On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ “
Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, some in the crowd said,
“This is really the prophet.”
“This is the Messiah.”
But some asked,
“Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them,
“Why did you not arrest him?”
The police answered,
“Never has anyone spoken like this!”
Then the Pharisees replied,
“Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,
“Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?”
“Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”
Galilee was definitely not on the radar when it came to the widely held expectations of where the Messiah would physically become apparent; the religious establishment were threatened by Jesus’ ministry. Today’s reading references this twice. Just when we think we have God sorted and packaged, clearly delineated and fathomed, we discover how wrong we are to try and limit, and comprehend, and hold, such divine mystery.
Expectations are a powerful influence in life, best acknowledged and managed carefully and deliberately. We all hold many expectations both of ourselves and others. In our own lives we can either rise to expectations, or they can weigh heavily upon us. They have the power to both uplift or disable our lives. The same is true regarding our projected expectations of other people and situations. It is so easy to get it wrong, and most helpful when we get it right.
So much of the Christian’s life is about expectation, as we view our experience of life through the lens of God’s love. And it is so easy to get it wrong when it comes to our expectations of where ministry lies in the life of the Church; our expectations of worship; our expectations of what resources we need to be and do Church; our expectations of where God’s kingdom is rooted; our expectations of where God’s Spirit is active; our expectations of where true treasure can be found – even in people like you and me despite our frailty and faults, and occasional disillusionment along the way! After all, as we read again and again in the Bible, and discover along The Way, and, as unpacked in 1983 in the book by Gerard Hughes S.J., ours is a God of Surprises. Thanks be to God!
God of Surprises, Keep us aware of positive and negative expectations in life. Help us to encourage and affirm those around us, Especially those who are very different from ourselves. When it comes to expectations within ourselves of ourselves, help us to remember we are loved by you, and find release and inspiration secure in that knowledge. And when we are surprised by new revelations of the extent and power of your loving presence, contradicting our own expectations, may we be delighted by that continually expanding appreciation of your presence and glory in life. Amen.
The Rev’d David Herbert is the Moderator of the Northern Synod.