Lent: On the Way to the Cross 2

Expectations. We all have them. Expectations can control us; they usually shape us. What are our expectations? Lent can transform our expectations. Consider Mary and Peter as their expectations were transformed.

Since I was a little guy I’ve heard that when Jesus asked Peter who he (Jesus) was, Peter blurted out “Messiah!” But no sooner than he had those words out of his mouth and Jesus was already revealing to Peter that he (Jesus) would be the kind of Messiah who would be crucified. No sooner than Jesus had those words out of his own mouth and Peter was giving the Lord a few instructions on what Messiahs were like — the one thing clear in his mind was that he expected the Messiah to reign on a throne not from a cross.

Where do we learn that these were Peter’s expectations? From the Jewish world. I would suggest to you that Mary herself is a good source for the same expectations. Only this time we don’t have to rummage through all kinds of sources and documents. Instead, we can go straight to Luke chapter one.

Here are Mary’s words:

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called* the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Gabriel tells her that she is (1) highly favored, (2) that the Lord is with her, (3) her son’s name would be Yehoshua/Jesus — Joshua evokes Land promises, (4) he will be Son of the Most High God, (5) that he will rule on the throne of David, and (6) will reign forever. [That is, her expectations were for a restored community of faith, Israel.]

Talk about hope coming true. Mary’s expectations give legs to Peter’s expectations. Peter, with his brother Andrew, followers of John the Baptist, met Jesus early on — John 1:40-42 — and heard from his brother that Jesus was the Messiah. And that he would be given a special role as “Rock.”

Expectations. Mary expected her son to be Messiah, ruler from the throne in Jerusalem — forever. Peter expected to be somebody special because Jesus was the Messiah.

Neither of them knew at this point that their expectation for what the Messiah would be would undergo one of the most serious reversals history could ever know. A throne would be transformed into a cross.

What are our expectations today? Are they shaped by the cross or by the throne? Do we expect to rule or to serve? [What are the expectations for our churches and communities of faith? Do we expect to grow and become prestigious?]

Let us walk with Mary and with Peter — if we follow them we will end up at the cross.

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  • Hi, Scot,

    I was a bit thrown by your appeal to John regarding Peter’s confession, as said confession appears nowhere in John. Could you share your approach to the relationship of Synoptic Gospels and the Fourth Gospel? Do you emphasize their (dis)similarities? Do you attempt to harmonize them? Do you think they all point to actual events in every instance? Even though I would love a completely answer, I realize this is a big question and would understand completely if you choose not to answer or if you gave a very brief answer.

  • Jean

    Thank you, Scot. This post touched me deeply.

  • scotmcknight

    David, “John”?

  • Scot, you cite John 1:40-42 as a reason Peter might hold the idea that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • pamela wood

    Thank you, Scott, for your insight. I have long understood that Jesus’ disciples were ‘expecting’ and earthly Messiah, but I never connected that with His mother, Mary, also. I was always troubled why she, who had heard the angel Gabriel’s words and understood Who her Son was would go with His brothers to take Him home, thinking Him mad. Of course she would!!! She was like all of us mothers when we think our sons (daughters) are missing what GOD has for them – He wasn’t fulfilling her expectations – He was perfectly fulfilling His Father’s expectations! Thank you!