The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Arabella Northey. Arabella is thankful that this year she got to St Mary's incredible carol service, enjoyed life in all the Tiers (1, 2 & 3) and is living proof that God is the God of hope.

Matthew 11:1-19

Jesus and John the Baptist

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

2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'

4 Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.'

7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

'"I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you."

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 'To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others:

17 '"We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn."

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon." 19 The 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 deeds.'

Reflection

I spend much of my life looking for a 'sign', particularly when stepping into the unknown or doing something that is a little scary. Is there a sign that I said the right thing, is there a sign that he likes me, is there a sign that I should be pursuing that dream...? A few months ago, I started a new business in probably the least successful economic times ever! Now, I am looking for signs to confirm if it is successful or could grow or even to just keep encouraging me forward.

John the Baptist was the living embodiment of a huge sign for the people of Israel. As the people of God, their hope was shattered while under occupation by the Romans. Had God abandoned them? John, in his hair shirt and rather natty garb of a leather belt, was the messenger sent by God to prepare hearts and minds. He had stepped into his calling and was preaching hope and good news, but it hadn't ended well - he had upset Herod - and now he was sitting in prison, unable to preach and doubting his mission.

In v 4, Jesus sends the message to John that God's word is being fulfilled, signs and wonders are happening and that John is not to doubt himself or God's work. I am sure that with the present challenges of coronavirus and the knock on effects from lockdown closures that you, like many of us, have been affected financially, emotionally, socially or spiritually. Perhaps at this very moment you are asking God for a sign or even why your calling has been derailed. Step back and cry out to God, ask for a revelation to see how you have been building and advancing the kingdom. It takes determination, faith and endurance. We should not give up easily, or be the people that complain in a cynical and contrary fashion in v17. It is easy to visualise what a life should be like and then when reality does not measure up to be full of bitter disappointment.

Jesus reminds us in v15 that we are all personally invited to be like John, we have ears to hear and minds to understand, we can be part of this kingdom inheritance. Let's pray today to see clearly the signs in our life that God has already shown us. Ask for encouragement to take those signs of wonder, healing and power to two or three friends that desperately need to be reminded that God is hope embodied.

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