I came upon an interesting definition of leadership a few weeks ago in a journal: “Disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb.”
Near the end of the article, the author stated that he is inspired by the Great Disappointer, Jesus. Jesus disappointed many people. On a small scale, when people wanted him to stay in a particular town, he moved on. On a much larger scale, when the Jews wanted him to crush the Romans with military might, he chose a path of suffering, leading to a gruesome, bloody death on a Roman cross.
Jesus knew how to disappoint.
My former mentor had a saying he often repeated: “All will disappoint but Jesus.” Perhaps a truer statement would be, “All will disappoint including Jesus.”
Matthew records a story about John the Baptist in his final days. It takes place about two years into Jesus’ ministry. John is rotting away in a prison cell awaiting what would become his ultimate fate—beheading under King Herod. He is confused. Doubts arise in his heart. He sends a few of his disciples to Jesus with a question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (11:2)
Jesus wasn’t behaving as John envisioned. He expected Jesus to reveal himself as Messiah in a different way. He was expecting the long awaited Promised One to bring judgment and destruction. Vengeance. Wrath.
Instead, Jesus is healing the sick, taking care of the poor, welcoming outsiders. Doing good. Giving generously. Showing mercy.
John doesn’t understand. Jesus defies his preconceptions. John is disappointed.
So he takes his disappointment straight to Jesus.
I think we can all identify with John. Maybe you expected God to free you of those urges by now. Maybe you expected him to heal your mother. You expected your marriage to work out. You expected your son to return to the faith. You expected different than what you realized.
And now you’re disappointed. What does Jesus have to say to us? How did he respond to John’s question?
First of all, Jesus didn’t rebuke John. There was no reprimand, no lecture, no “How-dare-you!” You may take your complaints to God. You may get real with Him. He wants nothing less. Read the psalms in case you don’t believe me.
Second, Jesus was up to something, . . . just not what John had expected. John was expecting fireworks—a leveling of Israel’s enemies. Jesus, instead, came to forgive and die. Love.
Third and final, Jesus pronounces a blessing for those who do not lose their confidence in Him. “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (v. 6). Happy are those who do not lose hope in Jesus however strangely he might act.
The late author Brennan Manning shares a conversation that took place between ethicist John Kavanaugh and the late Mother Teresa. Kavanaugh, seeking answers as to how best spend the rest of his life, left the United States to work at ‘the house of dying’ in Calcutta. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh requested that she pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. Kavanaugh replied, “Clarity.”
“No, I will not do that,” said Mother Teresa. When Kavanaugh asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
What is God after in the disappointing circumstances of your life? Job-like faith. And that kind of faith seems to develop best when everything freezes over, when the bottom drops and the walls come crashing down.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”