“When John, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” – John 11:2
On this day in 2006 history was made. Shani Davis, an American speed skater, became the first Black athlete to win an individual Winter Olympics gold medal. In Turin, Italy, Shani won the men’s 1,000-metre long-track final. Four years later he won gold again in the same event at the Vancouver games. He is the only skater to claim back-to-back titles in the 1,000 meters and has set world records and won world championships. And yet despite his achievements, Shani Davis has never been on a box of Wheaties.
Away from the ice Shani Davis’ legacy was complicated. His singular focus on his events opened him up to being critiqued as selfish and not being a “team player.” He had a fraught relationship with American media and spurned interviewers. While Shani’s controversies with teammates and the media were small potatoes they were enough to destabilize his image as an American Olympics hero.
We have expectations for how our heroes should look. We have expectations for how our role models should sound. We have expectations for what our saviors should do.
In Isaiah 53, the prophet talks about “The Suffering Servant” who will become a savior for Israel. We believe Jesus to be the fulfillment of “The Suffering Servant” image and prophecy. Yet, Isaiah makes it clear that the Suffering Servant wasn’t quite what the people expected.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by humanity, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Throughout the life of Christ there were many signs that pointed to his ultimate identity and yet the people struggled to believe and to understand. He was not what they expected in a Messiah and their expectations prevented them from seeing clearly. Because they did not see the Christ they missed out on opportunities to praise, to celebrate, and to grow. It was often the outsiders (eg Roman Centurions, Magi from the East, etc) who were able to see Jesus as the Messiah. They did not carry the same expectations.
God promises time and time again to show up in our lives in wonderous and providential ways. Let us hold loosely our expectations. How might God surprise you? Through whom might God bring an unexpected gift to you? Let us live eyes and heart wide open as we pray, God I trust you to move in my life again today; be my rock and my redeemer.