christ? What would that look like? Would a Christ who tore down empires and waged wars against the nations be as beautiful as the Jesus we now know through the gospel?
Perhaps the most harmful expectations are the ones we place on ourselves. Whether it is an ideal weight, a financial goal, or spiritual growth, the same goals that move us forward can, when held too tightly, preclude us from reveling in the joy of where we are now. These are all good goals, but when we have decided where the road leads us before we are there, we often set ourselves up for discontent.
As Langston Hughes wrote, “Hold fast to dreams,” but not so tightly that you squeeze the joy out of God’s inevitable detours.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church