Week of April 30

Follow the Directions to the One!

Read: 1 Samuel 28-29; Psalm 109; Matthew 11
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
Matthew 11: 2-3, ESV


The Holocaust threw open wide a doorway in theological circles to question everything from the impotence of God to His very existence! Many Christians radically changed their view of God and His power in the horrific face of Nazi genocide.
Jesus’ ministry begins with a great demonstration from heaven that this one was the Son of God, the one who was to come, but the reality was that the Romans were still in power, and the long-expected material blessings of the Messianic Age had not yet arrived. Even John the Baptist, himself, was scratching his head in prison, wondering about the nature of Jesus’ mission and whether he had it right when he proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah.
Have you ever doubted God’s Kingdom purpose when you view the evil and suffering in our world? When you, yourself, encounter overwhelming heartache and grief? This focal passage will speak to your heart today.

The Meaning of the Text

The Context
Our context provides us with a clearer picture to the point that Matthew makes in chapter 11. John the Baptist has been imprisoned and he has received word there of “the works” that Jesus performed (cf. 4:12). He likely means the miracles of Christ, as we have seen in chapters 8-9. These powerful acts should have reinforced John’s belief in Jesus’ messiahship, but the contrary was true.
Signs that Jesus is the Messiah
Matthew broadcasts the question that John asks so that Jesus’ own words might settle the doubts once and for all (11:2-3). Jesus had already performed healing miracles that were signs that God was at work. When Jesus healed people, this was to prove that the kingdom of God was present and advancing (cf. Isaiah 35:5-6). His disciples, along with preaching the Good News, were also to continue to do these things as signs that God was at work in the world (cf. Acts). The difficulty was that these folks had heard preached and taught a different view of the kingdom. Jesus’ ministry was both refreshing to people who had been disenfranchised for centuries and frustrating to the religious authorities who had advanced a very different theology about God.
I know that I have your attention because the same divide exists in Christianity today. We have our own nationalists, traditionalists, extremists, purists, ad nauseum! Some would label John a separatist because of the nature of his own prophetic call. It led him to separate from the religious establishment and fulfill his prophetic role as predicted in Isaiah 40.
So he raises the question in verse two considering his messianic belief (Isaiah 40:3; Lexham Bible Dictionary). His prophetic ministry was grounded upon a call to repentance and participation in baptism. John asks what you and I, perhaps, have been afraid to ask in light of our own circumstances. “Jesus, are you the One?!” There, we’ve said it, so now we may allow Jesus to answer the question.
Declaration in Jesus’ words and actions
Jesus says to go and tell John what you hear and see. In other words, make your way to John and instruct him to listen to the podcasts again and read the tweets on the @WWMD twitter feed about Jesus’ engagement in social justice causes (i.e., What Would Messiah Do). OK, so Jesus’ messages are not on a podcast, and there is no twitter account, but He did preach the Good News, teach the scriptures, and heal people (Matthew 4:23). Jesus says to them quite literally to hurry off (“go” is a participle) and tell John (imperative) all that they have heard and seen (see again Matthew 8-9). Let’s apply this passage to our lives.

The Message for Our Lives

If you are like me, then you know the frustration of driving along a road for quite a length of time, only to realize that the directions you were following were wrong. My uncle Mark was born to give directions. I’ll never forget the guidance that he gave me to find his home in Leander, Texas. Distances were precise, and he meant them to be taken literally, because he had measured them himself (e.g., 2/10 of a mile). Landmarks were crystal clear (e.g., the “caliche road”). The destination was evident because he was there to greet you when you arrived. Yes, with Uncle Mark, it was Leander, not “Meander,” Texas. The same holds true for Jesus. If you are not hearing preaching and teaching and seeing evidence of God changing lives, then I would check which “messiah” you are being invited to follow.
The point for our lives today. Jesus was, and remains, the embodiment of the Old Testament passages about the coming Savior (Isaiah 35:5-6, 42:18; 61:1). In other words, do not become distracted by erroneous theologies or by world tragedies (see Luke 13:1-4). Jesus said, and still says to us, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). This is Good News and “go live your life in this truth” news. God’s kingdom has broken in through Jesus’ way and it will follow that path until the age ends. Trust Him!

For Thought and Action

1. Jesus calls you to embrace a “spiritual” (Holy Spirit) message—not nationalism, extremism, or even do-it-yourself “me-ism.” Your heart must follow Him precisely, or you will miss the truth. Give Him your entire heart, the very center of your being today.
2. Do not allow a “Copperfield effect” to distract you (cf. the illusionist/magician). Exploding bombs and explosive rhetoric will cause you and me to miss where Jesus is already working to bring the Kingdom to a victorious end. It happens now as He stated it was happening then (Matthew 11:3-5). Look for Jesus in the right places and your hope will be restored.
3. For Families: My Bullock-Bullion daughter has crooned a very special lullaby praise song to her four children since they were babes. Now, some of the babes are in high school. Although she does not tuck her 16-year-old in bed like she used to do, he still knows this song by heart.

Our children might not yet be asking whether Jesus is the “one,” but they can be praising and learning to love the “One” with their entire beings. Click here to recall this lovely, gentle tune and sing it with your kids when you tuck them in:
There's Just Something About That Name 
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that Name.
Master, Savior, Jesus, like a fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim,
Kings and Kingdoms shall all pass away
But there’s something about that Name.
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock