Saturday 7 December 2019

John the Baptist Matthew 11 v. 2-11

If you study your Bible you will find there is a gap of four hundred years between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament Matthew.  There was no one outstanding figure, no one to prophesy to the people.

Then all of a sudden there comes on the scene a man called John the Baptist.  He was referred to in the Scriptures as one chosen to prepare the way for the Lord and in Luke we read that he was chosen before his birth.  He proved to be a very special person and on June 24th the Church remembers his ministry by setting that date to honour him.  If you are in Spain, or perhaps some other European Catholic country, they treat the day in a special way with processions and pageantry.

John was near the end of his life and kept in a dungeon at a place in the North East corner of the Dead Sea, an extremely hot and oppressive spot. He had criticised Herod for his immoral lifestyle and this was the punishment.

He was a sad and disillusioned man for his ministry was over, and he feels alienated as people appeared to have forgotten him, especially when Jesus was the focus of attention and he himself faces death.

John had always spoken strongly and faithfully about Jesus and he felt Jesus was doing nothing to help him, so he wonders if in fact Jesus was the promised Messiah. Doubt had entered his mind, which probably affects most people at times, for one senior cleric once stated that if you never had any doubts you had never done any serious thinking.

In order to clear his mind, John asked his disciples to see Jesus and ask Him if he really was the One they were expecting. Jesus told those disciples to go and tell John of what Jesus had actually done in answering prayer; to tell of the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking and that things happen in God’s own time. He sought to reassure John and confirm his faith by telling that He (Jesus) was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. 

In every Bible story there is inevitably a lesson for us today.  John was a holy man who tried to live a worthy and good life and a Christians that should be our aim.

There is a lesson for preachers in that there was a man who was prepared to speak the truth and was not afraid to be criticised, and he didn’t seek to modify his message to please those around him.  How many would be prepared to speak forthrightly in our Cathedrals, indeed how many would be allowed to. 

John said what he believed God wanted him to say, what people needed to hear rather than consider what they wanted to hear.  People went to hear him because whether they agreed with him or not there was substance in what he said, and that is a difference in many Churches to day.

I listen to sermons today and sometimes I pray that no stranger was in Church that day or they would be put off for life.  The problem with many of today’s preachers they are afraid of upsetting people, but as long as a preacher is not offensive, for which there would be no justification, it should be remembered that a sermon should stimulate thinking and most reasonable people would welcome that however much they disagreed with content.

However hard to accept, God has His own plans and Jesus will return one day to pronounce judgement.

Jesus knew people could fall away and give in when things appeared to be going wrong for them. It still happens and we can be very cruel within the Church sometimes by careless talk but on other occasions deliberately. I had a lady in my Church who worked very hard for the Church and demonstrated her faith in a very practical way. She trained to be a Reader, was PCC Secretary, and if anyone fell ill was the first to offer practical assistance to help them through their illness. What you might say ‘an ideal Christian’.

Sadly, a new Vicar had a wife who was intensely jealous that some other woman could be more popular than her that she made life intolerable for her, causing my friend to leave the Church and fall away for a time. I am delighted to hear she has now returned. There can be no justification for animosity within a Church,.

If you have felt disappointed, or feel no one cares for you remember this passage, knowing there will be judgment one day and all who do goodness will be welcomed into His Kingdom.

There comes times of suffering and weakness in all our lives. We may suffer loss, or have some seemingly impossible matter to deal with. It is so easy to give in, but if you do give in, it can be so hard to get back.

There are so many ill minded people who long to destroy our faith, some within positions of influence in society, and too many politicians who want to take Christianity out of the public domain; their words may appear attractive when you are downcast. If you have trusted God and for some reason nothing has happened, your faith will be under severe attack.

John acts as a warning to us, but he came out of his difficulty. You too can. Think of that great hymn by Ray Palmer, ‘my faith looks up to thee.’ Above all, never let doubt lead you to a spiritual desert. It is sad when someone loses their faith, and like many Ministers I have seen it too often. You may think it can’t happen to you, but it can.

Be sure to be at Church on Sunday(s). God bless you.

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!

No comments:

Post a Comment