Hey everyone and welcome to our final foundations podcast this week. It’s been awesome to journey with you over the past few days.
Our passage today is Matthew 11: 1-19. We are going to focus on verses 2-3: When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
What do we do when things don’t quite turn out the way we expect them to? That’s what I’d love for us to think about today.
To be human is to experience that. Sometimes it’s a small thing like you miss the bus, or technology doesn’t work – this is something that quite often happens with me. Maybe a lesson you are teaching doesn’t go as planned. That conversation you had with that person didn’t reach the conclusion you wanted it to.
Sometimes it can be pretty major stuff like our circumstances suddenly change – we get sick, we can’t do our job as we would like. People can disappoint us, they can let us down – perhaps that may be the hardest one of all?
How we deal with disappointment has a knock on impact for how we live our lives.
I heard something in a podcast recently which got me thinking about all of this. Disappointments aren’t chosen – we can’t do anything about them. They just kind of happen to us. It’s in how we respond to disappointment that we have a choice.
In today’s passage we read about John the Baptist – someone living with perhaps disappointment. This was a man who from before he was born had been anointed by God to go before Jesus, to prepare the way for the Messiah. To call people to a baptism of repentance in preparation for God’s chosen one to usher in the new Messianic age, to over throw the Romans and to set his people free.
And yet he finds himself imprisoned because he challenged Herod – the Roman ruler over this area at that time – about his promiscuous and unsavoury behaviour. This can’t have been how John expected it to go?
And inside his jail cell, he hears stories of Jesus – the one for whom he has gone ahead of. Except they aren’t the stories he was expecting to hear. John probably would have been expecting Jesus to be some kind of powerful military leader organising a revolt – no sign of that at this point in the Gospel accounts. He might have expected Jesus to be this ascetic or mystic in the desert – too holy to be around normal people. Jesus was, as we read later on in the passage hanging around with bad people – the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. Added to all of this the fact that Jesus didn’t fast in line with what the very religious people of the time were doing, even some of John’s disciples – as we read on Monday – meant this must have left John feeling very confused. Maybe even disappointed in who Jesus was….
We see that in verse 3 John asked some of his disciples to go and straight up ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah? Or should we expect somebody else?’ Ouch!
And of course Jesus’ response is to report back to John what has been happening… that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf can hear and the dead are raised. John would have heard this and he would have known. This is what was prophesised by Isaiah. The year of the Lord’s favour. God’s kingdom was at hand. The king was here.
Jesus paints for John the bigger picture. That God’s got a plan. It’s just that it’s not quite what John expected it to be.
Here’s the thing….all of us can point to those moments when we discover that life isn’t quite as we had expected it to be. To say we are in one of those moments right now is a bit of an understatement.
So how do we deal with that? How do we respond? What’s the answer?
It sounds obvious but I think it’s to know Jesus. To come close to Him. Like John we might feel a bit trapped right now – like we can’t see how this is all going to turn out. The encouragement is to bring that to Jesus. Because as we do that he reveals to us the bigger picture. Spending time with Him helps to see things like Him.
We sometimes view what’s happening in our lives as if it were the end of the story, that it’s ruined everything. I remember – rather painfully – when my first girlfriend dumped me at the time for another friend in my old Venture Scout group. It was crushing. I was angry. I sent long and sorrowful text messages on my old Nokia. I thought my world had ended. Of course I was totally unaware that I had plenty of growing up to do myself…I had no idea I’d fall in love with a girl from Bingley…who’d introduce me to Jesus…and the rest as they say is history.
Perhaps a very trivial example but God has a plan. Sometimes we can see it; sometimes we can’t. In our present pain we often find it hard to see the eternal joy that is set before us in Christ.
Jo, my wife, will often say…one day I’ll know. It will make sense. And it will. One day, we will be with Jesus into eternity and we will see Him face to face. We have been seated, Paul writes, in the heavenly realms with Christ – our future is secure. He has won that for us. So often we let frustrations and disappointments eat away at us, rob us of our joy when we should be counting our blessings.
The antidote to disappointment is to know Jesus. We can’t rewrite the past. But our future has already been written. And it’s safe in his hands. As Tom Finnemore is always saying, “Jesus has got a book out.” When we get to the end of the book we see that the Lamb wins. And in Him we get to win too.
Jesus, thank you even though we face challenges, frustrations, that we experience disappointment- that you have a bigger and better plan for our lives. Thank you that in you we are more than conquerors and that nothing that can separate us from the promise, the hope that we have in you. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 11:1-19
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’
Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to 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. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
‘To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others:
‘“We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.’