When Measuring Up Is Not Enough

McDonald’s always meets my expectations. Jesus never does.

Cali Yee / 9.3.21

McDonald’s always meets my expectations. It doesn’t surpass them by any means, but I expect that each time I go to a McDonald’s, even in a different state, my fries are going to taste the exact same as they do at home – beautifully salty and highly caloric. Now, that expectation isn’t too high considering all of their fries probably come in frozen packages from a warehouse in whatever city hosts their headquarters (don’t quote me on that, I was too lazy to actually Google it). 

Humans may be occasional couch potatoes, but they are not like fries. When it comes to the expectations we place upon ourselves or others, those can seem impossible to meet. And when we fail to measure up, either by an inch or by a mile, our natural instinct is to internalize our shame and hide our humiliation.

Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of other people, either. In fact, he wasn’t afraid to blatantly oppose who people thought he should be. What they wanted (and maybe even what we often want) was an all-powerful ruler and mighty warrior – someone to bring down the Roman Empire and stick-it-to-the-man (!). Instead, they received a Savior who healed on the Sabbath and died on a cursed tree.

The power that Jesus wields is not the power that we usually attribute to a king because, as Juliette Alvey expresses in the Money Issue, He demonstrates his power by giving it up.

Jesus starts with power and gives it all up. He does not give one-third: he gives the whole. Jesus is a king who does not want to give us what we ask for. He does not want to give us just a little more to satisfy our small dreams. He wants to give us everything, the whole kingdom. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Give the kingdom to its subjects? Who ever heard of such a thing? Be a fair ruler and take care of your people, of course, but give away your kingdom entirely?…

Thank God that Jesus, the King of kings, doesn’t rule in the way that we would. In the fairytale kingdoms conceived by my son and Disney, it seems achievable to become good, to become wealthy, to have a little more power. But the kingdom of God is for the poor and weak (which includes all of us, no matter how much earthly power or wealth we have). Being good enough is impossible. And in this upside-down kingdom, that turns out to be the best news.

Jesus extended a hand of mercy and grace that surpassed any idea of the little more that people thought they deserved. He may not have been who they wanted, but He sure was the Savior that they needed. He is the Savior that we need. One who gives up everything to rescue us from the brokenness that we put ourselves in. One who knows not to give us what we may desire, but provides us with what we need.

Jesus, too, knows what it is like to fail to meet expectations. He may not care as much about failure as we do, but at least He has experienced it. The King of the upside-down kingdom came not to meet expectations, but to live out His identity in and as God. 

Perhaps this is a reminder for us as well – you don’t have to live up to the expectations you or others have set. In fact, it may be impossible and not what you are called to do. Jesus doesn’t care about our silly expectations. He looks at us and declares, “This is my child, whom I love.”

I think it’s a good thing that Jesus isn’t like a McDonald’s fry, meeting but never surpassing my expectations. Instead, Jesus keeps us on our toes. He leaves room for a bit of surprise – a little awe when we remember that even we (with our desire for power, wealth, or perfection) can receive the kingdom.