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The unexpected kingdom

March 7, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 11:2-5

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].”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Even John the Baptist, Jesus’ faithful forerunner, later wondered if he’d been right to point people to Jesus. “The Gospels tell of…John the Baptist, then in prison, [asking] whether Jesus was really the expected Messiah…. Jesus was not doing what John thought the Messiah would do: bring down God’s judgement on the wicked and unrepentant.” * It seems that even John, at that point, wanted Jesus’ kingdom to require other people (but not him) to change their thinking and actions.

  • Jesus was not the kind of Messiah John expected (cf. Luke 3:17). To answer John’s question, Jesus pointed to parts of the prophet Isaiah’s message that many (then and now) ignored. “Jesus’ reply…. was inviting John to recognize that the sorts of things that were happening in Jesus’ ministry were the sorts of things the prophet said would accompany God’s coming to rule. * Do you ever struggle to accept God’s ways, rather than demanding what you wish God would do?
  • 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 uneasiness about Jesus’ merciful words and actions? Who are the people Jesus accepts and shows mercy to today that might make you nervous?

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.

GPS Insights

Picture of Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

In today’s passage, John the Baptist asks Jesus a fairly simple question: Are you the Messiah? It’s a question that can be answered with a single word: yes or no. Not to belittle the importance of the question. John had given his whole life to preparing for Jesus’ ministry, so it made sense for him to seek some reassurance after he was imprisoned for it.

It’s Jesus’ response, though, that’s the really interesting part. Rather than give his own opinion, Jesus showed how what had been said about the Messiah was true in his life. He used Scripture and history to answer the question, giving much more weight to his answer to a man who was beginning to doubt. Jesus’ word was powerful and authoritative, but what John knew was Scripture, so Jesus used that.

When people ask of us, they’re unlikely to ask if we’re a Messiah (at least, I hope people aren’t asking that about me); but people may ask if we’re Christians. They may also ask a range of related questions with the same intent: Is this person good? Are they safe? Will they support me in my lowest moments? Can I trust them not to hurt me when I’m vulnerable? People will rarely ask these questions out loud, but you can be sure people will wonder these things.

In these times, we can give our answers, but our own answers will only carry so much weight. Like Jesus, we need to have an answer not for what we think we are, but for what we’ve done. Actions speak a lot louder than words, especially in a time where some Christians have been a destructive force to some of the most vulnerable people in the world and justified it with their religion.

Instead of asserting that we’re good, or safe, or supportive, or trustworthy, we need our actions and the fruits of our actions to speak for us. We can give impassioned speeches for why we’re all of those things, but until our family, friends, and the vulnerable people in society will vouch for us, our answer doesn’t mean much. If the stories in our lives don’t answer that question, we don’t need a louder answer ourselves—we need more stories of our godliness.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Bauckham, Richard. Jesus: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (pp. 41-42). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.
** N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 127.