Often Surprised by Jesus

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 ESV)

How many times have you heard this text preached and mulled over? For me, it has been quite a few times. And not all of the sermons or devotions have been the same, but many get to the idea that Jesus is not often who we thought, or perhaps hoped, he would be. He is in fact that much greater, we just don’t always see it.

It would be hard to see it from prison, which probably meant suffering and as we know of  John the Baptist, death. John hears of what Jesus is doing and he questions if he is the Messiah. Jesus’ response is to confirm what he has heard; to convey what is going on and how the good news is being declared. Then he throws in this line, “blessed is the one that is not offended by me.”

Two thoughts in light of this story: the real Jesus will surprise you and he might just offend you.

First, when it comes to the grace of Christ and his finished work for you, there might be significant surprise. Of course you will be surprised that someone as awful as you could be saved and totally accepted because of Jesus. But even if you assume you are kind of good and deserve saving, you will be surprised that what comes after salvation might look different than you thought or heard from the TV preacher. You might be
“blessed” with abundance or suffering. Your life might be a complete mess. You might get it together. Either way and in between, you will be surprised and non of it will change your place in God’s love through Christ.

Jesus surprises me everyday. Usually in good ways; when I am reminded of his love and claim over me and those around me. Other days I feel like I am sitting in my cell in prison waiting for Jesus to storm the gates and free me, surprised by his “delay.” In the good and difficult, I am secure, fully loved, fully adopted. Without a doubt, I am Christ’s. And even that is a surprise.

Secondly, Jesus might offend you. There is this weird tension in life and especially Christian culture to be offended by grace. I have preached in settings where people would challenge me that I too freely spoke of forgiveness and being loved by God because of Jesus; after all, won’t “they” go on sinning? I suppose I too have been offended by extravagant forgiveness when it applies to people I don’t think deserve it but there is the surprise! No one deserves it. (I know some of you are thinking, “Jonathan it was you that offended me not Jesus” and I leave that to be figured out by you and Jesus!)

Blessed is the one that is not offended. So it seems okay to be surprised but to be offended is no beuno. Where are you at today? Being surprised by the ministry and grace of Jesus? Or offended by it?

My prayer is that we live surprised. Surprised by how much we are loved. Try it on today.

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