The people were filled with expectation (v. 15).
David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk and author, says “Surprise” is his favorite name for God. Surprising moments shake us out of complacency and awaken us to life. Think of a child’s exuberant joy when opening an unexpected gift. Recall going home after a hard day, looking up at the stars, and feeling wonder. Surprise leads to gratitude.
Luke says, The people were filled with expectation. In tough times, people look for a leader whose vision will move them out of their current plight. The Hebrew people in this passage are no different. They watch expectantly for the long-awaited Messiah, whom most believed would be a political leader, maybe even a military one. They wait hopefully for the person who will restore Israel’s fortunes and free the Jewish people from Roman rule.
When expectations aren’t met, and the world doesn’t conform to our desires, we question our leaders, those closest to us, and ourselves. Rigid expectations keep us from going where the surprising God leads.
John the baptizer—wilderness resident sustained by wild locusts and honey— enthralls the people. His fiery personality that stirs up a crowd is just what many think a revolution needs in order to begin. But John clearly understands his calling. He doesn’t succumb to the crowd’s expectations. John answers them by pointing beyond himself to the One who is coming, who will be more powerful than himself, who will baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire (v. 16).
Jesus the Messiah shatters expectations and leads us to trust in him alone. When we give up our need for control, we experience Surprise.
What form of control is hard for you to give up? How has God surprised you when you let some rigid expectations go?
Surprising God, free us from our need to control. Open us to the possibilities that you bring. Amen.