Summary: Tell me about your expectations – especially of people – and I will tell you about the disappointment in your life. Tell me about the details you expect to be fulfilled in your life, and I will tell you about the discontentment that you live with.
The Disappointment and Discontentment of Expectations
Tell me about your expectations – especially of people – and I will tell you about the disappointment in your life. Tell me about the details you expect to be fulfilled in your life, and I will tell you about the discontentment that you live with.
Your expectations are like your ceiling – people can jump up and touch them from time to time and they can wear themselves out trying to reach them as often as they can, but no one can live there.
The greater your expectations and the greater the detail of those expectations, the greater the disappointment in your life. And, the more you experience disappointment in your life, the greater the sense of discontentment you will also have in your life.
Think back for a moment to some great expectation you had in of someone in your life that didn’t come to true. Got one in mind? How big was that let down? How fresh is the hurt, the disappointment, the disillusionment, the discontentment?
Dennis Wholey, who hosted the popular PBS-TV series LateNight America, said this: “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”
Would you agree with that statement? Why is it, do you think, that we put such great expectations on situations and on people – expectations that we ourselves cannot live up to – and then get so offended and so angry and unforgiving and bitter when we are let down?
It goes back, I believe, to that old sin problem that cropped up back there in the Garden of Eden – the desire to be worshiped and the idea that we are worthy of it. That desire – inbred in us through our humanity and fed by us through our own self-seeking choices – puts us in the place of worshiping the “I” god. That in turn puts us in the place of us putting ourselves in God’s place – in our lives and in the lives of others.
That brings us to our text for today, Matthew 16:1-12. Let’s back up and start at 15:37, so we can flow into the text for today. Our friends the Sadducees and the Pharisees have returned, and they are more abrasively confrontive to Jesus than they have been in the past. We can feel the tension mount ever higher as the end for which Christ came draws nearer.
What does it take for adversaries to lay down their opposition to each other and unite instead?
Why, another adversary in common, of course.
The Sadducees and the Pharisees, while both being very much in the leadership of their nation and were strict adherents to the Law of Moses, stood very much opposed to each other on a number of key issues. Acts 23:6-9, tells us not only what those points were but also how Paul used that opposition to his advantage: “But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’ As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, "We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?’”
Though there is a strong dissent between them, they are united in their opposition to Jesus. Why are they so opposed to Him? Why has He become their adversary? Several reasons, actually.
First, in regards to the Sadducees, because He consistently demonstrated and taught that there is a resurrection of the dead and there are angels and spirits. Second, in regards to the Pharisees because He consistently exposed them as impostors and laid bare their hypocrisy, pride ands tyranny over the people. And, thirdly, the two together, He failed to fulfill their expectations of what the Messiah would be like.
So, let’s look at the interplay as Matthew records it for us. The Sadducees and the Pharisees come together to Jesus and demand – demand, mind you – that He show them a sign from heaven in order to test Him (from Mark 8:21). Now, they were well aware of the miracles He had performed all over the countryside and in their cities and even in the lands of the Gentiles – including raising the dead.
What was it they were asking for? They were looking for the same kind of signs that accompanied God giving the Law to Moses (Exodus 19:16-20:25). The Law of Moses had actually become their God. Without it, they would have no power, no authority, no position and no prominence. There would be no way for them to pridefully lord it over the common people. So, they were looking for thunder and lightning and the rumbling of God’s voice in the mountains and earthquakes.