Recycling Low Expectations


Believe it or not, the word “recycled” might be helpful as we try to piece together some theological terms that surface in both our Old and New Testaments, or, as John Goldingay calls them, our “first and second testaments.”

Recycling is essentially taking something that is old and giving it a new shape and definition for further use with a few additions as well but heavily relying on what already existed.


With that in mind, let me ask you a question: Has Jesus ever failed to live up to your expectations?

I’m sure he has at some point. But the problem wasn’t with Jesus. The problem was your expectations of him. You see, Jesus is not in the business of living up to our expectations—Jesus exceeds our expectations!

In the Gospel of John we read that after Jesus fed the Jewish crowds they were intending to install Jesus as their new king “by force” (John 6:15). The reason they were so adamant about installing him as king is that they were under the harsh rule of the Romans. Life under these conditions was becoming increasingly unbearable.

What they needed was a Savior. A Messiah. An anointed one of God who would set the captives free. They longed for a Prince of Peace.

In that context, let me ask another question: Do these terms mean anything to you?

Jesus arrives on the scene and functioned in all of those roles—and much, much more! He took all of the Jewish laws that we read about in our Old Testament and did not discard them, rather, he fulfilled them.


Those terms were all, shall we say, “recycled” according to his own person and work. His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). He surely set the captives free but not in the way many of the Jews were expecting the Messiah to operate. No, his kingdom would not be confined by spatial boundaries, national borders, particular languages, legal customs, and so forth. His kingdom would set captives free from more than oppressive men. He would set us free from Satan and our sin.

It’s not that their expectations weren’t great and lofty—they were! They just weren’t lofty enough for the incomparable person of Jesus.  It is one thing to stare at a painting of the sun, but it’s another to stare at the sun itself.

In the first testament before Jesus came, the Jews had the shadow. In the second, we have the substance. The Old and New Testaments are complementary, not contradictory. It’s all a matter of how you read them (Luke 10:26).

Keep exploring the biblical titles, offices, and roles that are ascribed to our Lord Jesus in both testaments. You’ll appreciate the final product much more if you understand the original “materials” Jesus was given to work with.