Great Expectations

Psalm 55:1–7; Luke 2:21–38; 2 Corinthians 11:18–30

Families are often quick to share their expectations of a newborn (or coming) baby. The pressure can be on pretty quickly. The parents, too, have expectations of their children. They are often called “dreams” or “maybe someday.” As much as this can put pressure on the child, it can also put as much (or even more) pressure on the parents. Children are, through no fault of their own, the extension and legacy of their parents. Social media puts pressure on both, for the child to be a star performer, and the parent to be the parent of the star.

Pressure can take on many forms, but there are only 2 types: inside and outside. In the Psalm, we can almost feel the stress and strain that David is under. Many scholars think that this was written while Absalom was in the midst of the overthrow of David (2 Samuel 15–19). That being the case, it makes sense that David is feeling betrayed, and feels very much under pressure. He’s supposed to be the leader of the country and leader of his family, and now he is neither.

In the days of Jesus, the firstborn son would receive the majority of the family property, take over the occupation of their father, lead the family, and strengthen the family legacy. There was no expectation that the son would change occupation (more like pressure to retain the occupation of their father). Joseph and Mary would have this cultural expectation of their son. Yet, on top of it, there is this awareness that this son is not normal, and something unusual is foretold to happen with them. In honor of the Law and tradition, they go to the Temple to have Jesus circumcised. If they had any expectation of this being just a normal thing, the words of Simeon and Anna remind them that all is not normal with Jesus.

We can only imagine the interesting dynamic this created in the immediate family, but also the extended family. The extended family would have the expectation that Jesus would be the leader of his immediate family and follow in his father’s trade, and repeatedly reinforce that expectation. Joseph and Mary would have to be both soft and firm toward the extended family. They probably also lived with an underlying tension that the earthly expectation of Jesus was not the heavenly expectation they had been repeatedly told.

Based on the gap in Scripture regarding Jesus’ life, we are pretty certain that Jesus did follow his father’s, Joseph, trade prior to commencing his ministry. For the family, this would have put off the inevitable, yet it was still coming. The longer Jesus did everyday things, it would be understandable for Mary and Jesus’ siblings to anxiously await for Jesus to up and leave. If we re-read the scriptures, it is quite understandable for the family to be concerned that their entire legacy would be lost, as the powerful don’t like to be taken down. With the example of the Roman power around them, they could have been very afraid that Jesus’ call would negatively affect them, if not cause them to die.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions all the troubles he has gone through as he has traveled. There are natural, criminal, and cultural troubles. Then are troubles of hunger and clothing. While it seems to be almost a tag-on of troubles, we read about Paul’s “pressure” regarding the church. Other than following Jesus, Paul’s biggest concern, his biggest pressure, is regarding the churches. He loves them. He is concerned about and for them. While this phrase seems to be just tossed in there, Paul’s heart shows up in the 13 books of the New Testament that he wrote, THIRTEEN! His heart is for the churches and the people he loves that are in them. He feels responsible for them as leader, shepherd, teacher…and parent.

Jesus came to earth as one of us. He took responsibility for us. As an infant, there wouldn’t be any pressure purposely put on him, but it would still be there.

  1. What puts the most “pressure” on you? Job performance? Child performance? Financial success? Material success?
  2. When you are under a high amount of pressure, what is your normal response? Do you “just deal” with the pressure? Do you work through to resolve the pressure? Do you surrender it?
  3. Jesus bore the “weight” of the world, yet said that his burden was light. How do you think that works?
  4. [KD] Did someone ever tell you that you had to do something that you felt you should not do? What did that feel like? What did you do?
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