Sunday 11 December 2016

Bible Book:

“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (vv. 7-9)

Matthew 11:2-11 Sunday 11 December 2016

Psalm: Psalm 146


Matthew's Gospel records John the Baptist, the disciples andcrowds all wrestling with an issue we still face today. How do yourecognise someone as a true prophet from God, or even as theMessiah? What do you look for and where will you find that kind ofperson?

As he does so often, Jesus challenges their expectations byasking people if they expected to recognise a prophet (or theMessiah) by their worldly power, position and wealth? Clearly ifthat is what you are looking for, then both John the Baptist andJesus are misfits.


By this time John is in prison and Jesus, despite attractingcrowds, has no position or official authority.

Jesus then sets out different criteria for discerning if he isthe one John came to announce. They may be familiar as Luke4:16-20 records Jesus reading a similar list from Isaiah. Thesecriteria should not have been a surprise to the people ofIsrael.

With the benefit of hindsight, knowing how the Gospels end, andwith the knowledge of how Christians have understood Jesus to befor centuries it should not surprise us that Jesus can be theMessiah and known by his actions rather than his status. But forthe people caught up in the events it clearly was not so obvious.Even John was wondering if these signs were enough.

When looking for God at work there was, and still is, atemptation to look at signs of worldly authority, power and wealth,imagining that these give credence to claims to be a prophet oreven the Messiah.

Yet the story of the Messiah from conception through tocrucifixion and even onto resurrection is far from worldly powerand authority. He is rejected by religious leaders, and has nowealth nor official power.

Jesus challenged them (and us today) to search for prophets andthe Messiah not amidst the rich and powerful, and instead to lookat their teaching, the life they lead and the lives that aretransformed through them.

One reason that people might prefer to look elsewhere forprophets is that both John's and Jesus' response to God led them todeath at the hands of those in power - not a comfortableoption.

To Ponder

  • Where do we look for God's people today?
  • Dare we look past positions of authority, power and wealth forthe prophets of God? Dare we look among the outcasts, those inprison, those without wealth or power? Why?
  • Do we believe that God has changed and now works through thetrappings of worldly power? Or like the crowds and disciples are wemore comfortable recognising people with power in this world?Why?
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