A few years back, I was called to the local hospital to visit a parishioner before surgery. As I entered the building, I stopped at the front desk to pick up my identification badge and check in with hospital staff. They informed me of the room number I was looking for and I quickly made my way to the elevator.
Once on the elevator, I was joined by an elderly woman (hard of hearing) and her son (old enough to be my dad). The elderly woman read my identification badge, and believing she was speaking at a level I could not hear, said to her son, “He’s a pastor?” The son, understanding this was not a private conversation, attempted to come to my aid. He replied, confidently, “That’s what the badge says.” “He doesn’t look like a pastor!” his mother shot back. Slightly amused by the conversation, I glanced toward the son. As our eyes met, his face turned white with embarrassment. “What’s a pastor supposed to look like?” he asked sternly. I tried to pretend I didn’t notice, as his mother’s eyes slowly scanned me over—head to toe. “Not that,” she replied.
The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The Jewish people had waited centuries for their Messiah, their Christ—their annointed one. The promise could be traced back to their earliest books. Moses had told of One who would crush the head of Satan. Samuel had prophesied of a King whose kingdom would have no end. David had called the Messiah the Son of God. Yet, when their long awaited redeemer finally appeared, he was rejected.
The Jews wanted someone to liberate them from Roman captivity. They were waiting for a conquering king—perhaps someone riding atop a white horse, dressed in fine linen, wearing a crown of gold. Jesus didn’t fit the description they had created for themselves. He didn’t look the way they thought he should look. He didn’t act the way they thought he should act. He healed on the Sabbath. He ate and drank with tax collectors. He spoke with prostitutes. Even John the Baptist had his doubts. He sent disciples to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3, ESV).
Jesus did not meet the expectations of the people, and it would only get worse. As he was mocked, his body beaten and hung from a cross, you can imagine a simple question being asked, “What’s the Messiah supposed to look like?” The answer most would accept, “Not that!” Yet, in his suffering, something divine was visible. As Jesus gave up his spirit, the centurion, who stood in front of him and saw how he died, said, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). Martin Luther writes, “God can only be found in the incarnate, humiliated, and crucified Jesus Christ.”
Are you looking for God? Are you hoping he will ride in on a white horse and deliver you from your present circumstance? Perhaps you are looking in the wrong place-—expecting the wrong thing.
Seek the One who traded his throne for a cross… who made himself lower than the angels… and you will find the One who died for you. The One who crushed the head of Satan. The One who removed the sting of death. The One preparing a place for you in a kingdom that will know no end.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.