Prophetic perspective for a puzzled prisoner

Posted Jun 14, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 11:2-10

2 Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, 3 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. 5 Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. [Isaiah 35:5-6, 61:1] 6 Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me.” 7 When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who wear refined clothes are in royal palaces. 9 What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 He is the one of whom it is written: Look, I’m sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you [Malachi 3:1].

Reflection Questions

Stalwart John the Baptist was in prison for boldly speaking truth to power (cf. Matthew 14:3-4). But he began to wonder: when was Jesus going to “clean out his threshing area,” “burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out” (Luke 3:17)? Was Jesus really “the one,” as John had preached? He sent the question to Jesus. Jesus pointed to actions that matched Isaiah 35 and 61, including healing “lepers.” It was a different brand of Messiah-ship than John had expected and preached. Yet to the crowd Jesus strongly defended John’s ministry.

  • How did Jesus' words in verses 4-6 respond to John’s troubled question in a gentle, Bible-based way? Why was it important, not only for John but for early Christians facing the hostility of the Roman Empire, to remember that wishes for a conquering Messiah grew from a partial reading of the Old Testament prophets? How can Jesus' gracious way of dealing with John’s question help you feel safe in taking your questions or struggles to Jesus in prayer?
  • Scholar N. T. Wright said, “Just as wicked people don’t like the message of judgment, because they think (rightly) that it’s aimed at them, so sometimes good people don’t like the message of mercy, because they think (wrongly) that people are going to get away with wickedness.”* To what extent can you empathize with John’s nervousness about Jesus' merciful words and actions? Who are the “lepers” Jesus shows mercy to today that might make you nervous?

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, at times I can identify with your struggling forerunner. Thank you that even when I’m filled with questions, I always find in you the merciful person who truly was “the one.” Amen.


* N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 127.

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Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

I love the words of Jesus! Oh, to listen to the very one who is known as the Word made flesh, dwelling among us. I love what Jesus has to say, what he has to teach, what he wants for my life… except when he’s wrong.

Because there are times he gets it wrong. I obviously know what is best for me, for my family, and for my friends. When it comes to direction in these areas, I will even go so far as to provide him with thoroughly thought-out plans with specific action steps that each of us are to take. Many of my prayers may be summed up as: “Dear Jesus, help me help you help me.”

Unfortunately, there are times when Jesus and I run into a roadblock when he disagrees with my strategies, and I’m not sure why. As I previously mentioned, they are thoroughly thought out. His resistance to my perfectly drawn-up plans gives me much angst and frustration. I find that there are even times when he won’t compromise at all! Can you even imagine?! How dare he?! Who died and made him… oh, wait.

I often have to get to the “oh, wait” before I remember who Jesus is. It’s at the moment of “oh, wait” when I realize I have been trying to take the lead, and I’ve wandered in my own direction, far from the path. Essentially, I get lost. When I find that I’m lost, I know that I need to look for my mental landmarks of God’s faithfulness. These “landmarks” are points in my life when Jesus has worked in surprising and profound ways. They are memories of when he’s comforted me when the world seemed bleak, times when I’ve experienced his overpowering forgiveness, or moments he’s enlivened my soul by challenging me to step way out of my comfort zone. These landmarks point me back on the right direction and are one way God says to me, “Come back this way and follow me. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you, and I love you.”

If you haven’t thought through those times in your life when God has been faithful to you, I’d encourage you to do so. What are your mental landmarks of God’s faithfulness? When has he shown you his love or mercy? When has he surprised you with joy? When has he carried you through when you couldn’t stand on your own? These are your landmarks. Should you ever be like me and drift, think back to your landmarks as God saying to you, “Come back this way and follow me. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you, and I love you.”

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