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Unmet Expectations & Unexpected Joy


Series: Special Messages

Passage: John 20:19-20

Speaker: BJ Chursinoff

On the first Easter Sunday, we find the disciples hiding together for fear of the religious leaders. Their expectations of who Jesus was and what He came to do were dashed to pieces when He was brutally murdered at the hands of the Romans. But all their unmet expectations evaporated when the resurrected Messiah walked into the room. This same Jesus will still change anyone’s life today when He meets with them too.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

All right, our text for this evening is the one that Mel just read for us. It's John, chapter 20, verses 19 and 20. And so go ahead and turn there in your bible if you haven't done so already. And here's the big idea that I hope you leave with tonight. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has provided the world with an unexpected joy that will swallow up the sorrows of all our unmet expectations. Benjamin Franklin said these famous words all the way back in 1789, and they've aged well. In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes. More than 200 years has passed since Franklin uttered those words, and over that time, I think it's fairly safe to say that we can add a third certainty to that. Listen, if we updated his quote for 2024, it would sound something like, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes and sorrows.

And when I use the word sorrow, I'm using it as a catch-all phrase, a phrase that includes sadness, despair, depression, hopelessness. Sorrow is a universal human reality. Everyone experiences sorrow in their life to one degree or another. There are many psychologists and psychiatrists and philosophers who have come up with explanations for why human beings experience sorrow. And all of these people, needless to say, are way smarter than I am. But being the simple tin that I am, I have a simple explanation as to why we experience sorrow in our lives. One of the reasons that we do anyways, whether we do it consciously or subconsciously, we all have expectations for our life, what our life is going to look like, and we form these expectations for every single part of our life. There are a lot of factors that play into this, but at the end of the day, we form expectations for what we think our life will look like, could look like, or should look like. And these expectations are generally positive in nature. We expect things to work out a certain way, and we want things to turn out good for us. But most of the time, the expectations that we have for what we think our lives will look like don't end up happening the way that we expect them to.

You ever notice that?

We deal with unmet expectations all the time, and this is where sorrow rears his ugly head. There's a gap that exists between the high expectations that we have for what we thought our life would look like and the actual reality that we're living somewhere down here instead. The greater the gap between the two, the greater the amount of sorrow that we experience. For example, a little kid moves to, well, not quite little, he's grown. He's in high school. But a kid moves to a new city, goes to a new school, and he wants to make some friends. And he lived in the same neighborhood all his life. And by the time he got to high school in his old neighborhood, he made a lot of friends. But one day, his family had to move, and he found himself in a new neighborhood, in a new high school, where he didn't know a single kid his own age. He figured that because he had a lot of friends back home, it would only be a matter of time until he had that many friends in his new home. He expected it.

So what do you think this kid experienced when he's four months in at his new school, and he still eats all by himself in the cafeteria every day? And he hasn't made one single friend yet?

His expectation was somewhere up here, his reality somewhere down here. And that unmet expect, his expectation wasn't met. And that unmet expectation leads to sorrow. Here's another example. A young couple is engaged to be married. Such a happy time. But the only thing they have ever learned about marriage has come from watching Disney movies, magical romance, glass slippers, and happily ever afters. Their shared expectation is that their honeymoon will be a launch pad into a marital bliss that will effortlessly grow in love for each other from one degree of glory to the next in all of the years to come.

How innocent. So what do you think will happen when they're on their honeymoon, they come to the stark realization that not only have they married another sinner, they are also becoming much more acquainted with their own sinfulness. And this produces tension in their marriage that lasts for years to come. Their expectation was somewhere up here. Their reality was somewhere down here. Their expectation wasn't met like they thought it would be, and that unmet expectation leads to sorrow. One more example. This one's a little bit different, though. What happens when you actually get everything in your life that you expected to get? You got it all, like everything you dreamed of. But the acquisition of your dreams didn't produce the satisfaction that you anticipated it would. Canadian-born movie star and multimillionaire Jim Carrey said this back in December 2005. And I quote, "I think everybody should get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that's not the answer." Jim Carrey had it all, probably still has it all, and he expected that that would be the answer to some of life's biggest questions.

But it wasn't.

The answer didn't satisfy Jim Carrey's expectations. Somewhere up here, his reality. Somewhere down here, his expectations went unmet. And those unmet expectations lead to a measure of sorrow in his life. You can come up with a whole bunch of different scenarios on your own, and the pattern will be the same. Unmet expectations are a source of our sorrows.

Now, the Bible is not silent when it comes to this type of sorrow. Jesus disciples, his very own disciples, experienced this kind of sorrow on the very first Easter Sunday. Here's what the first part of John, chapter 20, verse 19, says. When it was evening on that first day of the week, which was Sunday, the disciples were gathered with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. After walking with Jesus for three years, his disciples had some of the highest expectations for their lives that you could possibly imagine. But those expectations did not come to pass the way that they thought they would. In our scene, the disciples are dealing with a brutal, unmet expectation. And that means that here in the first part of verse 19, they are experiencing some of the deepest sorrow possible. Their high expectations were formed over the previous three years that they had walked with Jesus. And those expectations would have grown almost every single day that they walked with him. Let's rewind the tape. Three years before our scene here in John 23 years earlier, the entire nation of Israel had been waiting for the arrival of their messiah, the messiah that God had promised to send them, a savior king that would come through the lineage of King David, who was historically Israel's greatest king ever.

But this Messiah king and his kingdom would be unlike any king in any kingdom that had ever been seen before. The Bible is filled with specific promises detailing this king and this kingdom. According to the prophetic scriptures, this was to be an eternal kingdom with an eternal king. The Messiah would usher in a reign of power and dominion that would never end. He would secure peace and blessing that would go on forever and ever and ever. When this Messiah king would come, he would no doubt overthrow any military occupation that Israel was subject to. At the time. Israel had been waiting centuries for this savior to come. He was going to come. It was only a matter of time. Okay.

So what images do you think began to flood the disciples' minds when they found out that the rabbi, that they were personally following Jesus Christ of Nazareth was this promised messiah, when they saw crowds of thousands following after him, when they heard the power and authority that he preached with, when they saw the miraculous power that was at work in him? In their minds, there was no doubt it was only a matter of time before he would overthrow the Roman occupation that Israel was subject to at that time, and he would elevate Israel to prominence once again. He would bring honor and glory to the people of God once again. And he would give his disciples sweet benefits for being in his inner circle. After all, they left everything to follow him. They put all their eggs into the Jesus basket, and they were expecting something in return for it. Listen to this exchange between Peter and Jesus recorded for us in Matthew 19. It's going to be on the screen behind me. Then Peter responded to him, speaking of.

Jesus, see, we've left everything and followed you. So what will there be for us?

And Jesus said to them, truly, I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the son of man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name, will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. When you read the gospel accounts, you can see that the disciples wanted positions of power and prestige in Jesus' kingdom. Listen to this conversation between Jesus and two other disciples of his, the brothers James and John, also on the screen. Mark ten, starting in verse 35. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him, Jesus, and said, teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask you. Well, what do you want me to do for you? He asked them. They answered him, allow us to sit at your right and at your left in your glory. The disciples also anticipated financial prosperity, and they thought that was a part of the deal if they signed up to follow Jesus. It's one of the reasons one of the disciples betrayed Jesus.

When it clicked finally in Judas' mind, near the end of Jesus' life and ministry, that there wasn't going to be a payday for following Jesus. That's when he went to the religious leaders of his day and sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver.

You put all this together, and we realize that the disciples had the highest expectations for their lives because they were followers of Jesus. But by the time we get to John, chapter 20, verse 19, and three years have passed, none of those expectations were realized. All of their expectations went unmet. By the time we get to this verse, what happened instead?

How far was the gap between the disciples' expectations and their actual reality?

Well, at the end of three years of Jesus' public ministry, after he had clearly demonstrated that he was the savior king that everyone had been waiting for, the religious leaders of the day, those who should have been at the front line welcoming Jesus and rolling out the red carpet for him, rejected him and plotted his death instead they arrested him. They put him through an illegal trial in the middle of the night, and they falsely found him guilty and deserving of the death penalty. The Jewish people, the crowds that had once flocked to hear him and see him perform miracles, the crowds, those who should have worshiped Jesus as their messiah and king, rejected him when he came into Jerusalem, and they cried out to the Romans to crucify him.

Instead, the Romans, who, in the disciples' minds, Jesus was supposed to overthrow, tortured Him, mocked him, and led him away to be crucified instead. At the end of his life and ministry, Jesus didn't appear to conquer anyone. Instead, it looked like he was the one who was brutally conquered. The disciples' expectations of Jesus and the expectations they had for themselves because they were associated with Jesus, were wildly unfulfilled by the time we get to John, chapter 20, verse 19. Now, how do you think these unmet expectations affected the disciples?

Well, they were overcome with sorrow. They were riddled with fear and hopelessness. That's how we find them in the first part of verse 19. Not only was their expectation of Jesus dashed, but they also feared the fallout of what those unmet expectations meant for them moving forward. You see, if the religious leaders, together with the Romans, brutally snuffed out Jesus, what did the disciples think the Jews and the Romans were going to do to them if they found them in hiding? They'd do the same thing to the disciples as they did to Jesus because they were his followers. That's why they're hiding.

In verse 19, the disciples had formulated grandiose expectations for their lives in their minds. And those expectations were woefully under-realized.

Now, before we jump to the next part of our verse, where we see what God does to minister to the disciples in their sorrow, there's one point I need to add here about unmet expectations. There's a way that you and I can minimize the sorrow that comes from unmet expectations. Minimize, not erase completely. And we can do that by having realistic expectations for our lives. If you want to minimize the amount of sorrow you experience in your life, then you have to make sure that the expectations you have for your life are realistic in nature. And the only way to have truly realistic expectations for your life is to have all your expectations align with what God says about your life and how he has designed your life to work. That's the only way to have truly realistic expectations for your life. Expect that God is going to do what he says he's going to do. Expect it to happen the way God says it's going to happen. Here's one example only. Jesus said this in John 16:33. He says you speaking to his disciples, you will have suffering in this world. Suffering, according to Jesus, is a part of the Christian life. That means you should expect some measure of it in yours.

But if you were anticipating a Disney-style christian life for yourself, a life filled with song and dance and pumpkins and glass slippers and happily ever afters with zero suffering in this life, then you do not have a realistic expectation for your life. And you are setting yourself up for some sorrow when suffering comes. Some suffering will come because you are a Christian, because you are doing what Jesus asks of you. Do you expect your life to unfold like that for you? Do you have room for trials and persecutions in the Christianity that lives in your mind?

Because if you don't, you will be.

Overcome by sorrow when suffering arrives at your doorstep that you did not expect. That's just one example. But this is yet another reason why we need to know what the Bible says because we can't make sure the expectations that we have for our life line up with the Bible if we don't know what the Bible says we should expect. Jesus' disciples had unrealistic expectations for themselves because their expectations weren't aligned fully with the word of God.

Now, they weren't completely off base when they expected the Messiah to accomplish certain things. They based some of their expectations off of what the Bible said the Messiah would do. It's just that their expectations did not include all of what the Bible had to say about the Messiah. Did they believe that the Messiah was a king? Yes, the Bible said he was. Did they believe that his kingdom was supposed to endure forever? Yes, the Bible said it would. Did they believe that the Messiah was going to suffer and die when he came?

No, they didn't. They did not believe that even though.

The Bible is crystal clear that he would suffer and die when he came. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about the Messiah 700 years before Jesus came to fulfill those prophecies. Isaiah, chapter 53 contains one of the most detailed accounts of what the Messiah would go through once he came. I'm going to read verses, it's a little bit bigger of a text. Read verses three through twelve for us, and they're going to be on the screen. Now listen to what God had to say about the savior that he was sending. And keep your ears open to the detailed suffering language. And remember, the disciples had access to this record back in their day. Isaiah 53, starting in verse three.

Speaking of the Messiah, he was despised and rejected by men. A man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from. He was despised, and we didn't value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses and he carried our pains. But we in turn regarded him, stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities. Punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep. We all have turned to our own way, and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep, silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was taken away because of oppression. And judgment, and who considered his fate. For he was cut off from the land of the living. He was struck because of my people's rebellion. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully. Yet the lord was pleased to crush him severely. When you make him a guilt offering, he will see his seed, he will prolong his days, and by his hand the Lord's pleasure will be accomplished. After his anguish, he will see light and be satisfied by his knowledge. My righteous servant will justify many, and he will carry their iniquities. Therefore, I will give him the many as a portion, and he will receive the mighty of spoil. Because he willingly submitted to death and was counted among the rebels. Yet he bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.

The prophet Isaiah was both clear and emphatic.

He said the messiah would suffer and die.

Now on top of that, again, remember the disciples had acts. This was in their Bible in the day they had these words. But on top of that, the messiah Himself said he was going to suffer and die while Jesus was with his disciples. He told them on three separate occasions that he was literally going up to Jerusalem to die. But they didn't believe him, even though he told them point blank. Maybe they thought Jesus was just speaking in parables. Again, maybe it was a metaphor, maybe allegory. Whatever it was, in their minds, it was anything but literal. It's like they refused to believe that part about him. They didn't include that aspect in their expectations of the Messiah. Their expectations had no room for Jesus dying and suffering.

And yet he did.

Just like Isaiah said he would. Just like Jesus himself said he would. The disciples didn't have realistic expectations of Jesus because their expectations of him did not align with what the word of God said about him.

Now, if they had expected Jesus to suffer and die, we're going to just play a little game here. If they had read their Bible and believed it, would that have completely removed all of their sorrow when it eventually happened? Of course not. It still stings when it happens, even when you expect it to happen. It would be like getting news that someone you loved got diagnosed with a terminal illness. You know it's coming. You can prepare yourself mentally for the day to come. And when the day finally comes and your loved one dies, just like you expected them to, does that take all of the sorrow away?

Of course not.

It still stings even though you were expecting it to happen.

Now, I do think it would sting less compared to not expecting it to happen. I think if you had no idea a loved one was sick and then they died suddenly one day, that would sting more than if you had some time to prepare for their passing. 'That make sense?

The disciples did not expect Jesus to suffer and die, and that contributed to the sorrow they experienced when he did. But even if they did expect it, even if their expectations lined up with the word of God, it might have made things only a little bit better. It may have stung just a little bit less. So you can reduce the sorrow that comes from having unmet expectations when you have realistic expectations for your life instead. But we don't want to just minimize sorrow, do we? We want sorrow to vacate the premises completely. And this is where we get to the best part of Easter Sunday. Although the disciples were filled with sorrow and fear, while they hid in the room together, the table was set for them to receive an infusion of unexpected joy into their lives, a joy that would swallow up any of the sorrow that lingered from their unmet expectations. Let's pick things up. Halfway through verse 19 of our text.

Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, peace be with you. Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. The resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples. Their sorrow disintegrated when Jesus came into the room. They rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Now, why did it... why did their sorrow evaporate when Jesus appeared to them? Jesus is the son of David. Jesus is the savior king. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one and only creator God who came down from heaven and became a man. And although he died, there was no way he was going to stay dead. It was death and not Rome that was the enemy Jesus came to conquer on his first visit here. And that's exactly what he did. On the third day after he died, Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared first to the women at the tomb. And then he came and appeared to his disciples here in our text, and he spoke peace to them. He showed them his hands. He showed them his side. And they rejoiced. They were filled with joy, inexpressible because the one they loved and worshiped wasn't dead anymore. Their sorrows were connected to the unmet expectations they had placed upon Jesus. But Jesus exceeded those expectations when he showed himself to them alive from the dead. Now, what did this unexpected joy produce in them? More than just happy feelings, which there was an abundance of, they were radically changed to live radically faith-filled lives.

From that moment on, history records the disciples, all of them, traveling to different parts of the world, sharing this message about Jesus, that he's alive after he died. And they all died for what they proclaimed. All of them died, martyrs deaths, except for John. And they tried to kill him, too. They just failed. Now, how does that change in the disciples get explained? If you're following this pathway that they're on, how do they go from huddling together in hiding, scared for their lives, to all of a sudden not being afraid to die at all?

The answer, they met Jesus after he rose from the dead. Because Jesus conquered the power of death. The disciples had no reason to fear death anymore. Because they belong to Jesus. They would rise from the dead one day, two, just like he did. The fear of death lost its power over the disciples after Jesus defeated it.

Now, what does all of this mean for you and me today? Everything is in place for you to experience what the disciples experienced that first Easter Sunday when Jesus walked into the room. First, we are all dealing with some kind of sorrow that is connected to unmet expectations in our lives to one degree or another, there are things in all of our lives that haven't unfolded the way that we thought they would. And that means there is a level of sadness that each of us is dealing with today. We are primed to be met with an unexpected joy that swallows up all of our sorrows. Second, Jesus is still alive today. If all the billionaires in the world today put their money together to excavate the entire planet Earth, looking for the body of Jesus or looking for his remains, they would never, ever find him, because his resurrection was a final, decisive one, meaning that he would never die again. Jesus has been alive ever since that first Easter Sunday. He ascended to heaven 40 days after he rose from the dead. His disciples saw him being taken up right before their very eyes. They were eyewitnesses to this event, and the living, breathing, physical bodied resurrected Jesus is in heaven right now as I speak, ruling and reigning over the entire cosmos as king until the day that he comes back to earth in his resurrection body.

Third, Jesus comes to us and meets with us, too, like he did with His disciples on Easter Sunday, but in a slightly different but no less powerful way, right in the middle of our own unmet expectations. His presence can swallow up our despair, too. After Jesus went back to heaven, he sent his spirit to earth, personally to each of his followers. When Jesus was here on earth, he was bound to one location at a time. He was limited by time and space. But now that he's glorified and in heaven, his spirit can and is everywhere all at once. The personal presence of the resurrected King Jesus is near to you, and you can experience his presence in your life, and he desires everyone to know him this way. Listen to his own words. Jesus said this, and it's going to be on the screen. As for me, if I'm lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself. King Jesus is drawing you to himself, that you may experience him in your life.

He said this, too. John 14:23. If anyone loves me, he'll keep my word. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. King Jesus has plans to come make his home in you by way of his spirit.

And he also says this. Revelation 3:20 this is Jesus speaking, and he says, see, I stand at the door and knock if anyone hears my voice and opens the door... If anyone hears my voice, anyone... If you don't realize this means literally anyone, doesn't matter how bleak and how dark and how messy your past or your present or your future is, you are included in the everyone that Jesus is talking about here. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. King Jesus will come into your life and be friends with you. But notice what he says. You have to open the door when you hear his voice. If you open the door for the messiah, King Jesus will come in. The personal presence of Jesus in your life guarantees you eternal life one day in the future after you die. But his presence in your life today also guarantees you everything that you need in your life until that future day comes. And his presence is the source of an unexpected joy that will swallow up all of the sorrow from your unmet expectations. You have no friends at school. You can rejoice because Jesus is with you if you want him to be. I can see the smile on your face when you're sitting by yourself in the cafeteria, and you realize for the first time that the king of heaven and earth is there at school with you, and he's not ashamed to be your friend.

Your marriage is hanging on by a thread, and you don't know what to do. You can rejoice because Jesus is with you. The one who resurrects dead bodies back to life, including his very own, has the power to resurrect any marriage, no matter how difficult the circumstances are. You have acquired everything you dreamed of in this life, and you're still unsatisfied and unhappy. You can rejoice because Jesus is with you. The one who can infuse joy into any situation can infuse it into yours. He can help make sense of your dissatisfaction and lead you to deeper purpose and meaning in your life if you'll follow his leading. On the first Easter Sunday, the resurrected Jesus met his disciples in the depths of the sorrow that came from their unmet expectations. Their expectations were dashed to pieces while they were hiding in that room together. But that sorrow they experienced was swallowed up by the joy that came when Jesus walked into the room on this Easter Sunday. Today, right now, the resurrected Jesus can meet you in the depths of any sorrows that are connected to unmet expectations in your life, too. Now, I can't make Jesus manifest his presence to anyone here in a personal way.

But the good news is I don't have to make him. He wants to come to you. Will you rejoice when he does? I pray that you experience the resurrection power of Jesus in your life in a surprising way, like the disciples did that first Easter Sunday. Lord, please walk into our lives in a fresh way. Amen. You know how desperate we are for you to come. Please do it.

You bow your heads and pray.

I'm going to call the worship team up and let's pray. Jesus, we don't have enough words in our vocabulary. We don't have enough paper and ink to write them out. If we were going to try to convey to you how awesome you are and how great your love is and how deep your mercy runs and your patience and your wisdom and your plans, you see everything. You see the entire end from the beginning. We hardly see anything, and we have a hard time making sense of our lives and we have expectations that we should have never have had because they're not in line with the truth. And we get crushed when they're not met. But, Jesus, you always have a plan. You always know what you're doing, and you're always working good. You're bringing light into every kind of darkness. You're bringing life out of every kind of death. That's the kind of power that you have. And, Lord Jesus, we confess together as one body here at Gospel City Church. We are desperate for you to work that kind of power in our life. Start with us in this room. Bring dead parts of our lives alive again, maybe for the first time.

Instill hope into us. Jesus. You can do it. We believe it. Fill us with faith.

Begin with us. Heal us.

Bring joy to us. But I pray, Lord, that when you do that, we don't keep that a secret to ourselves. Lord, our world is dying apart from you in their hopelessness and despair. And we have the only thing that can satisfy the only balm for their spiritual injuries. We have it. And I pray, Lord, that you light a fire in us, the joy that would bubble up to overflowing in our lives, that we would go from this place and tell people about Jesus, that he died and he rose and he's available for them. Jesus, would you do that, please? If you do anything in our life, do that, because that's what we will celebrate more than anything in eternity, forever and ever and ever. We will celebrate that more than anything. If someone came into heaven because you used us to tell them about the good news. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Now, as we switch over to this time of praising, you, fill us with faith, fill us with love and hope. Fill our lungs with air and our mouth with words, and unleash praise in this place tonight for your glory and for our joy, we pray.


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