4/14/2011 4:19:00 PM WORD OF FAITH Change your expectations
BY REV. ROGER KARBAN
FROM A READING FOR APRIL 17, PASSION SUNDAY 'In time to come you will acknowledge that I am God and that I have spoken to you.' Isaiah 52:6
Because we usually have ideal expectations for important people in our lives, I always cautioned my high school marriage course students to be honest about the personality traits of anyone they planned to marry.
I took for granted they'd already created a picture of an ideal spouse, complete with a list of characteristics he or she should possess. Problems would arise when they discovered someone who might possess six out of 10 of those ideal traits, and they presumed the other four were also there, just below the surface.
What happens when they find out those other four never existed?
Some who initially followed Jesus made the same mistake. Looking forward to a Messiah entering their lives, they found some of the traits of this longed-for person in the carpenter from Capernaum.
He was charismatic, a leader who emphatically reminded fellow Jews of the things Yahweh expected of them - so they presumed a passion to drive the Roman army out of Palestine was also part of his psychological makeup. He just hadn't made His political move yet.
Boston College Scripture scholar Pheme Perkins makes an interesting observation in The Bible Today: "The difference between what outsiders say about Jesus and what Christians believe dominates [Matthew's] passion narrative. Until they meet the risen Lord in Galilee, Jesus' disciples are trapped in the middle between their loyalty to Jesus and the popular hope for a powerful messiah king."
Some might even have overlooked His riding a donkey into Jerusalem (Matthew 26:14-27:66) instead of sitting astride a military leader's mount, a horse. It would take some time, but he'd eventually live up to their expectations.
Judas was probably the most realistic of Jesus' disciples. Earlier than others, he reasoned Jesus wasn't the person Judas expected Him to be; so he tried at least to make a few bucks off their relationship.
Even Peter, boasting at the Last Supper, "If I should have to die with you, I will not deny you!" discovers Jesus isn't someone who'll go down - with Peter at His side - physically fighting their enemies.
When Peter claims, "I do not know the man," he's telling the truth. He obviously believed Jesus was someone He wasn't.
No doubt Jesus' closest friends would have been quite happy had he responded to the "come down from that cross" taunts by actually doing so. They could understand a triumphant Messiah, but not one who dies.
The only followers who hung with Jesus to the end were "many women...looking on at a distance who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him."
These women seem to be heeding the rest of the advice I offered my marriage course students: Don't dump someone just because he or she doesn't have all 10 of your ideal characteristics. The qualities they do have might be better than some of your magic 10.
Disciples who stayed around for that well-known Galilee mountaintop began to appreciate that the redemptive suffering Deutero-Isaiah speaks of in our first reading (Isaiah 52:4-7) would benefit them more than kicking Romans out of Jerusalem.
More significantly, as Paul reminds his community in Philippi (in a verse omitted from Phil 2:6-11, Sunday's reading), "Have among ourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus."
Not only are we to admire Jesus' generous emptying of Himself, but, because we're other Christs, we're expected to possess that same generous but unexpected trait.
We don't have to live up to others' expectations as long as we, like Jesus, give them something better than they could have expected.