Daily reflections: Sitting at the feet of Jesus

Matt 19

True priorities?

If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Read: Matthew 19

Thought
The ten commandments can be divided into two lists – the first list are the things that break our relationship with God, the second list are those that break our relationships with other people.

Here Jesus reels off all the commandments from the second list, that the young man says he has kept. Except, of course, the one commandment that Jesus does not mention: “You shall not covet” – A commandment about money and possessions.

And whilst Jesus’ command to this young man is to sell all his possessions, this is not a general commandment to all Christians . But, I believe, that to this young man, Jesus challenges the priority in his life: money and possessions, that he puts before God and before others.

 

Reflection

Music: I can only imagine

Where are our priorities wrong? What do we put before God? Ask Jesus to help you see where your priorities are wrong.

Ask Jesus to help renew your mind and change your thinking, that God’s priorities may become your priorities and we may think the way of the kingdom.

And pray for those who you know who are struggling in this area.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek reward
Except that of knowing that I do your Will

(Ignatius of Loyola)

 

Peter Francis

 

Matt 18

True Greatness?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Read: Matthew 18

 

Thought
Whenever I make mistakes or behave badly, I find it comforting to know that Jesus’s first disciples did so too!

It also strikes me that whenever my own children act up, it does not change how much I love them…Unless they come and say sorry, which is when my heart bursts with love and happiness for the journey they have obviously just made.

 

Reflection

Music: I can only imagine

What can we learn from the children in our lives? From our own childhood? From those in our church, or in our wider community now?

In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what ‘changing to become like a child’ means for you.

Schoolchildren break up for holidays at the end of this week – pray for children across the diocese to encounter Jesus this Summer.

 

Prayer

Expressions of faith 

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.
(Northumbria Community)

Sarah Haslam

 

Matt 17

Coming and listening

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

 Read: Matthew 17

 Thought
What words can do justice to this ultimate encounter? Following Jesus has demanded faith, discipline, service and sacrifice, and now through His grace Jesus’s disciples are invited to draw breathtakingly close to God in this most intimate way. As they witness God the Father expressing his love of Jesus the Son, they are themselves drawn into that relationship of unsurpassable love. And God said: listen to Jesus.

 

Reflection

Music: I can only imagine

 Sitting quietly and comfortably, close your eyes. Picture Jesus beckoning you warmly to accompany Him up the mountain and come before God.- to come into His presence.

Take some time to acknowledge and offer Him your feelings, allowing any fears and worries to be transformed into a gift of praise and thanksgiving.

Now take some time to simply listen to what he is saying to you.

  

Prayer

Expressions of faith 

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.
(Northumbria Community)

 

Sarah Haslam

 

Matthew 16

The Cross and self denial

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Read: Matthew 16

 

Thought
In yesterday’s story, Jesus rewarded the woman’s great faith with her daughter being healed instantly. But the disciples in this passage are taught a tough lesson indeed that doesn’t sit comfortably with seekers of a prosperity Gospel (those who think that by following Jesus, God will make their life easy and give them all they want). Real Discipleship, by contrast,  is hard and costly. Are we prepared to pay the price?


Reflection

Music: take courage

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas of your ‘self’ that you might need to submit to Christ and ask for His help to do so.

 

Prayer

Expressions of faith 

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.
(Northumbria Community)

Sarah Haslam

 

 

Matthew 15

courage and faith

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us’.  He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

 

Thought

Looking at this encounter from the perspective of Jesus’s disciples, we note their confidence in Jesus, in their relationship with him and in their understanding of what his mission is all about. But do they have more to learn?

What about from the perspective of the Canaanite (gentile) woman? While we know that Jesus does indeed respond to the Canaanite woman’s faith and persistence, this is a good place to pause in the story before reading on.  Having a relationship with Jesus requires courage and faith – especially when we feel things are looking desperate.

 

Reflection

Music: take courage

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

As we reflect on what areas in our own lives we might be still watching and waiting for God to act, are we waiting in faith? Bring them afresh to God in prayer. Now read to the end of the story and give thanks for His steadfast love.

Read: Matthew 15

 

Prayer

Expressions of faith 

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.
(Northumbria Community)

Sarah Haslam

 

Matthew 14

Getting out of the boat.

Jesus immediately said to them: take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Lord, if it is you, “Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” He said.

Read Matthew 14

 

Thought.

Seeing Jesus walking on the water, the disciples thought they had met a ghost. This was a further new revelation that Jesus was doing the impossible. Who was He really? And what was Peter’s reaction to join Him on the water? Stupid? Bold? Arrogant? Impetuous? Why trust himself to a ghost?

But Jesus – like in every major Godly encounter in the Bible – says “Come. It is I. Don’t be afraid”.

Don’t be afraid. Peter was a risk taker. He was prepared to face his fears and step out, whilst the rest of the disciples trembled in the boat. And God needs risk takers in His church right now.

 

Reflection

Music for reflection: oceans (where feet may fail) acoustic

We face an important time in the Church. Are you prepared to get out of the boat when others won’t? Are you prepared to take risks for God? Are you prepared to go, wherever God’s spirit leads you?

 

Prayer:

 

Almighty Lord Jesus,

The one and only God of the Universe,

Yet caring enough to meet me in my every need,

May I walk with You daily and see You face to face.

 

Richard Spencer

 

Matthew 13

Faith

Jesus said to them, “Only in his home town and in his own house  is a prophet without honour”. And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Read : matthew 13

Thought

The opposition to Jesus in His home town immediately comes after various parables about welcoming the Kingdom of God. What a contrast! Matthew tells us that the people of Nazareth were so  “offended”  by Him that He could not carry out many miracles! Even His own family seem not to have believed in Him. The locals probably felt that it was best that He moved on.

So is there a link between their lack of faith and that Jesus could not fulfil His ministry there? Matthew is clear that there is. But perhaps lack of faith should also include deliberate rejection of faith. After all, God is the perfect Gentleman and will not force His Will upon anyone.

The miracle here is that despite their cynicism, many of Jesus’ relatives and friends became influential in the new Church after His resurrection. Again a remarkable change. Faith is believing that God can change people and circumstances be it short or long term.

 

Reflection

Music: I stand amazed

 

What are you believing for in faith? Or have you given up?

Do you need to ask God “to increase your faith”?

 

Prayer

Almighty Lord Jesus,

The one and only God of the Universe,

Yet caring enough to meet me in my every need,

May I walk with You daily and see You face to face.

 

Richard Spencer

 

Matthew 12

God’s overwhelming mercy

“{Jesus said} He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or in the age to come.”

Read Matthew 12

Thought.

This passage follows the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was carrying out His miracles because He was involved in witchcraft. The unforgiveable sin is when the  good of the Holy Spirit  is declared evil and  evil is proclaimed to be good. It is frightening because by so doing, a person is cutting themselves off from God and hence forgiveness and His kingdom. But it is a good sign if you are worried you have committed this , because it probably means you haven’t.

Yet the passage if full of hope. In an age where everybody blasphemes the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ on TV or in the street, there is still a deep wonderful forgiveness available. That is remarkable. Only God can be great enough to do that!!! Isn’t that absolutely wonderful!? We have a great God.

 

Reflection

Music: I stand amazed

Has the enormity of the greatness of God and what He has done for you, despite everything, really sunk deep into your heart? Ask God now to help you to  fully understand that priceless love.

 

Prayer:

Almighty Lord Jesus,

God of the Universe,

Yet caring enough to meet me in my every need,

May I walk with You daily and see You face to face.

 

Richard Spencer

 

 

Matthew 11

Rest

{Jesus said} “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Read Matthew 11

 

Thought

To the Jew of the day, used to living under the Jewish Torah or law, Jesus’ words would have been revolutionary.  Here He depicts Himself as gentle and humble, not the harsh God taught by the Pharisees who could portray a vindictive God out to find fault with the smallest error.  In fact, Jesus shows He is the exact opposite of that image. A God who welcomes us into His merciful and loving presence. But note the emphasis on the need to learn from Him. We have to be prepared to take time to immerse ourselves in Jesus and learn who He really is.

Reflection

Music: I stand amazed

Are you willing to take the next step and “learn” from Jesus?

Are you willing to lean on Jesus.

And are you prepared to immerse your self in Him and accept His teaching?

 

Prayer:

Almighty Lord Jesus,

God of the Universe,

Yet caring enough to meet me in my every need,

May I walk with You daily and see You face to face.

 

Richard Spencer

 

 

Matthew 10

The Sacrifice of the Twelve Apostles

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a] Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Read: Matthew 10

Thought

After Judas betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16) and eventually took his own life (Matthew 27:3-5), he was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:23-26) as one of the twelve.

After persecution broke out in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), it is said that the apostles took a map and divided up the known world amongst them. The twelve apostles then took the gospel message to at least as far north as Britain, as far south as Africa, as far east as India, and as far west as Spain.

It has really struck me again just how much these twelve apostles gave for their Lord and Saviour, in bringing the Great Commission to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). They gave absolutely everything. They gave up their very lives.

Of the twelve, only John died of old age. The other eleven were all martyred for their Christian faith. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome, in the same year as Paul (not officially one of the twelve) was killed by the sword. Eventually, six of the apostles were crucified, with Andrew being crucified on an X shaped cross, from which we get the Scottish flag of St Andrew.

Reflection

Music:  waymaker

Thank God for the incredible faithfulness of these twelve courageous men (and Paul), and how their lives offered up in sacrifice has enabled the gospel message to come to the world.

Pray for believers in other countries who are being persecuted for their faith, and give thanks for all Christian missionaries.

 

Peter Gee

 

Matthew 9

Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Read: Matthew 9

Thought

The Jewish worldview in the first century was that if a person was sick or disabled then it was because of their sins, a bit like the belief in ‘karma.’ But Jesus brought a totally new worldview, seen both here, and in John 9, when he confirmed that neither the blind man, nor his parents had sinned.

If I went up and forgave a person who had just been caught red handed by a store manager for shop lifting, then there would be at least two reactions. The shop keeper would say, “What right have you to forgive him? He is guilty and must be prosecuted. This is nothing to do with you!” And the guilty person might say, “Stop interfering in my business.”

Mark’s account adds this phrase from the teachers of the law, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And this question actually leads us to the answer. Jesus is God, so only he can forgive a person’s sins. Every one of us needs to come to Jesus in repentance, in order to receive this forgiveness, bought on the cross with his blood.

In pronouncing the paralytic forgiven of his sins, Jesus lifts both the social and self-condemnation off of him, and the faith of his friends is enough for Jesus to then heal him physically. This healing is also underlining the fact that Jesus is God.

Reflection

Music:  waymaker

When I first spoke on this passage in a church, there was a young mother in a wheelchair in the front row. God didn’t heal her physically that day, but my feeling was that he was speaking to her spiritually.

 

Pray for all those in our community, who long for healing. What comfort and reassurance can we give them in the meantime of God’s love for them?

 

Peter Gee

 

Matthew 8

I am with you through the storm

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Read: Matthew 8

 Thought

Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to the region of the Gadarenes, from Jewish to Gentile territory, seemingly to escape the crowds. How could anyone sleep through such a violent storm? Yet Jesus could, totally secure in his Father’s love and care.

To the Jews the sea represented death, demons and monsters. It was the place of evil, darkness and dread that led down to Sheol, the place of the dead. This account is another picture of the cross. Jesus asleep represents his death on the cross. Crossing the sea, represents his crossing of death to save all of humanity, both Jews and Gentiles. The disciples waking Jesus up represents his resurrection. Christ’s commanding of the wind and waves to be still underlines God’s total victory over death, and his power and authority over all creation.

One implied ‘storm’ in Jesus’ own life is the probable death of his human step father, as Joseph is not mentioned again after Luke 2:51, and in Matthew 12:46, we only find Jesus’ mother and brothers listed. In the gospels, of the people whom Jesus raised from the dead, Joseph is not listed among them. Jesus was fully human and faced storms, just as we all do.

Reflection

Music for reflection: oceans (where feet may fail) acoustic

Thank Jesus that he has promised to be with us always, no matter what storms life brings to us.

Thank God, for we know that resurrection from death lies on the other side of the final storm that one day we must all individually face.

Whatever storm you are currently going through, ask God to send this assurance of his presence with you, in the midst of it.

 

Peter Gee

 

 

 

Matthew 7

Knowing Jesus

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

Read:  Matthew 7

Thought

These are hard challenging words in todays passage, which is in itself hard and challenging to understand, but I’ll have a go.

Like many difficult (and not so difficult!) passages, if we take them out of their context – both the biblical context (immediately of the passage and more widely of the whole of Gods story) and out of the culture context in which they were spoken in, we are in danger of misreading them completely.

 On one hand, I do think that we need to remember that immediately before, Jesus is speaking about false prophets – about wolves in sheeps clothing.  Yet on the other hand we can’t just say these words don’t apply to us.

And These words seem to demand two things of us

1)      Obedience. Today, We tend to separate out knowledge and practice, but in Jesus’s day these would have seen as two side as of the same coin. And we might argue that Jesus’s problem here is with those who have heard, yet not obeyed. But this is obedience that could only come from a genuine change of life, of repentance and a commitment to walking Gods way

2)      A real personal relationship.  Likewise, the gospels tell us that if we repent and believe, God’s holy Spirit will make his home in us.  Jesus promises a real personal relationship with God.

 Reflection

Music for reflection: I will follow (acoustic)

Are there areas of our life where you have not obeyed? Ask Jesus to show you

Lord Jesus, we are sorry we have not obeyed your commands. Help us to turn to you and walk in your way. Fill us with your spirit and speak to us, lead us and guide us we pray.

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Peter Francis

 

Walking with Jesus: Matthew 6

Peace and priority

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

Read:  Matthew 6

 

Thought

At first glance this passage might seem to be simply about calling us to lay aside anxiety when we should have peace. But it goes much deeper than offering simple platitudes, to Jesus’s analysis of his (and our) societies anxiety and offering a better way, offering Gods way.

Jesus sees materialism having a stranglehold on us as we “seek after all these things”- perhaps in our days of advertising, social media and 24-7 online shopping, this phrase could be a byeword for much of our society. As now, just as then it does not bring contentment or peace, in fact quite the opposite.

But what Jesus offers is instead “to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added to you”.  Jesus offers us the right priority – The Kingdom of God. And it is in following this priority and being dependent on God, in trusting God, that we will truly find peace and the God who loves us, knows our needs.

Of course, as this passage concludes talking about trouble, Jesus never promises us a trouble free life, but he does promise us life in all its fullness.

 

Reflection

Music for reflection: I will follow (acoustic)

To what extent do we “seek after all these things” or “seek first the kingdom”?

Ask Jesus to help us shift our priorities to his priority.

 

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Peter Francis

 

 

Matthew 5

Salt and light

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Read: Matthew 5

 

Thought

If you forgotten to season your food, you will know that food that is missing salt feels like it is missing so much more. But then add salt, and you might even say that the food tastes more of itself, than before.

The salt brings it to life, makes it shine.

And that is what we are called to do – to be part of bringing Gods kingdom, bringing life, making the world shine.

We are called to lights on a hill, witnesses to the glory of God. We are called to shine as follow Jesus and become more like him, as we build his kingdom of light.

 

Reflection

Music for reflection:  ‘Who am I?’ by Casting Crowns

What does it look like to be salt and Light in your home, workplace, church, community? Ask Jesus to show you how you can shine and what it might look like for you to really come to life and live life in all its fullness.

 

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Peter Francis

Matthew 4

If you are….

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

Read: Matthew 4

 

Thought

If you are the son of God, looks like words designed to sow doubt. Doubt at the most fundamental level, to Jesus’ very identity.

And In the original temptation story in Gen 3, we read the tempter sowing doubt as to Gods words “did God actually say” and even refuting them completely “you will not surely die”

But Jesus knew who he was and what he called to do, and would listen to no other than his father, whose word he quotes in rebuttal to every temptation.

Jesus knew who he was and what he was called to do

Matthew chapter 3, culminates with these words: when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[b] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus knew who he was and what he was called to do

 

Reflection

Music:

Do we know who we are? That God Loves us?

Music for reflection:  ‘Who am I?’ by Casting Crowns

Do we know what we are called to do? Ask Jesus to help you see what he is calling you to do?

 

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Peter Francis

 

 

 

Matthew 3

Prepare the way of the Lord.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

Read: Matthew 3

 

Thought

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, as was prophesied by Isaiah (chapter 40v3).  In the same way that gardeners may prepare the ground before seeds are sown John the Baptist prepared Jesus’ audience for what Jesus was about to say.

The original listeners would have understood that a VIP was coming and that they had to prepare.  They had waited for their Messiah for hundreds of years and now some work had to be done to prepare the way for him.  At the time, the idea of ‘preparing the way’ would have been associated with flattening roads for the new ruler or statesman to be able to have a smoother journey.

But what does preparation mean for us?  Prior to the lockdown, when special visitors might have visited your home, think about what kind of preparations you might have made.  If a visitor was unexpected or coming at short notice a superficial tidy-up might be all you had time for.  Clutter might be hidden in a cupboard to be organised later.  But then how would you feel if the cupboard door opened and the clutter fell out?

Jesus is the most important guest that we might ever invite into our homes and into our lives.  What difference should that make for us?  John the Baptist urged his hearers to change their attitudes and actions.  Do we need to do the same?

 

Reflection

Ask God to help you restore your soul.

Music for reflection: You restore my soul

What does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord?

What can we do to prepare our lives? Remembering that Jesus is with us always, ask Him to help you to make the changes that He wants you to make.

What clutter are you hiding for later?  Take a few moments to talk to God about the stuff on your mind.

 

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Coral Francis

 

 

Matthew 2

It was to fulfil the words of the prophets.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he enquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Read: Matthew 2

 

Thought

One of the things our New Testament tutors have encouraged us to do when reading the bible is look for repetition and themes that the writer may have wanted the original audience to spot.  Repetition is nearly always there to make a particular point.

In this chapter we see the familiar story of the wise men looking for Jesus, Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt with Jesus because it wasn’t safe to stay in Judea, Herod was trying to kill Jesus, and eventually Jesus and his family returning from Egypt to go to live in Nazareth, in Galilee.  Each of these four stories include explanations from the narrator (this was to fulfil… v15, then was fulfilled… v17-18, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled… v 23) and from the chief priests and scribes (for so it is written by the prophet…v5-6).

Most of Matthew’s original audience would have known their scriptures – our Old Testament.  He wanted to be sure that they knew that the one who had been prophesied about was Jesus – the Messiah.

Reflection

Music: Long ago, prophets knew

Who has told you or shown you about Jesus?

Who could you tell or show about Jesus?

Ask Jesus to prompt you and encourage you in sharing the good news in the best way for other people to learn the truth about Jesus.

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Coral Francis

 

Matthew 1

What’s in a name?

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Read:  Matthew 1

Thought

Here there are two names given for Jesus.  Firstly, the angel of the Lord directs Joseph to call Mary’s baby Jesus.  Joseph is told the reason he should name the baby Jesus is because ‘he will save his people from their sins’.  Jesus means he saves.  This is the central idea in the whole of scripture.  Right from Genesis 3 the problem of human sin requires a solution.  All throughout the Old Testament the problem remains unsolved and humanity is defeated by sin.  But in Jesus there is salvation.

The second name is one that Matthew, the narrator, explains is fulfilment of the words of the prophet Isaiah (7v14).  Immanuel means God with us.  This is a central idea for Matthew’s gospel.  In fact, writers in ancient times would often ‘book-end’ a passage or a book with an important theme.  The theme is mentioned at the beginning, sometimes explored further, and then repeated.  The repetition is like a signpost.  So here in the first chapter we are told that Jesus shall be called Immanuel, which means God with us.  Do you remember how Matthew’s gospel ends?  Matthew 28 v 20 ends with Jesus’ promise to his disciples ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’  God is with us.

Reflection

Music: What a beautiful name

Spend some time focusing on the two names, mentioned above, and their meanings.

What does it mean for you that Jesus saves his people from their sins?

What does it mean for you that Jesus is with you always?

Talk to God about how that makes you feel.

Today wherever you are and whatever you are doing, remember that Jesus is with you.  Imagine all the things that you have planned for today and remember that Jesus is with you in each and every one, to lead, guide and empower you.

Prayer

Glory to God in the highest,

And peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,

Almighty God and Father,

We worship you, we give you thanks,

We praise you for your glory.

 

Peter and Coral Francis