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Cross-yoke, courtesy of Christart.com

People have always had confused expectations about the Christ. Today is no different. Many do not know just what to expect from Him. As a result, they fall away from Him (or never come to Him at all) because of what He is. What He is differs from what they expect, so they are disappointed in Him.

See if you can identify with the expectations various people had of Jesus in Matthew 11.

Are You the One?

John the Baptist was in prison. Jesus was going on about His work without doing anything about it. John sent disciples to Jesus to ask if He really was the ONE who was to come. John, seemingly, expected Jesus to act in a mighty way to right the injustices in the world. John’s imprisonment was an injustice. He thought that if Jesus were the Christ, He would act to free him. Hence his doubt.

Jesus responded by pointing to His mighty works: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, and the dead live. Even the poor hear good news! Jesus said tell John about these things. That should satisfy him. It would not set him free from Herod’s prison, but it should satisfy him about who Jesus is.

The Least in the Kingdom

Prior to Jesus bursting on to the scene, John the Baptist was the greatest preacher and prophet of his day. He had a huge impact on people. He baptized thousands. Long after his death, he was still held in high regard by the people – so much so that when Jesus asked the Pharisees if the baptism of John was from heaven or from men, they did not dare respond that it was from men for fear of the people. Even in Asia Minor, Paul came across disciples who knew only the baptism of John.

Truly, as Jesus said of John, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist….” The rest of that sentence came as a surprise to people then and a puzzlement to people today: “…yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Jesus said this between pointing out that John was the messenger sent to prepare for His own coming and that John was the Elijah who is to come.

How can the least in the kingdom be greater than John? Do we have confused expectations, even of ourselves?

This Generation

Neither John nor Jesus danced to the tune of the people:

We played the flute for you, and you did not dance. We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. – Matthew 11:17

Jesus explained: John was an ascetic, and you said, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you said, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners'” (Matthew 11:18-19).

People do not know what to expect from a true prophet. Do we?

Unresponsive Cities

Jesus pronounced woes on the cities where he had done many mighty works, for they had not repented. He also said that if Tyre and Sidon were  the center of Baal worship in the Old Testament and notoriously wicked. Jezebel, the Queen of King Ahab, came from Sidon. If these cities had seen what Korazin and Bethsaida had seen they would have repented. Even Sodom would have repented had it seen what Capernaum had seen.

The people of these cities had no idea what the Christ was all about. They flocked to Jesus to see the miracles – but they did not repent. Are we like them in how we come to Jesus? Do we want His blessing but not His teaching?

Revealed to Little Children

Jesus prayed:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. – Matthew 11:25-26

Even children understand more than the wise and learned? What can He mean by a prayer like this? In our wise and learned estimation, this just does not make sense. Do we have confused expectations of Jesus and His way? Do we make it more complicated than it really is?

A Yoke That Brings Rest

A yoke was an instrument that enabled an animal to pull a heavy load – actually by leaning into it and pushing. A yoke, in the prophets, sometimes symbolized slavery. It always was an instrument of service.

Jesus said to all who are burdened and weary:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

We sometimes call this The Great Invitation. To what does He invite us? A life of service under His yoke? A life of ease and rest? What are our expectations of Jesus?


  1. How do pre-conceptions lead to confused expectations?
  2. Was John disappointed in Jesus? Why?
  3. How did the poor having the gospel preached to them identify Jesus as the ONE who was coming?
  4. How is the least in the kingdom of heaven greater than John the Baptist?
  5. What does our generation expect from the Christ that shows confused expectations?
  6. Jesus here speaks of coming to follow Him to receive  an easy yoke. Elsewhere He spoke of bearing a cross if we would follow Him. How do you reconcile these two ideas? How could each of these lead to confused expectations?

NEXT: Jesus & the Pharisees

PREVIOUS: Go Into the Field (Limited Commission)


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