Following the Unexpected Christ

Logos Talk is bringing you special Holy Week devotionals from a number of authors. If you’d like more resources to prepare your heart for Easter, Logos has discounted a number of Holy Week titles.

Expectation

Expectations play a huge role in how we process life. Whenever I’m frustrated that God’s plan doesn’t match my expectations, the Apostle Peter’s experience gives me renewed hope.

During Jesus’ last Passover celebration with his disciples, he states that he is pursuing a path they couldn’t follow. Peter makes it clear that this doesn’t meet his expectations (Jn 13:37), even exclaiming that he’s willing to lay down his life for Jesus! Imagine hearing Jesus’ response: “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly I say to you, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times!” (Jn 13:38 LEB).

Discouragement

This disheartening response builds upon Peter’s expectations, but in a way he doesn’t expect. At Peter’s first meeting with Jesus, Jesus changes his name to the Rock (Jn 1:40-42). After many of the disciples start leaving Jesus, the Lord asks the 12 if they’re leaving too. Peter is the first to respond, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:66-68 LEB). At this point, it seems that Peter has it all figured out: He is willing to die for Jesus and publicly proclaim Jesus’ reign.

But then there are times where Jesus’ actions run counter to Peter’s expectations of what the Christ should do—in these moments, we see everything change for Peter. When Jesus wants to wash Peter’s feet, Peter says, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet? . . . You will never wash my feet!” (Jn 13:6-8 LEB). We see the same kind of response in Gethsemane as Jesus is being arrested; Peter attempts to prevent it by striking someone with his sword (Jn 18:10-11). Acquiescence  isn’t what he expects of the Christ! It seems that he expects a zealous savior to overthrow Rome, and responds as such. He expects to die fighting, and so he chooses to do so.

Yet the most disturbing portrait of Peter is his denial of Jesus—exactly as Jesus foretold (Jn 18:15-18, 25-27). Whatever indignation Peter might have felt at Jesus’ prediction must have changed to incalculable regret, and shame. What had begun so promisingly, what Peter had declared that he would give his life for, seems to turn to ashes right before him.

Redemption

Let us be thankful that the story doesn’t end here! John’s gospel offers us an amazing picture of restoration. Peter seems shocked that the tomb is indeed empty (Jn 20:2-9), but we’re left wondering if there is still a place for him. Is there a way back from his shattered expectations and disappointment? We find our answer when Jesus interviews him on the beach, questioning him about his love. Jesus demonstrates that there is indeed a way back (Jn 21:15-19); it begins by exchanging our expectations for a willingness to follow in Jesus’ steps: to love him and others.

What are we expecting this Easter week? If it is anything other than humbly following Jesus, it’s time to reset our expectations.

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Written by
Steve Runge

Steve Runge has served as a Scholar-in-Residence at Faithlife since completing his Doctor of Literature degree in biblical languages at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2006. He specializes in developing original language resources for pastors and students to help them more confidently study and teach the Bible.

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Written by Steve Runge
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