Sunday, 3 February 2019

Kingdom Life / Kingdom Sign - Isaiah 35 / Matthew 11

A couple of weeks ago we saw how John the Baptist was excited to meet Jesus. 'Behold the lamb of God' he called out, and on baptising Jesus saw the Spirit rest on him. It was a great moment. But now, some time later, Jesus is out ministering but John is confused. Thats because John is now in prison.

Remember Jesus had said that it would be tough. He pronounced a series of 'blessed are ...' statements which concluded with 'blessed are those persecuted because of me'. But hearing those words and being the person to have to live them can be two different things. John is finding it hard being on the sharp end. He knows verses like Isaiah 35 verse 4, talking of God coming with vengeance and divine retribution to save. So he may well have thought 'why are these unclean Romans still in charge? Why isn't Jesus bringing this day of vengeance, sorting out the Romans?'. And there lies the problem. John the Baptist knew the words of Isaiah, but he was human like us - so he could highlight some verses and give less space to others. We can all do this, reading through a certain lens and get the wrong emphasis. So he sends the question to Jesus 'Are you the one to come, or is there another'.

Jesus had a simple answer: What do you see? The blind see, the lame walk, skin diseases are cleansed, the deaf hear, dead are raised and good news is proclaimed to the poor. In other words Jesus kind of replied: 'Look at Isaiah 35 verses 5 to 7, don't just stick on verse 4!'. Isaiah was right in all his predictions, but our emphasis on them can be wrong.

Jesus is bringing God's Kingdom, but that looks different to what most people think. His Kingdom is where lives are changed. Where people who thought God could not possibly be for them see God breaking into the harshness of their world and changing it. This of course is not military power, nor is it political power ... although it will surely lead to a clash with these powers. No, it is God changing lives down at the grass-roots level, doing it one by one, issue by issue.

Maybe for us we need to see that this is not God restoring us to be a 'Christian country', but it is God doing stuff across the country. So let us open our eyes to what God is doing:

Key Qn: [OUT] Where do you see signs of the Kingdom?
Challenge: Add to a conversation: “I believe in Jesus who can change things ...”

Our challenge is to stick our neck out in conversations. We will see people in tough situations, but right there we can tell of our belief in Jesus who can  change things. We don't have to make rash promises, but tell of Jesus and offer to pray!

In Isaiah 35 verse 6 it talks of 'water will gush in the wilderness' and 'streams in the desert'. We heard about that in our recent church meeting - of God's provision for life. He brings that in the difficult places, and it accumulates bringing life and growth (verse 7). It coalesces to become a 'highway', big and wide on which many can safely travel (verse 8). Note the 'unclean will not journey on it'. Here the 'unclean' are those who remain in unbelief - Jesus can make anyone clean if the would believe ...

In Matthew's write-up of Jesus, we see in chapters 5 to 7 Jesus spelling out his manifesto, what following him is all about. Chapters 8 & 9 then have Jesus doing ministry with many miracles. In fact there is an episode to match each of the things declared in Jesus's reply to John (11:4). Then in chapter 10 he commissions his disciples to go and do the same! Now in chapter 11 the account subtly shifts to be about who Jesus is. With that shift comes the implicit question: 'are you going to believe in Him', the one predicted, the one sent by God?

Today is our annual covenant communion service, where we re-commit to each other as a church. Remember a big thing for us is that church is people! But it is not just that we are a people who will be nice to each other (though we do want to love one another). We are a people who will commit and invest ourselves to look to Jesus to see where He is changing lives, bringing Kingdom life. For we want to see Kingdom Life across the city - so we look out, we pray, we ask, we venture out ...

And we do that ready to see the person right in front of us, whose situation is simply pants. With them we pray: let eyes be opened; those who are symied be able to get up; the yukky stuff be cleansed; blockags removed; no-hope situations revived; let the good news be proclaimed to those even in the harshest situations.

Will we join together again today and covenant to be that people?

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