Not quite what we expect

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Prepare

Use a few moments of quiet for a deep breath in and out, and consciously put aside busy thoughts; pray for the Spirit to help you hear the Lord speaking.


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Bible passage: Matthew 11:1–19


Matthew 11

Jesus and John the Baptist
 1After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

 2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

 4Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosyare cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

 7As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written:
   " 'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
      who will prepare your way before you.' 11I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15He who has ears, let him hear.

 16"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
 17" 'We played the flute for you,
      and you did not dance;
   we sang a dirge
      and you did not mourn.' 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions."

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore


Preparing for the unknown
Preparations for special occasions can sometimes be more fun than the event itself. The anticipation, the planning, the delayed gratification, can be wonderful – for example, in our household when preparing for Christmas! But imagine doing all the preparations yet not knowing exactly what the event looks like, or when, or where.

John the Baptist had been called to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah (v 10) – but without knowing exactly what that would look like. He preached a message of preparation through repentance; people had responded and been baptised (3:1–10). But later, after Jesus had been preaching and teaching for a while, and John himself was in prison, John seemed puzzled and surprised (v 3). Why do you think he sent this question to Jesus?

Better than hoped for
Jesus had just declared he had not come to bring peace but a sword, which would cause division (10:34–42). What did Jesus say that showed that the kingdom of God was actually better than had been hoped for (vs 4–6)?

He doesn’t always do what people assume and expect. He brings grace, mercy, healing – and a blessing for those who are not upset by that (v 6).

Penelope Swithinbank

Respond


How might you prepare for the return of Jesus – even though we don’t quite know what that will be like?


Introduction to Matthew 11 and 12


Who is Jesus? Is he really the Messiah? If he is the Messiah, why is it that he is not pronouncing judgement on the wicked and overthrowing the Roman Empire? These are some of the questions Matthew 11 and 12 seek to answer. These two chapters describe how different people respond to Jesus and his ministry. Some believe he is the Messiah, others doubt and still others reject him and want to kill him.

The narrative begins with John the Baptist questioning the identity of Jesus, leading to Jesus affirming his identity as the Messiah (11:1–19). This is followed by Jesus pronouncing judgement on three major cities in the region of Galilee for refusing to believe – even though they had the privilege of witnessing the ministry and hearing Jesus’ teaching (11:20–27). Subsequently, we witness a series of disturbing accounts narrating the negative response of the Pharisees. They not only reject Jesus but accuse him of collaborating with Satan. Their deliberate and continual refusal to believe leads them to plot to kill Jesus (12:1–45). In the midst of conflicts and confrontation, Jesus not only reveals his true identity but invites all to follow him (11:28–30). Those who follow him and do the will of God are the true disciples belonging to this new family of God (12:50), unlike the Galilean cities and the religious authorities.

These passages of Matthew’s Gospel caution us not to take the path of the religious authorities by hardening our hearts and refusing to listen and obey. Instead, let us respond to the invitation given by our Lord to come to him and do the will of God so that we will be known as the true disciples of Jesus. May your heart be open to the Spirit of the Lord, as we reflect on these chapters, and may he speak to you as you ponder your life.

Kar Yong Lim

Deeper Bible study


It is uncertain how much time has elapsed between the imprisonment of John the Baptist (Matt 4:12) and the events in today’s reading, but it was long enough for doubt to creep in. Why would John the Baptist question the ministry of Jesus? Was it his imprisonment that caused him to waver in his faith? Could it be that he was like his Jewish contemporaries, seeking a political Messiah to overthrow the Roman Empire? Or was he expecting Jesus to bring judgement on the unrighteous and wicked?(Matt 3:7–12) Our reading does not tell us, but we know that Jesus’ ministry did not match John’s expectations and he needed reassurance that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. He sent his disciples to Jesus, seeking for an answer to this question: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ (v 3).

Jesus could have given John a direct affirmative answer. Instead, he listed what he had been doing in his public ministry: ‘the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’ (v 5). This is not simply a catalogue of achievements. Read in the light of the Old Testament, this is a reference to Isaiah (Isa 61:1,2). If John were able to recognise this allusion, he would understand Jesus’ answer to his question. Jesus was not only affirming his identity as a Messiah, but more than that, he was drawing John back to the Scripture to strengthen his wavering faith.

Doubts can be real in our journey of faith. We may question our faith in God. We may doubt if God cares for us. But we can turn to the Scripture and hear afresh the promises that God has for us and listen to his words of assurance once again.

Kar Yong Lim

Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Numbers 15,16

Acts 18
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Character study: John the Baptist


What kind of man was John the Baptist? Listen to this description of a prophet who was ‘wild, focused and gritty’, as context for this week’s readings in Matthew’s Gospel.

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The Cross has said it all – Matt Redman (from Ps 103)
Matt Redman & Martin Smith
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music

He is good
Kate Cooke
© 2009 Vineyard Records (UK/Eire)
www.vineyardrecords.co.uk


Comments
  • Angela Munday | Monday, 05 March 2018

    God has set no boundaries; He goes to all and does not 'live' inside religion. Look at what I am doing, says Jesus; those who express a need are healed. God is everywhere and is free to roam......"If you are guided by the Spirit you are not under law." ( Galatians 5:18 )

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 05 March 2018

    "The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." Forcefully advancing with forceful men. Therefore the weak, cowardly or incapacitated not able to be part of this but the strong in the Lord, able to resist and push back against dark forces in the world and spirits in the heavenly realms equipped with the armour of God. How much of an assault are we seeing on this with men being made ineffective either through their own choice or by oppressive forces that while appear to be light are destructive? Following Christ is not a calling to an easy and comfortable life but life in its fullest complete with times of discomfort and difficulty!

  • Roger Hall | Monday, 05 March 2018

    19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions." For Jesus died for Drunkards, Jesus died for Gluttons, Jesus died for Tax collectors, Jesus died for Sinners. As we approach Easter, the message of the Great Love at the heart of Heaven is totally amazing. The Love flows out rather as the waters cover the sea. Praise Him and rejoice and again I say Rejoice.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 05 March 2018

    Jesus was ministering to John in the most powerful way possible. The Word of God is magnified above the name of God (Psalms 138:2) and is more trustworthy than the audible voice of God out of heaven (2 Peter 1:17-20). Many times when we experience times of doubt and discouragement, we pray for God to do something special to lift us out of our despair. However, we should remember how Jesus responded to John by pointing him back to the Word, and we should receive the greater blessing of walking by faith and not by sight.v15 Everyone present probably had physical ears. Jesus was referring to their ability to perceive spiritual truth. Spiritual truths can only be received if we incline our ears unto God’s Word (Prov 4:20). What we concentrate our attention upon is what we become sensitive to.

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 05 March 2018

    God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the Children of God. (Matthew 5:9).... may we always be 'peace' ourselves. Amen.

  • Eileen Smith | Monday, 05 March 2018

    OAKLEY & GILVIN—you have both been an answer to my prayer to find a service online. I just looked up “Hour of Power YouTube” and found it! Thank you Oakley . Gilvin have rung Carey Baptist & had a nice chat & checked that I knew where to access the live service — so live from one on Sunday mornings & evening / mid week service from the other ! It’s good to have online teaching but a real blessing to have a full service.

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 05 March 2018

    Roger, a while back, I seem to remember your commenting about a prophecy re revival in your church. How goes my memory? How goes the fulfillment of the prophecy?

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 05 March 2018

    I remember Jane's last comment with a combination of sorrow and hope for her future but I haven't seen anything since. What is happening in her lfe?

  • Roger Hall | Monday, 05 March 2018

    David, thank you and you are right. A new regime has started to run the Church who know not the prophecy. I am not ready to condemn the perpetrators, but must remain without a voice. Actually, looking back, one is thinking the prophecy was that the smaller Churches will find revival. However, the Very large Church is somehow, like a huge supertanker beginning to make a turn around. You know how long it will take to turn round one of those Leviathans of the sea.

  • Enyobi Chukwunonso | Monday, 05 March 2018

    It's was not just john the baptist who was seeking a political Messiah to overthrow the Roman Empire. The disciples of Christ had imbibed the same notions, and were in the same expectation of a temporal kingdom to be set up by their master, and though his sufferings and death had greatly damped their spirits, and almost destroyed their hopes, yet on his resurrection from the dead, on the day of ascension, the disciples sounded disappointed when they asked; "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) though they have been with him all this while. Does it mean that Christ didn't teach them well, or that they didn't learn, or maybe like John the Baptist, they lacked faith?. Most times, we don't see what God is showing us, what he is telling us, or were he is directing us, etc. because of our expectations.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Monday, 05 March 2018

    EILEEN, how wonderful! I am able to attend church twice every Sunday (once at my Anglo-Catholic Parish and once at my local Methodist Church, but I also watch HOP on YT, listen to the sermon download from Liverpool Cathedral UK and Vineyard Columbus, Ohio USA each week. Quite an eclectic mix, but alongside WL, it keeps me fed and watered.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 05 March 2018

    John had prophesies that Jesus was the Messiah and had told Herod he was wrong in a very public way. He was now in prison facing certain death, he wanted to be sure what he had preached and prophesied was correct before he died. When the disciples of John asked Jesus told them to go back to John and tell what they had seen Tell John what I am doing . The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side."Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!" This was a fulfilment of Isaiah ch 42 v 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

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