Easter – Confused Expectations and Paradoxical Fulfillment

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? I know for myself this question is often laden with visions of success and well-being; comfort and safety, family and friends. I often wonder how my faith as a Christian influences my expectations. Do they line up with what it means to be a follower of Christ? In light of the Easter season, how does Easter, particularly the biblical account of Easter week, affect my expectations for life?

In his book, Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright discusses extensively the expectations of the Jewish people for what their long-awaited Messiah would accomplish. Wright states that for Israel in the 1st century, “the king was the focal point of the dream of national liberty.” Jesus’ followers, primarily Jewish, expected that upon his entry into Jerusalem he would become the enthroned Messiah; the “King of the Jews.” This expectation was for political victory over the oppressive powers of the day. However, beginning with Jesus’ ‘triumphant’ entry on a donkey, an aggressive foray into the Temple, humble service to his followers (feet washing and last supper), his trial, sentence and execution, Jesus appears anything but the long awaited king they were waiting for. Looking at these events, either Jesus was not in fact the expected Messiah, or the Jewish expectations were confused…

Wright argues for the latter, as Jesus is the “paradoxical fulfillment” of the Jewish expectations. In Jesus, “the kingdom is present, and the Messiah is present, but neither looks like what had been anticipated” (emphasis original). Basically, Jesus is fulfilling the expectations of the Israelites, but in a way far removed from what they envisioned. Suffering, not political victory ends up being the path to victory and kingship. One only has to look at the subsequent centuries of the early church to realize that life for followers of Jesus as the New Israel was anything but political domination. It was about oppression, suffering, and even martyrdom. The paradox of Christianity is that the achievement of victory comes in the form of what the world would call a failure.

My question in all this is that as I reflect on my own expectations, how do I approach them in light of the events of Easter? Do I live my life with confused expectations, or am I able to accept the reality that Christian ‘success’ often comes in the form of paradoxical fulfillment?

(I realize the tone of this post may seem depressing or negative, but I think that to simply skip the suffering example of Jesus and jump directly to the resurrection fails to grasp clearly this notion of expectations and how Jesus fulfills them.)


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