Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
DR LOUISE GOSBELL
On the twelfth day of Advent 2022, Dr Louise Gosbell explores the unexpected good news of Jesus.
Unexpected Good News
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
We’ve all seen those ‘expectation versus reality’ memes on social media. On the left-hand side of the image will be a perfectly executed children’s birthday cake lifted from a baker’s website: an elaborate, multi-tiered unicorn covered in glitter and rainbows and above it, the word ‘expectation.’ On the right-hand side is a second image which presents a somewhat inferior version of the same cake. Donkey-esque and leaning slightly to the left, this second cake is labelled ‘reality’ and clearly didn’t match its baker’s original vision for their child’s birthday cake. But if you tilt your head and squint a little, it does almost look like a unicorn. Perspective is everything, right?
There are many times in our lives when we have expectations in our minds about the way something will be, whether it’s in relation to our baking, our children, our holiday, or our career. But so often we are disappointed because reality doesn’t look like the expectations we had in our mind.
Believe it or not, this is how a lot of people felt when Jesus announced to the world that He was the promised Messiah of the Jewish people. Their expectations of who this Messiah would be and what he would do didn’t quite match the reality presented to them in the shape of this trademan’s son from the backwaters of Nazareth.
In Jesus’ day, Jewish people had a picture in their mind of what the Messiah was going to look like. Some of their ideas about the Messiah were based on passages from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). However, their views were also shaped by other Jewish writings of the time which pictured the Messiah as a warrior who would raise up an army to defeat the Roman rulers and take back ownership of the land of Israel.
In this passage in Luke 4, Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah announcing His fulfilment of this prophetic passage. It is immediately clear that there is a disconnect between expectations and reality for those present in the synagogue listening to Jesus speak. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” the people enquire.
But Jesus’ authoritative teaching and “gracious words” appear to dispel any concerns about this disconnect.
Here was the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah who would proclaim the good news to the poor and bring freedom to the marginalised and oppressed. While surprised that the Messiah turned out to be a tradesman from Nazareth, at this point, the people were willing to adjust their expectations to fit this new information about Jesus’ identity.
But the situation quickly takes a turn in a different direction.
As Jesus continues to speak, this disconnect between expectation and reality becomes too great for those at the synagogue. Rather than planning an uprising against the Gentiles, Jesus describes how the Gentiles too are recipients of God’s mercy through the examples of the widow of Zarephath and Namaan the Syrian. Quickly, the crowds turn on Jesus and plot to throw Him over a cliff. Their expectation of the Messiah absolutely did not include an open offer of extended mercy and grace to the Gentiles and would offer them an equal opportunity to become part of the people of God.
And yet, Jesus is indeed that promised Messiah. And although this Messiah was expected and anticipated, the reality was that for many, there was a disconnect between what they expected and the reality of Jesus. The greatest example of this disconnect is demonstrated in the Christmas story where we learn that the King of the world was born amongst the mess and stench of an animal enclosure. And Jesus’ earthly story is book-ended in the gospels with an equally shocking and unexpected narrative of the sinless Saviour of the world sacrificing His life for a sinful humanity.
As humans living in a fallen world, we will continue to have times in life where reality doesn’t live up to our expectations - only in the new kingdom is this a disconnect that will be resolved.
But for now, we can take great comfort in Jesus’ unexpectedness that offers hope to sinners, good news for the poor and marginalised, and salvation for all people who choose to put their trust in Him.
A hope that invites us into proclaiming the good and unexpected news of Jesus, to see the new kingdom breaking in today.
Dr. Louise Gosbell is Principal at Mary Andrews College. She is a New Testament scholar, a disability advocate and avid U2 fan. Louise is married to Mark and they have three grown up-ish daughters as well as three cats.