The Unconventional Kingdom

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Have you ever had high expectations about something that didn’t quite get met? That can be really disappointing. We face a lot of disappointments in life, all of which extend from our own expectations. Have you ever been disappointed in God or his plan for your life? If we’re honest about it, there are a lot of times when God doesn’t seem to be responding or doing what we think he should be doing, right?

We’re going to be reading a section in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 11:1-19) where Jesus addresses some questions that John the Baptist throws at him from jail.

Why do you think John is asking Jesus if he’s really the One they’re waiting for? Consider where John is when asking this, compared to where Jesus is and has been (such as in Matthew 9:10). Also, consider what John declared Messiah’s mission to be. Can you understand his confusion?

Jesus doesn’t answer John by saying “Yes, I’m the Messiah, stop questioning me!”. Instead, what does he point to? Jesus quotes a lot of passages from Isaiah in his answer (Isa 26, 29, 61). John was waiting for Messiah to execute judgement on unfaithful Israel and Rome.  What does Jesus point to as the focus and evidence that God’s kingdom is indeed present and at work? How can that help us to understand the unexpected ways in which God works in our world? Where do you think our focus should be as the church?

Things get a little cryptic after that. Jesus reminds the crowd that they didn’t go out to the Jordan to look at a reed in the wind (possibly a disguised way of identifying Herod) or a kingly presence. They went to hear a prophet speaking for God. The greatest prophet, because he was standing at the threshold of God’s invading kingdom. Then Jesus says this strange thing about the kingdom suffering violence and the violent taking it by force. There are a multitude of ideas about what this means – I’m inclined to think it’s connected to the contrast between Herod and John. The representation of God’s kingdom (in the temple religion and in Herod’s assertion that he is king of the Jews) suffers because violent men try and use violent means to advance God’s purposes. What was the general expectation of the Messiah’s mission at that time? What did they think he was going to do? What did he end up doing, and how was it unconventional in terms of expectations?

Jesus then compares his critics to spoiled children who refuse to get on the same page and play the same game. They criticized John because he was too austere, they rejected Jesus because it looked like he was having too much fun. There was no pleasing them. So what does Jesus point to in answering his critics in v19? As Christians, we will always have people criticising or questioning our faith. Following Jesus’ lead, what should we be pointing to as evidence for consideration that God is indeed at work in our midst?

I’m really looking forward to digging into this text on Sunday! Hope to see you there!

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