Are You In?
In this week’s readings, we’ll be exploring various people or groups of people and how they responded to Jesus’ revolution. Some were all in. Some were confused. Some were apathetic. And some were down right opposed to Jesus. None of this was surprising to Jesus. He even teaches about the fact that there will always be some who hear and receive His words, and some who don’t. There will always be some in the world who learn and live in His revolution, and there will be others who refuse it altogether. But it’s all meant to work together to pose the question to us. So, as you read through each day’s reading this week, imagine Jesus coming to you and asking you the question:
What about you? Are you in?
Day 1: Read Matthew 11:1-15 (click HERE to read)
When it comes to following the rules, it might be an understatement to say that John the Baptist wasn’t a conformist. Not politically or religiously. In fact, he was a bit of an oddball – living in the wilderness, dressing in camel’s hair and eating bugs to survive. And more than that, a big part of his message included some strong words against the political and religious rule makers of his day. He called them out for their hypocrisy and injustice. That’s what landed him in prison (more of that backstory is in a few chapters).
John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. And he did just that – even though it may not have been in a way that most people would have expected. But here’s the thing. Now that Jesus was here, and active in his ministry, things weren’t quite lining up in the way that John had expected!
Perhaps, in the spirit of Elijah, John was expecting Jesus to reign down fire on their enemies, and at the very least get him out of jail. But instead, Jesus tells John’s inquiring students: “Go back and tell John what you hear and see: 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” (11:4-5).
John was expecting Jesus to come in judgement. Instead He came in mercy. The Kingdom of God had arrived, and even the one who was chosen to prepare God’s people for it didn’t recognize it.
Perhaps some of us think of our spirituality in terms of conforming to God’s expectations. But what do we do when He doesn’t conform to ours?
Consider for a moment…
What do you do when God doesn’t meet your expectations?
Take a few moments to reflect on your circumstances in this season.
- Is there any way that God isn’t working in a way that you want Him to or are hoping He will? How are you feeling as a result? Disillusioned? Angry? Doubting? In despair?
- Consider Jesus’ words to John as if He were saying them to you: Look around. What do you hear and see? In what ways may Jesus actually be mercifully working in this situation?
- Take a moment and pray for the merciful work of Jesus to be heard and seen in your circumstances. Ask Jesus to help you see it if you currently can’t. And ask Him to make it visible to others as well.
Day 2: Read Matthew 11:16-30 (click HERE to read)
Some of Jesus’ most difficult and sobering words are reserved for the people in the places where he performed many of his miracles. Chorazin. Bethsaida. Capernaum. He had lived in Capernaum. He knew the people. Why would he speak so harshly about the very people he had grown up with.
He was putting his finger on a condition that not only affected them, but most of us as well.
On the one hand, John the Baptist came out with a hard message of repentance. He was preparing people for the arrival of the Kingdom. He led a life of self-denial, a spiritual ascetic. And the people found his message unrealistic and overly harsh. So, they brushed him off as a quack, and gossiped that he probably had a demon! If only John would lighten up a bit!
When Jesus came in, He healed, forgave sins, performed miracles, and ate and drank together with others – all the things you’d expect when the Kingdom of God arrives. But this too was hard to take. How could the Saviour – the Holy One – be such a party animal? Shouldn’t he be a bit more solemn?
So Jesus calls this out for what it is – in the form of a children’s song (perhaps it was one common to them all): We played party music, but you refused to dance. We played a funeral song, but you refused to mourn. They were like children that would do the opposite, no matter what their Father said. And if they were so unwilling to respond to God – no matter what He said — then their own stubborn hearts would keep them from His Kingdom.
As convicting as Jesus’ words are here, what is incredible is what He reserves for His last words on the matter: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (11:28-30)
His invitation continues to go out to us – all of us who so often stubbornly refuse to listen to the voice of God, no matter what He’s saying – and offer us His mercy.
Take a moment and ask Jesus to speak to you on this…
- Is there any way He may be calling you to repent, change, or turn?
- Is there any way that He may be calling you to have mercy on another?
- Is there any way that you may be refusing to listen to Him on either or both of the above? Confess this to Him. Respond to his invitation for you…
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Day 3: Read Matthew 12:1-50 (click HERE to read)
Allow today’s passage to bring back to mind this past Sunday’s sermon. If you didn’t get a chance to hear it, you can listen to it HERE.
Sadly, the Pharisees were so stuck in their ways, they failed to see who Jesus really was – the True Rule-Maker, the Lord of the Sabbath, and the One who defines all God’s laws for us.
And because of this, they failed to understand how God’s laws are actually meant to be lived out. That they were given to us out of the deep love of God so that we might learn to be people who do what loves requires of us.
The Pharisees obeyed all the rules, but they had allowed love to leak out completely from their hearts.
Take some time today to reflect on the questions that were posed to us from Sunday’s sermon:
- When it comes to the different ways we might relate to “the rules”, which one do you identify with most? Why do you think that is?
- Rule-followers: the rules are there for a reason; that’s how the world works
- Rule-benders: yes for sure, rules are good, but they have to be flexible, need to adapt them to each situation differently
- Rule-breakers: the rule says left, I’m going right; I don’t need rules, I know what I’m doing
- Rule-feelers: the rule says this, but I just feel; I’m going with my gut, my feelings – what feels right in this situation; this doesn’t feel right to me
- Where might love be “leaking” from your life these days? How do your tendencies around the rules impact this?
- Are there certain people, places, situations, or circumstances that you are aware that you have lost love for? What might it look like for you to go back into those relationships or places in light of the question: “What does love require of me?”
Day 4: Read Matthew 13:1-23(click HERE to read)
Some commentators say that this particular passage is one of the most important and central passages in the whole book of Matthew. It lands right in the centre of his gospel – right in the heart of it. And it’s a parable – a teaching from Jesus – that illustrated many of the things that had actually been happening throughout his ministry. Various people and group of people were responding to Jesus in all sorts of different ways.
Think about the readings even over the last few days. John the Baptist’s confusion. Bethsaida and Capernaum’s apathy. The Pharisees’ outright opposition.
So now, Jesus gives a lesson about the reality that even though He comes to all people, He won’t be received by all people. There are so many things that can get in the way. The work of the evil one. The cares and worries of this life. And even our own shallowness and immaturity. In fact, God had been scattering the good seed of His Word and his Ways for centuries – but so many had refused to listen. They had refused to believe that God’s words were words full of LIFE and LOVE. What Jesus was saying, sadly, wasn’t new.
And it remains a dynamic that is equally true today. Not just in our world and in our culture – but in each one of us. There are all sorts of things that keep us from allowing Jesus’ Words and Ways from becoming deeply rooted into our characters.
Take a moment and prayerfully reflect. Ask Jesus to show you…
- Are there ways that you may be falling prey to the lies of the evil one, that God’s Word is a demanding word, or a condemning word, or an unreasonable word and not a Word of Life?
- Are there ways that you simply treat God’s Word in a shallow way, not allowing it to be planted deeply in you and to make you resilient in the midst of trouble?
- Are there ways that God’s Word is simply drowned out in your life because your primary attention and affection is directed on secondary concerns.
- What is Jesus saying to you about this? How might you respond to Him today?
Day 5: Read Matthew 13:24-58 (click HERE to read)
There’s one common theme that binds almost all the parables in this section together: waiting.
The farmer’s servants offered to pull the weeds from the field right away, but the farmer told them to wait until the harvest.
The birds would need to wait for the mustard seed to blossom into a full grown tree before they came to roost.
The woman would need to wait for her leaven to work all the way through that large batch of dough.
And of course, if you’ve ever gone fishing, you better be willing to wait a while (trust me!).
It’s not the only thing Jesus is saying in these parables, but it’s definitely one of the important things. The Kingdom of God doesn’t always come quickly. We can’t always see it coming. And we can’t always distinguish it in the midst of all the rest that’s going on. It’s somehow growing right alongside the weeds; baked right into the dough; caught right up in the net with everything else.
Because of this, it can often be hard to believe that Jesus’ Kingdom is near at all. It can be easy to get caught up in the distractions, discouraged in the struggles, and even brought to despair because of all the evil we see around us.
But the Word from Jesus here is, “Wait for it. It’s coming. It’s here even now, and it’s growing, though you may not be able to tell. And one Day there will be no mistaking it, because everything not of My Kingdom will be washed away, and the Kingdom of God will be all that remains.”
So, as you wait for Jesus’ unfolding Kingdom to come, what does the waiting look like for you? What could it look like?
I don’t think Jesus was saying that our waiting is meant to be passive or inactive in any way. In fact, quite the opposite! Every one of his examples involved a lot of activity. So, take some time with Jesus now and ask Him to speak to you about what the waiting is meant to look like for you…
- What is the field you are called to tend and labour in as you wait?
- What is the food you are called to make – to nourish and strengthen others – as you wait?
- Who are the people that you are called to fish for as you wait?
- What does it look like to engage in your Kingdom activities as an act of love for God and for others?
As you reflect on these questions, take time to pray that Jesus will make His Kingdom more visible in and through your life as you actively wait on Him to bring it to its fullness.