Thursday 09 December 2010

Bible Book:

"Let anyone with ears listen!" (v. 15)

Matthew 11:11-15 Thursday 9 December 2010


Jesus' ministry was set in a culture of ferment and unrest. Johnwas baptising large crowds in the river Jordan. The Essenes hadopted out of regular society, to form a holiness monastery in thedesert, at Qumran: there they prepared for God's new age. Zealots,like Barabbas, promoted revolutionary violence against the paganRoman authorities, to hasten their departure and the advent ofGod's kingdom. The Pharisees were developing a non-revolutionary,lay holiness network through the small town and rural synagogues ofPalestine, making themselves ready for the coming Messiah. (TheSadducees conservatively chose safety: they were allies of Rome,cementing their power in Jerusalem and the temple.) 

What were ordinary people to make of these cross-currents? WhenJesus came along, he was a further complication in the mix. Wheredid he fit? Who was he working with - or against? 

Jesus sketched a profile for his mission:

  • Jesus staked a link to the tradition of Israel (the law and theprophets) through John the Baptist.
  • Jesus celebrated John: he was the climax of all that God haddone for Israel and given to Israel. John was God's final warningto Israel: he was Elijah returned to earth (Malachi 4:5).
  • For all his indebtedness to John, Jesus had something new toreveal, the like of which had never been known before. God'skingdom was now present - in Jesus. Everyone who had the faith toclaim God's healing power through Jesus experienced grace andmercy, forgiveness and new life. The world's values were turnedupside down. The least were accorded higher honour than thehistoric saints of Israel. Moral and spiritual transformation ledto lives of humility and gentleness. Their hallmark was humbleservice of the poor.
  • Jesus has no time for and no links whatsoever withviolence.

However, Jesus' movement was vulnerable to violence fromothers. The Zealots wanted to take it over. Herod was on the prowlagainst all reform movements. Pharisees and Sadducees wereconstantly sniping at it. 

Even so, if people only listened hard enough, they would hearGod's voice in the words of Jesus. 


To Ponder

Do you feel confused by the great diversity ofChristian organisations and theological perspectives incontemporary society? What helps you to find a secure basis forfaith?

Who among contemporary Christians inspires you asa model of discipleship for today? Why?

Many congregations feel small and vulnerable. Towhat extent is that necessarily a negative experience?

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