The foretelling of a future King of Israel who would come on the scene and restore peace, prosperity and blessings to God’s people and land carried hope from generation to generation. These prophecies spoken of through God’s messengers in the Old Testament are at the heart of Jewish culture. From the time a child was born, the hope of this Messiah would deepen the faith of those who held to the “someday” or it would cause others to fall away due to unmet expectations of how God would bring His kingdom and set the oppressed free. Faithful John was included in messianic prophecy and even he was struggling with whether Jesus was fulfilling their expectations of how this restoration would take place.
Set aside some time to read or listen and reflect on how Jesus responds to John’s questions in Matthew 11:1-6. Instead of rebuking John for his doubts, Jesus graciously answers his ask by encouraging a pressing in for more. Now read Matthew 7:7-11, 1 John 5:14-15. Write down the invitations given to you in these passages
On June 17, 2015, thirteen gathered for a weekly Bible study at Mother Emanuel AMEC in Charleston, SC. A weekly gathering meant to foster fellowship and build faith in the community was violently disrupted by gunfire that evening. The lone aggressor was among those in attendance and was greeted as a visitor earlier that evening with open hearts and arms. By evening’s end, nine African-American men and women had lost their lives to a single act of hatred. Today their legacies live on as their communities strive for not only a future but a present filled with promise and hope. I can feel my faith stumble at times when I hear of the latest “innocents” struck down in a place of faith.
Have you ever been in a situation or with people who did not live up to the hopes and expectations you had for them? If so, you can probably understand why John the Baptist was confused in the reading we heard from Matthew’s Gospel.
“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’” The question was asked in a moment of despair, in the midst of a trial so severe that it seemed impossible to believe that God was still working on John’s behalf. We don’t have a record of John’s response to Jesus’ encouragement but I would imagine it was one of those “drop the mic” kind of moments.
What I have noticed is that when the kingdom of God begins to be unveiled in a certain place, offense is not far behind. There will often be an atmosphere of intensity, not unlike Episode 6 in Season 3 when relationships are strained, people’s capacity is taken to another level, and “new wineskins” test the motives of all who are experiencing this breaking through of the kingdom. John Bevere in his book “The Bait of Satan” says, “Our response to an offense determines our future.” It would be for followers of Jesus and John and in our times for us and Mother Emanuel.
When we come to the intersection of expectation and disappointment it is wise to remain open and do the following things:
1. Admit our doubts, confusion and discomfort and ask for help like John did.
2. Act on our faith and not on our doubts.
3. Keep going back to what we know to be true.
Sometimes we have blinders on. These blinders hinder our vision of where God is. If we take these blinders off we can see where God is in our lives and learn to trust him even when offense rises up within us. We can answer the invitation and like John go back to the promises and gravitate to where the Good News is being preached and where the results of that message bring us asking, seeking and knocking will be rewarded with an embrace.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This week is Palm Sunday, a day that invites us to see more than a peaceable Jesus riding on a colt under accolades. Palm Sunday reminds us that God is a promise-keeping God. He is a prophecy-completing God. Unlike fickle people, God follows through on his Word, his promises, his prophecies. Therefore, we can wholly trust this prophecy-keeping God.
We see people reacting to how God’s will comes about from the Hosannas to crucify him and it would appear we are experiencing some intensity. All opportunities where Father, Son and Holy Spirit come, inviting us to ask, seek and knock as our time of rejoicing nears. And may we not stumble when our expectations are not as we had planned knowing, ...how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Asking, Seeking, Knocking with you,
Reflect: Read Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Hebrews 12:11. How might these verses impact any confusion and fear you may feel when you’re waiting on God for answers?
Encourage: While it’s true that God doesn’t always answer the way we want Him to, what does James 1:5 tell us we’ll always get when we ask for it?
Gather: Put these words into your own prayer time in your small group gatherings.
Dear Lord, Thank you that You are not afraid of my questions and fears and doubts. Forgive me for the times I’ve tried to lean on my own wisdom, courage, and confidence when I should’ve been turning to you. Thank you for inviting me to bring my problems and questions to You. And thank You for the encouragement of Your response to John the Baptist. Please help me look to Scripture for the answers You’ve already provided, and help me trust You for the answers I’m still waiting for. Please grant me the patient faith I need to accept what You say as loving, trustworthy, and true. Amen