+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening – A Collect for the Renewal of Life (Monday)
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Morning Reading – Matthew 11:2-19 (NLT)
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,and he will prepare your way before you.’
“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
“To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’
For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”
the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing…
– Matthew 11:12 –
Scholars and theologians disagree on their understanding of Jesus’ description of the Kingdom in these verses, having done extensive language and word studies.
. But today, I would like to take a simpler, less academic, more personal devotional approach.
+ John’s concern – John was languishing in jail, his life dependent on the whim of King Herod. Is it any wonder that he would ask his disciples – “What’s happening with Jesus? Is he truly the Messiah we expected?” As much as John revered and respected Jesus, even prophets need assurance and encouragement from time to time.
+Jesus’ response – “tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Jesus pointed to the signs and wonders taking place around him as proof that he was indeed the expected Messiah.
+ the Kingdom of Heaven’s forceful advance -Jesus’ description of the condition of the kingdom addressed specifically the period between John’s announcement and Jesus’ fulfillment. The Kingdom of God was advancing in spite of the forceful antagonism and resistance from those who refused to accept Jesus as Messiah.
And so it is today, the Kingdom of God continues to move forward with Jesus death, resurrection and ascension having already defeated the powers of darkness once and for all. Nevertheless, we await the the day when God’s rule and reign will be established in all its fullness and glory – when Jesus comes again. And like John we ask other believers, tell us what you have heard and seen that, we too may be encouraged and strengthened in our reverence and trust in Jesus Messiah.
Questions for consideration:
- How would you assess your spiritual life today? Encouraged / discouraged / something else? Please explain.
- What role do reports of Kingdom signs and wonders play in your spiritual life? Please explain.
- How can you bolster and strengthen the faith of those who are discouraged? Please explain.
- How can you continue to live by faith in the face of antagonism and opposition. Please explain.
Morning Prayer: For the Discouraged and Downcast –
O God, almighty and merciful, you heal the broken-hearted, and turn the sadness of the sorrowful to joy, Let your fatherly goodness be upon all whom you have made. Remember in pity all those who are this day destitute, homeless, elderly, infirm, or forgotten. Bless the multitude of your poor. Lift up those who are cast down. Mightily befriend innocent sufferers, and sanctify to them the endurance of their wrongs. Cheer with hope all who are discouraged and downcast, and by your heavenly grace preserve from falling those whose poverty tempts them to sin. Though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they are perplexed, save them from despair. Grant this, O Lord, for the love of him who for our sakes became poor, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Is He Worthy?” -Chris Tomlin
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen