At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “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 souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)


  1. Jesus spoke these words after he had said the things about the Galilean cities referred to in the last section and needs to be understood in that context.
  2. Jesus openly praised God because for making the message accessible to people with the least understanding.
  3. The fact that the message was accessible regardless of the amount of learning meant that the so-called “wise” people were capable of missing it.
  4. This level of accessibility was exactly what the Father intended.
  5. The responsibility of offering the kingdom message was given to Jesus by God the Father.
  6. The Father is the one who has full knowledge about the nature and purpose of the Son.
  7. The Son is the only one who has full knowledge of the nature and purpose of the Father.
  8. The Father will not be known unless people see Him as revealed in Jesus.
  9. Sadly, access to God had become a burdensome process courtesy of accumulated religious traditions.
  10. Jesus was making God known in such a way that would bring people to a place of rest, not greater toil and burden.
  11. Jesus likened the process of knowing God through him to the idea of teaming with him in the way two animals are yoked together to pull a cart.
  12. Jesus invited people to learn from him by watching what he did, and the way he did it, just like a younger bullock would learn from an older bullock by being teamed together.
  13. Jesus added that people who learned from him in this way would find him a gentle and humble teacher.
  14. Jesus also said that the reason he was gentle and humble was that what he was doing and the way he was doing it was such a well-tailored fit that the work was made easy and the burden he carried was light.


At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

As I commented in the previous section, it seems strange that these two portions should stand in the text, one following the other. They seem to be expressing opposite sentiments.  The fact is that Jesus makes this second statement in the context of the previous one.

I have observed elsewhere that when we see something in the gospels that doesn’t make sense to our normal way of thinking, it is often a sign that what we are being shown what the kingdom of God is like. We are being challenged to embrace the revelation and allow our thinking and our actions to be shaped by what God has said rather than how we have learned to think from within our culture.

I have already made the suggestion that the “woes” directed at Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were not outbursts of divine resentment, but rather expressions of divine grief. What Jesus is about to say here makes that grief even more acute.

“…. you have hidden these things from the wise and learned …”      I see no reason to suspect that this is talking about God’s proactive selection, in fact, quite the opposite.   Here is my paraphrase of the sentence to show what he is saying, “I praise you Father…..because you have made this message accessible and available to absolutely everyone regardless of their education or lack of it. In other words, you have made it possible for very young children to get this message. As a result, the very simplicity of the message has caused some of the so-called educated and so-called wise people to miss it because the sense of arrogance they have developed based on their education has been the very reason they miss what is being said.”   In other words, when a message is made accessible to the least it becomes harder for those whose consider themselves to have greater knowledge and wisdom to see simply take in what is before their eyes.

I have observed in life that it takes great intelligence and high levels of education to produce people who are capable extreme stupidity. Ordinary people can be foolish, but you have to be well-educated and very intelligent to attain the highest levels of stupidity. The reason for this is the fact that super-intelligent people with high levels of ability and education can convince themselves and others of things that ordinary people wouldn’t be capable of justifying.  Extreme stupidity is like a lot of things. It takes greater levels of skill. We live in a society that had made such virtue out of education that we think it is the answer to every problem. I have worked with drug addicts in one way or another for most of my professional life. I know of few human conditions that are more blatantly destructive. Not only do individuals destroy themselves but they wreck their parents, their marriages, their families and their opportunity to have any meaningful life. When I hear politicians and other saying that the answer is more education I feel like throwing up. Addictions rob people of their capacity to think, reason and decide. But because our culture has a kind of a mantra that all human ills will be solved if more money is put into education that is the myth that determines many countermeasures.

Anyone who has had a close association with academic life will confirm that universities are often plagued with arrogance, pride, ego-driven ambition and a whole range of social ills. Academic excellence and the academic environment produces more than the average number of dysfunctional human beings and dysfunctional relationships. The level of learning doesn’t guarantee a person will be a more successful human being. I am not denigrating academics here, just pointing out that learning in and of itself doesn’t run parallel to moral excellence.

It is a sad fact that the western church has produced more Christian academics than any other culture. Before Constantine, the church adopted the Greek philosophical mode that eulogised the academy as the pillar of society. We now have churches and church denominations where the fitness of leaders has been measured by their academic ability rather than their call and anointing. In fact, the way we do church has drawn more of its culture from the Greek academy than anything else. The Enlightenment supercharged this model, and the presumption is that theological education in the style of the academy is the key to success. It is assumed in many churches that ordinary people can’t read and interpret the Bible for themselves. They must depend on the professionals. This takes the very opposite position. Jesus tells us that it was the Father’s express intention to make the message simple enough to be accessible to the least qualified. How arrogant of us to presume otherwise. Let me repeat. There must always be a place for concentrated learning. I am saying that the  basis for accessing revealed truth not the same as academic study.  We embrace revelation through faith and obedience.  We will gain more understanding from doing what Jesus said than just studying it.

There is no such thing as theoretical Christianity. I don’t think it is possible to know something God has said unless you take seriously the closing instruction of the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus says those who hear but don’t put into practice are like people who build a house on sand. Jesus models the life of a practitioner – without exception. Where do we get the idea that a teacher was just someone with more information than others and that teaching was imparting information. It was never the case on any day during the three years of Jesus’ ministry. We will only embrace revelation when we have exercised faith obedience so that it has led us to personal testimony.  God’s story has then become our story.  Jesus says it this way,  “Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:32)

The opportunity to hear or see and respond is available to anyone who wants to simply take the message on its face value and follow up with actions that indicate obedience based faith. We need to understand enough of what the text says in order to obey. A lot of the questions that consume hours in Bible studies don’t make any difference once the Bible study has finished. We would be better off spending the time figuring out what we need to do to obey what Jesus has said, and then getting on with it and helping each other get on with it. This is the major disconnect.

It makes the issue Jesus described in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum all the more culpable. The message they had seen and heard over and over again was able to be received and responded to by the least qualified people – but they still didn’t get it. Sounds like a lot of churches on a lot of Sundays to me.


“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

What are the “all things” Jesus is referring to? If we allow the context to be our guide, it will make the most sense to see that Jesus is talking about the message he has brought. It is represented in his life, his teaching and preaching and his deeds. He is the message. What he says and does are the expressions of who he is. They carry the motive force. They make the message transferrable and tangible. There is no greater expression of the message than that which is represented in a Person whose name is Jesus. I love what Bruxy Cavey keeps on saying: “We believe in the inspired, infallible word of God; and his name is Jesus.” And I would add, “We believe that the Bible is inspired to provide infallible testimony to Jesus.” In other words, we discover Jesus as we read the Bible and we discover the Father as we discover Jesus.

This is the reason why the next two statements are true. You have to go and read the Gospel of John to get a fuller download.   Let me try and explain it in an easier way. Think of Jesus standing with the disciples and other people as he was saying these words. When the people who just showed up on the day saw and heard Jesus, they were privy to a few pieces of revelatory information. There was so much to see and know in Jesus, but they were just getting started. The disciples who had been with Jesus for some time saw much more, but still had all kinds of questions and equations in their heads that didn’t add up. The only Person who looked at Jesus and knew everything about him was the Father. These statements are another way of saying, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Jesus is the full revelation of the Father because there is nothing about the Father that Jesus is unaware of. At any point his actions are totally consistent with all that can be known about God. Jesus is the only one. So he is our window to the Father, God.

This is the reason why the message of the good news of the kingdom is accessible to children. They just have to look at Jesus and respond to whatever they see. Jesus said that very thing: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15)  That’s what the first disciples did on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. They looked at Jesus and saw the Messiah, the Son of the living God. They didn’t understand everything. In fact, they didn’t understand much. They followed by what they saw and heard. Much later in the piece when things are getting more controversial, and Jesus starts saying things they don’t understand, many people who had followed Jesus start leaving. Jesus asks the twelve if they are also going to leave. Peter simply says, “Where would we go. You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6)

“Those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”   There are wonderful followers of Jesus who think that God has favourites and picks some people who can’t NOT follow Jesus, but leaves other people, who, no matter what they do or don’t do CANNOT follow Jesus. They see this verse as one that supports that view. There is no example in all the record of Jesus’ ministry where this happened. So I am going to accept that evidence and assume that Jesus is simply talking about the fact that when people get to see and hear him, they get the best chance to know what God is really like. Remember that Jesus was living at a time where the religious tyranny of Israel had railroaded their calling to make God known to the world. Jesus was the faithful son of Abraham who fulfilled the covenant obligation. In a life of thirty-three years, he gave the disciples, and other followers, a clear picture of what God was like and what God intended. The fact that Jesus chose to go to every part of Judea and Galilee and the fact that he expressly commissioned his followers to go into all the world means that he intended everyone to get that same chance. We are called to be and do that in our generation.


“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 souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is the crunch point of this whole discourse. Chorazin and Co. chose to continue with the wearying and burdensome task of obligation to a set of laws that were hard to keep and didn’t get them any closer to God. In fact, it locked them away from God. The wise and the learned of Jesus day were the religious leaders who protected positions of power, influence, status and sometimes wealth by keeping people controlled under the weight of those burdens. In a harsh hierarchy of superficial religion, people were either accepted or rejected, tolerated or hated on the basis of a myriad of traditional human interpretations of a Word from God that was meant to produce life. The wise and learned looked at Jesus, and because he didn’t tick any of their self-generated boxes, they could only presume that he was doing what he did by using demonic power.

By contrast, the children or the unlearned and the people who were considered to be sinful and alienated in the eye of the religious establishment looked at Jesus and loved what they saw. They travelled for days and stayed listening for days without caring to eat just because they liked what he said. They were discovering the “rest” that Jesus refers to here. This needs to be a sign of orthodoxy. If the gospel doesn’t produce “rest” for the souls of those who respond it is not the gospel. That rest comes from making a decision to be “yoked” to Jesus. This is as clear a message of the gospel as we will find anywhere in the whole Bible.

  1. Come to Jesus. This is about a personal relationship, not a Christian organisation or a set of religious practices. It is a personal relationship with the Son of God. It is a spiritual relationship of course, but a relationship with a person nonetheless. I am constantly surprised to discover people who have a commitment to Jesus but have not discovered the relationship dimension that should be the product of that commitment. We all need to hear these words of Jesus again and again: “Come to ME” so that we will set our hearts on finding out how to discover that and maintain it as something of primary importance for everything else we do. Our direct response to such an invitation from Jesus will make so much difference. If we take our significance from Jesus and our relationship with him, we will avoid the extreme vulnerability that comes when our sense of significance is linked to our performance, other people’s opinions or to the work itself.
  2. Follow Jesus by becoming teamed up with him like bullocks yoked together pulling a heavy load. When I think about this metaphor, my mind always goes back to the farm, in particular training a young sheep dog. There was always two parts to the training. One had to do with making the dog familiar with the sounds of various commands and knowing what they meant. The second was out in the paddock with a mob of sheep. We would tie the young dog to an older one with a short rope. It was always funny to watch. The older dog did things instinctively and always caught the young dog by surprise. The young dog had any amount of energy but didn’t know what to do with it. Often the rope would suddenly tighten through the instinctive movement of the older dog, and the young dog would be heading in the opposite direction, and they would both end up rolling around on the ground together. It didn’t take long before the young dog was getting the moves as instinctively as the older one and they would move together without testing the rope.

We don’t have a literal yoke to pull us into line with the direction Jesus is instinctively moving, but the metaphor holds true. In fact, Jesus talked about doing only what he saw his Father doing. That’s the same as a ‘yoke.’ For us, much of this will start with the commands of Jesus and the modelling he provided as recorded in the gospels. These need to be the yoke that is strong enough to help us to go in the direction of God’s heart and purpose. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will get to know how that feels and what it accomplishes until we are, like the young sheepdog, starting to gain an instinctive sense of what to do and how to do it.

  1. Learn from the one who teaches with ultimate patience and without an ego to defend. There are many people around me who know a lot more about a lot of things than I do. There are some I am a little more reluctant to ask for guidance or assistance. It has a lot to do with how the advice is offered. There are some among them whose ego almost explodes every time, and you have to survive that explosion to get the assistance. It is much harder to learn in that environment. There are others who offer great advice born of long experience, but without the attending ego. I love learning from those people. When I mess up, they encourage me, and when I ask a question they don’t know the answer to, they say so. The others give an answer whether they know or not just because their pride or insecurity demands that they put on a show. Jesus is the ultimate expression of the marriage between wisdom and patience. Learning in his presence will always be inspiring and encouraging. I had a piano teacher like that at one time. I used to go to lessons with the intention of telling him I was giving up. He so loved piano and music that I would come away determined to practice four hours a day – his passion inspired me so much.
  2. Discover a way of living that carries the burden of love without feeling the weight. This is such a massive sign of the genuine Kingdom of God process. I talk with a lot of Christian leaders, and it seems that so many have not discovered this aspect of the Jesus journey. Jesus so loved his Father’s purpose that the burden of it became a joy and a privilege. It’s like playing footy. I loved footy so much I would bust myself training and at the end of a game be battered and bruised and have nothing left in the tank, but always with great joy and satisfaction ( a bit less when we got beaten). I just loved playing. I think the same experience is possible at the heart of the task of serving Jesus and the kingdom. It is so unspeakably worthwhile and such a profound challenge. When we learn to team up with Jesus and allow the yoke to be our guide, we can put all of our efforts into the task and know that we will never do anything that will be wasted. In my way of thinking, this is reflected in the words of the twenty-third Psalm: “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies, and my cup runs over.” There is always a feast to be had, right in the middle of the battle-field.


  1. I would be reading the Bible, not to answer every question that was raised or get into disputes over deep philosophical issues. I would read to obey with faith. I would take the simplest meaning of the text and start doing it rather than creating confusion with long convoluted discussions that produced no plan of faith/action.
  2. I would be less dependent on the idea that academic study and professional opinion was of more value than a simple desire to do what God said.
  3. I would keep my focus on the fact that Jesus is the revelation of the Father and seek to become more Jesus looking as a constant goal and as the chief source of satisfaction. If I became more like Jesus, I would be happy, and if something were not going to help me become more like Jesus, I would avoid getting embroiled in it.
  4. I would constantly be committed to learning from Jesus and measuring what I am learning by the “rest” it produces rather than striving and comparing myself to others and trying to compete with them. I would make it my practice to make Jesus the first port of call when there were questions to be answered and issues to be resolved, and I would encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same.


I have only now realised how powerfully the gospel is proclaimed here. Jesus made himself known to three groups of people referred to in this incident: the people of the three Galilean towns, the people who were supposedly wise and learned by the standards of that day (and this) and the unschooled and unlearned people who are represented as “children.” They all saw Jesus, heard what he said and watched what he did. The first group accepted the ministry but remained committed to their traditional ways. The second watched from a distance and rejected everything. The third group responded simply and fully to everything they saw and heard because they immediately equated it with the nature and work of God.

This incident is a reminder that the gospel is the message of the Person of Jesus Christ. When we share any of the stories about Jesus we are sharing the gospel. We are giving people the same opportunity as was given to those groups of people. We don’t have to defend Jesus, just proclaim him. It is people’s response to HIM that makes the difference, not a response to an argument, debate or philosophical explanation.  We can preach the gospel by sharing one of more of the stories of Jesus.  We should practice so that we become skilled at doing just that so that we have the tools available when we need them.

GOSPELLING Matthew 11.3 Jesus Chastises the Galilean Towns



Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:22-24


  1. Jesus started to denounce the places where many of his miracles had been performed.
  2. He denounced them for their lack of repentance.
  3. They had experienced a high level of exposure to the ministry and message of the kingdom of God through the many miracles that had happened there.
  4. Chorazin and Bethsaida were the two places he specifically mentioned.
  5. He compared them unfavourably to the neighbouring Gentile provinces of Tyre and Sidon, saying that if those people had seen what they had seen they would have responded with deep repentance.
  6. Regarding the level of rejection, these Galilean towns would fare better on the day of judgment than the towns of Tyre and Sidon.
  7. He went on to speak about Capernaum.
  8. He said that Capernaum would not be lifted up to heaven but would go down to Hades.
  9. They had experienced high-level kingdom manifestation but had not responded or repented.
  10. Capernaum was unfavourably compared to the Old Testament town of Sodom which was destroyed by fire.
  11. Had the people of Sodom, immoral as they were, seen the miracles they would have responded and repented.
  12. The people of Sodom would fare better in the day of judgment than the people of Capernaum.


Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

Based on the information of the gospels it would be fair to say that Jesus spent most of his ministry time in Galilee. He was raised in Nazareth of course and then seemed to shift his home base to Capernaum. The three towns mentioned in this lament from Jesus are all on or near the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Whether Jesus spent more time in Chorazin and Bethsaida is not known, but people would have undoubtedly come from those places to hear Jesus and to see the healing and deliverance miracles he performed. There is no suggestion that Jesus had paid particular attention to these towns in some strategic way (and if he had done that it was clearly unsuccessful). We know from Jesus own words that he was called to go to all of the towns and villages. These towns witnessed more miracles because Jesus came and went from Capernaum. Where Jesus was at any one time it seems, there were miracles. If what we were talking about was a football game, the people of these three towns were in the stands and got to see every tackle that was made and every goal that was scored. They never missed a move.

Remember this. Jesus is God. God is love. He doesn’t decide to love; he is love. He doesn’t have two sides to his character, one loving and the other austere and angry. He is love. If God is love, then Jesus is love. Once again, Jesus doesn’t decide to love. Everything he says and does is love. So when he denounces these cities, he is showing love to them. We, with our Hollywood trained culture, are capable of thinking that genuine love is always warm and accommodating. As a result, we often believe we are loving to one another when we avoid “denouncing.”

I doubt that any two of the recorded incidents could be more unalike than the one we are now focussing on and the next one. In the next segment, we are going to hear Jesus say, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) No one would ever question that this was and is a loving thing to say. But the fact is that when Jesus denounced the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum he was motivated by and expressing the same kind of love as he did when he said, “Come to me…” It doesn’t fit with our ‘this-world’s-kingdom-culture’ way of thinking. In fact, we automatically associated it with the idea that Jesus hates the people from those towns and is angry with them. The anger we assume is because they have rejected his message. It is birthed in resentment and carries the bitterness we associate more with a jilted lover than someone living out the essence of Divinity.

The reason for Jesus’ speaking like this is because these places have had the greatest opportunity to see the kingdom of God coming. On multiple occasions, Jesus performed works of healing and deliverance. So many individuals’ lives would have been fully transformed by God’s power. So many families had been invaded by redeeming love: good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed was happening before their eyes. These were Messianic signs directly fulfilling the testimony of the prophets. They would have heard teaching like that given in the sermon on the mount. They would have witnessed the authority of Jesus as his words filled their environment with the fragrance and freedom so attractively different from the messages brought by the religious leaders. The problem was that they were not prepared to shift their trust. The status quo remained intransigent and immovable. Perhaps it was the criticism of the authorities. Perhaps it was the fear that the occupying Roman authorities would see it as insurrection and threaten their fragile peace. Perhaps Jesus just didn’t fit their criteria for Messiah, and while they were happy to accept the cure, they didn’t want to be associated with the doctor.

These statements of Jesus give us a critical insight into the dynamic of the coming of the kingdom. We need to see it and take its lesson to heart. The works of the kingdom involved two inseparable dimensions. The first is that they express the indiscriminate redemptive will and love of God. As we are told elsewhere (e.g. Revelation 21), the coming of the kingdom in its fullness means health and strength instead of sickness and weakness. It is joy instead of sadness. It is edifying rather than destructive, unifying rather than divisive. It is forgiveness not condemnation, hope instead of despair, freedom not slavery, opportunity instead of ongoing misfortune. Everyone wants that anytime, anyplace any culture and any circumstance. These are universal longings. But at the same time, these actions of Jesus among the people of these cities were invitations from the Creator, Father to children from his chosen family who were far from him and moving still further. It was a telegram to the son working in a pig pen asking him to come home. It was a message to a lost sheep from the shepherd that his heart was not satisfied when only ninety-nine were safe. It was God walking in the garden calling out Adam’s name. It was recognition that sickness, oppression, despair and suffering were the signs of an even greater problem. That was the real problem that God wanted to resolve, and it would only be resolved when all of the sons and daughters from all of the households in every part of the world had come home. The bigger issue was the estrangement. We see this in the language of Revelation 21

          And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:3-7)

This is the purpose of the kingdom message. God has created people in his image and likeness to live within the scope of his character and purpose. That was the intention. It was built on love and therefore involved free-will and therefore risk. But the purpose never changed. When human free-will chose independence over one-ness with God, there were consequences – pain and suffering, alienation and destruction. All of these were self-afflicted in essence and therefore wreaked unjust suffering on innocents as a consequence. If you want a good down-to-earth expression of this kind of consequence, just see how cancer works its malice. The coming of Jesus and the advance of the kingdom is God’s loving and redemptive response. As Jesus came to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to offer the best of the kingdom, it was also a downpayment of what life would be like in the kingdom of God. That involved a challenge: it is a KINGdom, not a machine that dispenses blessings. It is the heart of a KING not the outworking of a social welfare agency.

So what happens when the image bearers and sons and daughters choose to accept the blessing but continue to refuse the invitation of the KING? This, according to what we are about to read, is a horrible alternative.

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

The first word spoken by Jesus about these three places is what we have called, in English, an ‘onomatopoeic’ word – like the word ‘hiss.’ It sounds like the thing it is referring to. Both Greek and Hebrew have the same sound, and it is simply the articulated form of a deep groan. Internally it refers to a deep grief or pain. It is also used as a denunciation. That is, pain is going to come upon you. With Jesus, this needs to be associated with his weeping over Jerusalem and his grief at the fact that the disciples were slow to pick up on what was happening. Either way, it was grief. The people who want to make out that this is simply retributive, hateful or an expression of selfish anger have to argue with the whole posture of the rest of Jesus’ ministry. Sadly this has been dragged through the magisterial world of the Reformation as supposed righteous indignation of the God who shifts from compassion and mercy to justice and retribution. To put it in a rough form, the people who seem eager to relate to a God who judiciously oversees ultimate justice with some degree of pleasure need to say that God used to like the people of Chorazin, etc. He liked them so much that he did a lot of miracles there. When they didn’t repent, he stopped liking them and vented divine resentment by pronouncing judgment on them with a measure of satisfaction. There are certain groups of people who like to think that when people cop the consequences of their choices and begin to experience the pain of it that “justice is being satisfied or sated.”

I would be more inclined to take another option that has as much grammatical credibility and fits much more with what we could say is normative for Jesus. We have approximately three hundred “video clips” of the life of Jesus in the gospels and that gives us a very thorough look into his character. There is a consistency that we should assume is happening unless there is good evidence to suggest otherwise. I am sure this reflects Jesus understandable grief. People have had a lot of chances to see the kingdom of God, and that means a lot of opportunities to change their way of thinking from traditional legalism to kingdom liberty simply by embracing Jesus and deciding to trust and follow him. They should have been able to see that healing and forgiveness was a much better deal on any day than the hopelessness that was impregnated in their traditional religious value system. But they chose to stick with the current government instead of voting for the Alternative (offered by Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

The references to Tyre and Sidon are deliberately made to emphasise the fact that they are Gentile nations. If the Gentile nations had the same chance to witness the same revelation, Jesus is telling them that they would have responded. The same is true by comparing Capernaum with Sodom. Capernaum has had much more opportunity to see the kingdom and therefore to respond and give allegiance to the king. It just emphasises the sadness. It also highlights the level of responsibility. Jesus told a number of parables to provide the back story to the work of offering anyone, anywhere on any day and any time the very best of the kingdom of God. Jesus said it was like a king inviting people to a wedding banquet for his son. To reject the loving offer and to treat the Prince’s wedding with contempt was offensive enough in itself. To choose to live apart from the realm of the king was to choose darkness rather than light. That choice also had its consequences. Ultimately that choice would be honoured – accompanied by deep grief by a loving king and eternal father. This was the sentiment expressed by Jesus.

It comes as a warning to us every day. We are among those who have much access to revelation.  We live under the umbrella of a worshipping Christian community.  And yet we so readily make personal choices that reflect loyalty to the prince of this world rather than the King of all kings.  It is culpable, not because we will turn God’s love into hatred, but because we will suffer the consequences of our choices. In the world of darkness, there is only just consequences. It is only in the world of the kingdom of God that there is grace and forgiveness. We should be wary of the capacity we have to allow familiarity to breed a form of contempt. Not many of us are going to flaunt our disobedience and unbelief for all to see. We are more likely to silently skip over the things God says that we are unwilling to embrace and focus on the ones we like. This convenience and consumer-driven approach to serving Jesus is the reason why we are held in contempt by our communities in many ways. They see through our hypocrisy. And God is allowing them to be his prophetic warning to us – as Jesus was to the people of those three cities.


I take this as a challenge to embrace those things I read from God’s Word but have no testimony of it in my own experience. I do have a story of my own that relates to John 1:12,13 and John 3:16. Those messages speak about being born again and living as a son of God and a servant of his kingdom. I have been doing that in some way for fifty years. But there are many messages I have heard that have not yet found expression in my own life and that I apparently have not trusted with my whole heart. I have read the Bible countless times, but there remain significant portions that are just information to me, rather than testimony:  e.g., healing, deliverance, preaching the gospel. Take this little nugget: Paul says,

For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Inside of Paul is such a passion for the gospel and a trust in its power that he never ceased to proclaim it, no matter where he was or who he was with. I can go for days without preaching the gospel to anyone and not feel the slightest twinge of pain. He said “Woe.” That is, when he didn’t preach the gospel, he began to feel deep grief and pain. I need to have some of that. I know what the Bible is talking about here. I can preach about this verse and say what it says, but I don’t have a testimony of this in my own experience. I am too selfish, fearful and untrusting. So I need to seek God, offer my faith in my obedience to the call the preach the gospel and ask God to change my heart and give me the hunger that was inside of Paul. I need to be willing to change the way I think about this – i.e. repent. I need to trust that the God who gave this heart to Paul will give the same heart to me.


This is a profound insight. It sharpens our understanding about the kingdom of God. It seems that the kingdom of God is used these days to cover everything from sliced bread to humanitarian aid to a change of government. The kingdom of God is represented by many different values, e.g. love and forgiveness. It is important for us to realize that although God wants people to experience love the primary issue of the gospel is separation from God, not just a lack of love. What if the whole world became loving to one another, but no one wanted to honour God, love him as Father and serve Jesus as King? The gospel message would not have been heard and nor would it have been responded to. The issue is independence, separation and it is what brings grief to a loving, merciful, forgiving God. Jesus was living in a world that presumes to have a monopoly on relating to God. It was evidenced through religious laws and customs and festivals and the temple and the synagogues. It was represented by priests and Pharisees and teachers of the law. But it was separated from God. Every time Jesus healed someone, forgave someone, freed someone from demonic oppression or the like he was delivering an invitation from the father for his estranged sons and daughters to leave the pig pen and come home. Most of them never did.

The same is true now. It is a horrible thing for us to remove the values from the Person. Those who work to see kingdom values established need to understand the heart of God. It is not just about values. God wants a relationship. Allow the words of Revelation 21 to echo the heart cry of God. It is the same heart cry all through the Biblical story and is nowhere more heard than from the cross by Jesus. God’s heart desire will only be fulfilled when it can be said, “Look and see. Finally, the dwelling place of God is with people.” The king has been re-established to his rightful place. His loving rule has been acknowledged, and his home is once more among the sons and daughters who have been created with his DNA.  That is the gospel.

Gospelling Matthew 11.2 Jesus Honouring John the Baptist



As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist, yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”                                 Matthew 11:7-19



  1. John’s disciples were leaving.
  2. Jesus began to speak to the crowd about the ministry of John the Baptist.
  3. Even though John’s ministry happened in the wilderness, people from everywhere because they were curious to see and hear him.
  4. What they saw was a strong character with an unbending message.
  5. They saw a person who lived a life of asceticism, not someone of privilege and indulgence.
  6. What they had witnessed was the ministry of a prophet.
  7. John was of more significance than a regular prophet
  8. John’s ministry was spoken about in the book of the prophet Malachi (3:1)
  9. Jesus stressed the importance of what he was about to say about John.
  10. No one who had greater prophetic significance than John.
  11. Even though John’s role was more important than any other prophet, the coming of the kingdom of God declared a whole new season and the person of least status in the kingdom was going to be even more significant than John.
  12. From the time John the Baptist appeared the kingdom of God had experienced violent opposition.
  13. Violent people have been seeking to restrain the kingdom of God.
  14. The Old Testament bore witness to what was going to happen right up to the time of John.
  15. John is the person the Old Testament referred to as the “Elijah” type prophet who would come.
  16. This is an important message, and it is very easy for people to miss it.
  17. The people who have watched but rejected the ministries of both John and Jesus have been acting perversely.
  18. The perversity is like that of children playing music in the street. No matter what kind of music they played, people disapproved and refused to join in.
  19. John’s message came in the form of a man who lived according to the most stringent values of traditional Jewish asceticism.
  20. Jesus brought his message through a life free from traditional conservative Judaism.
  21. The critics said that John was demon possessed.
  22. The same critics said that Jesus was morally indulgent.
  23. Jesus concluded try saying that the value of his message would be verified by what happened, rather than whether they lived according to a particular kind of lifestyle or the reactions of perverse people.


As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?

The phenomenon of the coming of the promised Messiah/King was a profound matrix of unusual and interconnected factors. If you just put your mind to is for a few minutes and think of all the things that pointed to the birth, and then the ministry of Jesus, the calibre of testimony is as convincing as it is astounding. The cast of players in this divine epic included Caesar (the decree that send Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem), a barren Levitical priest and his wife (Zechariah and Elizabeth conceiving and giving birth to John the Baptist), angelic visits and supernatural dreams (Mary, Joseph, Magi), shepherds witnessing angels in worship (on the night Jesus was born) and magi from the east following a star. It is also referenced in the infamy of Herod as he tried to make sure no babies born in Bethlehem were left alive.

Despite the flurry of supernatural activity associated with the birth of Jesus, the next twenty-five plus years passed with almost nothing notable. It must have been strange indeed when the son born to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age appeared in the  wilderness of the Jordan and began his ministry of preparing the “way of the Lord.” We are told from the gospel records, that although John started his work in the wilderness of the Jordan Valley, crowds went out to hear him from Jerusalem, Judea and the region of the Jordan. We know that they religious leaders sent representatives out to listen to him, wanting to know his prophetic credentials. John was preaching at a time when the people of God were ravaged internally by compromise and externally brutalized by the occupying forces of Rome. His message was to call people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah and to signal that preparation through baptism in water. John had also been told that a day would come when he would see a man standing before him with a Holy Spirit sign resting upon him. This man would be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and the one who would “baptize people in the Holy Spirit. ” One day a relative of his from Nazareth showed up, and the Father and the Spirit were there to make sure John knew that Jesus was the One.

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen, and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” John 1:32-34

Just in case anyone thought the response given by Jesus to John’s disciples was a put-down, Jesus took the opportunity to tell them about John. What follows is the record of his testimony.


“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.”

The people listening to Jesus were well aware of John. We can presume from what Jesus said here that many or even most of them had made the long and challenging journey out to the wilderness just to see John and hear what he had to say. Many of them had likely been baptized by him. Jesus, in the first instance, clarifies what it was that convinced them to have a look. It was not to listen to another smart-mouthed opportunist preacher trying to jump on the bandwagon of popular opinion. There is no shortage of such people in every generation. There is nothing about John or what he did that would qualify him in this regard. It was not the reason why people went out to him.

Jesus also noted that John did not attract crowds because he belonged to the circle of the rich and famous. Once again this is a universal phenomenon. In our day we have the Kardashians (reality TV personalities) and the Brangelinas (actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) whose pictures boost weekly magazines sales irrespective of their news value. There are thousands of more mainstream examples: the fashionistas and the successful business men and women. Their popularity comes from the idea that everyone wants to be like them. So if they can’t be like them, they want to live out their dreams vicariously by reading about them. Once again, John did not qualify by any such criteria. There is no evidence that locusts and wild honey ever made a hit in the up-market restaurants of Jerusalem let alone Rome. And the ‘Camel-Hair Clothing Co.’ never did get to open a chain of shops in the malls of the Roman Empire.


Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;

The reason people made the journey was to see and hear a prophet. Later in the Gospel story, we are told there that everyone agreed that John’s prophetic authority came from God (Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus confirms that John was a prophet, given a message from heaven. The reason people went out to him was not to get their ears tickled or to court the attention of the rich and famous. They went because John brought a message from heaven. In essence, what was happening was from heaven. John carried a message from heaven in a heart that filled the space with the atmosphere of heaven. He was the message and therefore he was able to speak the message with authority. People came to hear the message because they were drawn by its authority and integrity.

He says that John was the greatest prophet ever born. I am assuming that he was referring to the message rather than personality. It was a once-in-history message. There would only ever be one time in the history of the world where the Messiah would be born on the earth. John was the person called by God, filled with the Spirit from birth and who lived his whole life in the wilderness until he was arrested and imprisoned by Herod (see Luke 1:80). The commendation is justified by a quote from Malachi (3:1).

The reference in Malachi’s prophecy (3:1) marks a shift of focus in his message. He spent the first two chapters exposing the ways in which the people of God had forsaken their covenant commitment to God. At the beginning of the third chapter, God begins to talk about what he will do in response to covenant unfaithfulness. With one exception, this continues to the end of the book, and there are two specific references to Elijah. The first one doesn’t mention his name, but since Jesus tells us that it explicitly refers to John the Baptist, there is no doubt. The second is at the very end of the book. There would be value for us if we had a slow look at what God was saying.

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:1-5)


  1. God will send someone to tell people that the Lord is coming.
  2. This messenger will prepare the way for the Lord to come.
  3. The Lord will suddenly come to his temple.
  4. People will feel disenchanted and uncomfortable when the Lord comes.
  5. When the Lord comes he will have the same effect as purifying fire and cleansing soap.
  6. The Lord will purify the priesthood of Israel.
  7. The Lord will begin this redemptive process through a group of men who will be the first to learn how to bring righteous offerings.
  8. The flow on effect will be that the collective group, Judah and Jerusalem will also begin to bring righteous offerings with a form of righteousness that existed in former times.
  9. The Lord will come and put the people who are supposed to represent God on trial.
  10. The Lord will testify against people who are supposed to represent God but who are simply sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers;
  11. he will also testify against those who defraud workers of their wages,

iii. and those who deprive foreigners of justice – i.e. those who are supposed to know what God is like but choose to disregard what they know.


In thinking how we have related to prophetic scripture over the years, my observation is that we have done a disservice to the content in favour of our theological and cultural preferences. Rarely have I seen exegesis that gathers all the information of a message and tries to apply it.  We take the bits we like and leave whatever doesn’t fit. See how this message from Malachi works when we pay more attention to it than just a few words quoted by Jesus about John. I am going to attempt to remake these statements based on their fulfilment and then rewrite the message based on those applications.

  1. God sent John the Baptist as the messenger to tell people that the Messiah was coming.
  2. John’s task was to prepare the people to receive the Messiah.
  3. The Messiah would suddenly come to his temple (Herod’s temple in Jerusalem? or to the temple, he was going to build in three days, i.e. the body of Christ.)
  4. People would feel uncomfortable with his coming because he would not fulfil their worldly expectations.
  5. The coming of Jesus as the Messiah would confront the uncleanness and impurity of the lifestyle and message the people of God were giving to the world
  6. Jesus would purify the priestly order, establishing a priesthood made up of all believers.
  7. He would do this by first of all calling twelve disciples who would model what a righteous offering was as they left their former occupations and livelihoods to follow and serve him.
  8. This would become a model, and the people of God of the future would be those who would bring the same offering as the twelve disciples – i.e. a commitment to follow and serve Jesus Christ.
  9. The coming of Jesus Christ as Messiah would challenge and expose the selective preference-morality of the people of God. Jesus did this by challenging the traditional values as articulated in the sermon on the mount.
  10. The coming of Jesus would challenge those who abused hired workers by refusing to pay a reasonable wage for their work (Paul talked about this in Ephesians and Colossians)
  11. The coming of Jesus would challenge the discriminatory attitudes that existed among the people of God toward Gentiles by treating them as contemptible and unworthy.

It is easy to see that the prophetic picture drawn by Malachi is a full overview of the radical change the Messiah would bring. It is easy to see why Jesus would honour John. He was the sole individual who marked the end of the old and the beginning of the new. That new day was going to happen in the midst of confrontation, controversy and great challenge. It was not a minor tweaking of the dials, but a total reconfiguring of the whole system. As such John’s role itself would characterise the change that was happening. It is ironic that John would eventually find himself wondering if Jesus really was the Messiah. Thus Jesus was quick to affirm and honour him.


Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist, yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

The radical nature of the kingdom of God is further emphasized. My way of rephrasing what Jesus said would be, “John was more aware of the nature of the profound change that was coming than anyone before him, but he still didn’t quite GET how the kingdom of God would work. So the person who GETS how the kingdom of God works, even if they only just get it, is greater than John. Such is the change and such is the challenge. It has been the challenge for generation after generation of people who have followed Jesus. It seems that we are so sadly prone to look to Jesus for help, healing, forgiveness and the like, but not as willing to honour him as king and to live a life that gives tangible expression to his rule. It is the reason we have promoted our own cultures as vehicles of the kingdom when they are the antithesis of it. It is the reason we continue to espouse tribal gatherings called “movements” or “denominations” as kingdom when they so quickly assume more value than Jesus himself. My point of reference for this for some time now has been Acts 1:6-8 which constitute the last words of Jesus before his ascension.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

The phrase here to notice is this one, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Notice the slight change of wording. Jesus had been living, preaching and doing the work of the kingdom of God for three years. It is clear that every time the disciples heard “…of God” they had presumed, “…of Israel.” We are just as guilty of doing the same. We will substitute “…of the Baptist Church” or “….Pentecostal” or “….British culture.” The alternatives are endless. We think we are more right than the others and that Jesus is going to show everyone how right we are and how wrong they are when he exalts ‘our’ version of the kingdom. The problem is obvious. It is the kingdom of “Israel” we are referring to, not the kingdom of God. We want our theology, our ethnicity, our group, our tribe to be dominant. It is a subtle distinction regarding semantics but mammoth in reality. Notably, Jesus redirects their attention, firstly to the coming power of the Holy Spirit and then to the task of testifying to HIM everywhere. If they would focus on those two things they would avoid their preoccupation with the status of “Israel.” The same is true for us.

Jesus now isolates a period in history between the appearance of John the Baptist and the time of speaking. Without making a big issue of it, the probability is that John’s ministry began no more than a year before Jesus turned up at the Jordan to be baptized. It could have been less. When you think that people came from all over Judea and the region of the Jordan, representatives from the religious leaders in Jerusalem and including some Roman soldiers, it is an amazingly short time. The incident we are discussing here was probably not more than two years after the day of the baptism, possibly less.

Something happened when John went public to create the animosity that Jesus described here. First, it was through the message and baptism carried out by John. His fearless pronouncement of kingdom values and the fact that Israel’s Messiah was about to appear. It was fueled by the idea that this Messiah would baptize all followers in the Holy Spirit – not just the religious elite or the Levitical priesthood – everyone who believed. This “Elijah” who came from nowhere and was not ordained by any recognized institution challenged their integrity and their legitimacy. The fact that people went out to him from everywhere challenged Roman control. Rome was always suspicious of popular leaders and large gatherings.

Jesus’ ministry carried that to another level; on all fronts. None of us could ever become too familiar with the details and dynamic of Jesus ministry. We need to be addressed by it, informed exclusively by it and absorb its character so that we avoid the problem exampled by the disciples just before Jesus ascended, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel.” (Acts 1:6) That being the case, we need to hear the other part of the statement. Not only has the kingdom been coming, but it has been facing violent opposition from violent people. If we read through one of the Gospels with an eye for examples of this, there are numerous. King Herod had every child in Bethlehem below the age of two slaughtered just in case one of them was going to challenge his rule. When Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan tried to deceive him into an alternative that would have allowed the kingdom of darkness to remain intact. When Jesus went to Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue his exposure of their unbelief made them so angry, they wanted to kill him and almost did. His own family tried to come and remove him from his ministry on the assumption that what he was doing and how he was doing it confirmed that he was mentally ill. Add to that, the constant bleating of the religious leaders, opposing, criticising and challenging his legitimacy. Add to that, one of his disciples betrayed him, and another told him not to go to the cross.

There are more forms of violence than the ones that come with guns and explosives. Sometimes the more subtle the form, the greater the measure of “violence.” I will never forget Brother Yun, the Chinese house church leader, saying that the accusations of church leaders in America that his story was a pack of lies brought more pain to him than the many beatings he received while in Chinese prisons. In this context, the definition of “violence” needs to be described as the intention to destroy and the willingness to use any means to do so. If you think about it, there are so many forms of attack on people who want to live and proclaim the kingdom of God. Sometimes they come from within a person’s household, or from colleagues in ministry or from people in the church who seem to complain about everything. It comes from sections of the community like the media and various strands within the political sphere whose intention is to destroy Christian presence and message.

For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

A further reference to the fact that John marked the close of an era. The prophetic focus of the Old Testament era carried through until John. They were pointing to something about to happen that would fulfil their prophetic testimony. In the scheme of things, Jesus repeats the fact that John WAS the “Elijah” type person who would accomplish this forerunner ministry by preparing the way. John was born six months before Jesus. He lived his whole life in seclusion because the reason he was born was to be the presence of God’s imminent fulfilment of everything the Old Testament had presumed and predicted. It is foolish to suggest that John was the reincarnated version of the original Elijah. Only if you have a prior belief in reincarnation (and you have to get it from somewhere other than Biblical revelation) will the idea have any validity. Like Elijah, John the Baptist came from obscurity, dressed like Elijah, lived like Elijah and spoke like Elijah. The reference to the prophet whose story is told in First and Second Kings is simply to give people a sign that would prompt them to believe that John was sent from heaven. That would be substantial because if people accepted John’s credentials, they would be more likely to accept those belonging to Jesus. Jesus is drawing that link very strongly on this occasion.


“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Jesus concludes this testimony to John by drawing their attention to the contrasting styles of the two. He is not saying one was better or worse, but to illustrate the capriciousness of the religious leaders of the day and the people who listened to what they said. In short, he said, “John was socially ultra-conservative, and they condemned him for it. Jesus was socially liberal, and they condemned him for it. In other words, they were irrationally committed to opposing them both and were willing to descend into the childish petulance to justify their rejection. We will find this among the people who are so deeply committed to a different kingdom rule that they will adopt the most irrational positions to try and discredit the message of the kingdom. We should not be surprised by that and need to understand what is going on when it happens. We need to remind ourselves that we are not pitted against “flesh and blood” but principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in places of authority” (Ephesians 6)

In conclusion, Jesus points the people to the fact that wisdom will never be known by the persuasiveness of words. Clever words can make something foolish and damaging sound wise. Genuine wisdom will be validated by the actions and the fruit of actions. We need to look at the life of a person to see how much wisdom they have, not just listen to their words. Let me conclude with a simple example. I don’t have a clue about the moral values of the person who puts my mail in the letterbox. That person may be honourable and wonderful, OR they could be dishonourable and wicked. Neither of those two lifestyles will necessarily mean that my mail is in jeopardy. It is a matter of a person sorting and delivering letters. It is not so with the message of the kingdom of God. The kingdom message needs a kingdom heart for it to have authority and integrity. This is what Jesus challenged the religious leaders about. He told people to listen to what they say, but not to do what they do because they did not practice what they preached. And if we entertain and accommodate a false and unrighteous heart, no matter how clever we are, it will eventually destroy our capacity to represent Jesus and the kingdom. On the other side of the question, if you have a pure heart and a sincere love for Jesus, you can make mistakes, and people will still get the message because they will see it in your actions.


This incident tells me that I need to pursue a lifestyle that reflects the kingdom of God without compromise. I should keep reading the Scriptures and looking at the ministry of Jesus and meditating on the things that genuinely represent the kingdom of God. In other words, I need to make sure that I “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6). John fully committed himself to doing that even though he didn’t fully get the nature and process of which that kingdom was going to come. I need to allow Jesus to keep defining and refining my own understanding and allowing what I discover to become the passion and goal of my life in every part.

I also need to be aware that this kingdom will be opposed, violently. It was then, and it will be so today. It would be fair to say that if the kingdom of God is not experiencing violent opposition, we are probably not living and proclaiming it in a clear and uncompromising way. It is a kingdom built on cross-shaped love and redemptive forgiveness and heart transformation and a partnership with Holy Spirit presence and power. It is not just a set of values; it is a declaration of the character and purpose of a monarch and the increase of a realm rightfully belonging to that monarch – the Creator God and his Son, King Jesus. To the extent that such honour is acknowledged has the kingdom genuinely come.



The gospel was proclaimed here in the fact that Jesus declared John’s mission and ministry as being genuinely from the Father. He also proclaimed it in showing how it had been attacked and threatened by capricious violence. Its opponents were intent on its destruction, and their reasoning and reactions were expressions of fickle immaturity. People listening to this would have known about the ministry of John and therefore the testimony he brought about Jesus. They were given the opportunity to make a choice to believe or reject what they heard.



The article in the Fairfax-owned Canberra times by one of the ‘hard men’ of the media world is nothing new.  It’s exaggerated polemic vitriol suggests either extreme arrogance or some lingering bad experience with church.  There is nothing fair about this opinion piece, and I doubt that any reasonable person would argue that it is balanced.  It is state-of-the-art secular fundamentalism that we have become familiar with in recent times.  Freedom of speech being a high value for any society demands that such views be aired.

One of the idealistic ‘holy grail’ quests of the anti-religious part of the political left within our society has been to wrest one of the few remaining benefits afforded people whose work is deemed to be religious as well as charitable.  I am talking about the fringe-benefits allowance.  People like me who are employed by churches and religious organisations are able to allocate the portion of our income that is used toward our living allowance as being non-taxable.  It is a non-specific percentage that needs only to be justified because it is used for living expenses – not entertainment, nor holidays, nor luxuries.  Just living expenses.

I place rants like this in the Shimei category (2 Samuel 16).  If you read the story you will see that Shimei was a supporter of Saul, who, when David’s son wrested the throne from his father, cursed David and threw stones at him as he left the city in defeat.  It was David’s reply that makes this story special and creates the connection with Garry Linnell.  When Joab asks David for permission to go and kill Shimei for his rant, David says,

“No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”  ……. Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it.”

Linnell has justification in his rant, not because of the fringe-benefit allowance to people who work in Christian organisations, but because many Christian organisations buy and sell without having to pay the same tax as everyone else does.  Some organisations make literal millions of dollars simply because they can legally claim this exemption.  Even though they are actually running businesses in competition with other businesses who do have to pay tax.  It may be legal, but it is unrighteous.  The ‘world’ picks this up quickly and can see the hypocrisy.  There are any number of reasons why the name of Jesus is shamed among the community and this happens to be one of them.

Sadly this abuse of privilege by larger organisations taints the innocent ones with the same guilt.  The FBT allowance for individual employees is fair and reasonable.  It is there because the government of a former day recognised the fact that many Christian people were working for small incomes and were doing much to help and heal the community.  It is still the case.  But we need to get used to this kind of criticism.  I think God is allowing it for the same reason as he allowed the Babylonians to come a destroy the city of Jerusalem and its temple.  If the people of God who are supposed to represent the nature and purpose of God to the wider community set aside this calling and abuse their primary calling for the sake of personal or collective gain, then it leaves God without a genuine witness.  His testimony will come in the form of allowing all of this greed, wickedness and self-serving to be exposed and ridiculed.

Garry Linnell ought to be seen like David saw Shimei:  as an unlikely voice from heaven against corruption that has been going on for a long time and has more recently been exposed.  We should take it as a call to repent and search our own hearts and lament the error in the hearts of our brothers and sisters who have brought this shame upon all of us.

Having said that, it is also true that Linnell is also exposed as having an irrational antagonism for all things Christian (perhaps religious as well).  His passion is more religious than some of the sections of society he has been criticising.  He demeans his trade because he presumes that such a use of free speech will help build a better community.  If he is waiting for the time when Christianity is laughed from existence I fear he will not live long enough.  He needs to be reminded of the names of some of the famous people who have made fools of themselves in similar manner: Voltaire, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell are among the notables.  To presume that an atheistic world will be a better place will put him in league with people who have been responsible for the deaths of more of their fellow citizens than any other-  Stalin and Mao Tse Tung for starters.

So we need to quietly thank Garry Linnell and others with the selfsame voice as we quietly repent, commit again to love our enemies and lay down our lives for the good news of redemptive love.



GOSPELLING Matthew 11.1 Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?



Disciples of John the Baptist Come Asking a Question

After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”                                                                           Matthew 11:1-6



  1. Jesus finished instructing his disciples.
  2. Jesus went to preach and teach in the towns of Galilee.
  3. John was in prison and heard about the things that the Messiah (Jesus) was doing.
  4. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he genuinely was the promised Messiah, or was there going to be someone else.
  5. Jesus told them that John’s question would be answered if they were willing to tell him what they had seen and heard – referring to the miracles of healing and deliverance.
  6. The added that this amounted to good news being proclaimed to the poor.
  7. He challenged John and his disciples not to be offended or forsake their trust in him.


When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

This is a profound example of the way cultural assumptions can stir fear and doubt. Remember that John was the signpost man. His one job was to prepare people for Jesus and then to identify him. He fulfilled that calling faithfully and forcefully. Just think what it must have been like for him to know that one day soon the Messiah would stand before him. God would give him a supernatural sign – a dove hovering above him. Then one day Jesus stood there, and he knew that his mission was almost over. He could say with great confidence, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When the crowds started following Jesus rather than hanging around with him, he was even more exuberant. When someone suggested he might be jealous, he could only say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” No wonder Jesus gives him such a wrap (in the next part of the story).

Remember that even though John was a prophet he was also a child of his generation and therefore fitted in with the traditional teachings that saw the Messiah as a political and military ruler who would kick the Romans out and raise Israel up to be the power centre of the nations of the earth. Not only does Jesus NOT seem to be heading in that direction, but it also appears that he was hanging with all the wrong people and saying all kinds of un-PC things. Even though the religious establishment was more than a little skeptical about John, at least he did keep the kosher traditions. Then something worse happened. Not only was Jesus failing to gather an army and whip the people into a David-looking fighting force, but John was put in prison. And he was left there. No Messianic shaking of the bars and no prison doors opened by angels. Just more of the same. No wonder John sent his disciples to ask a very blunt question. Imagine it, “Are you the one, or should we look for someone else?” Another way of saying that would be, “You don’t seem to fulfil any of our nationalistic, preconceived, self-serving notions of what Israel’s Messiah is like, so are you the real one?” Keep in mind that John the Baptist did not ask this question from the point of view of the religious leaders. He was asking it as a totally committed kingdom seeker. It’s just that his own notions were different from what he saw happening in Jesus’ life.

Here is an incomplete list of the kind of things that Jesus did or didn’t do that were at odds with the traditional ideas people had about the Messiah

  • He was born in the right place (Bethlehem), but he didn’t live in the right place (Nazareth)
  • He was born in controversial circumstances (Mary pregnant but not yet married)
  • He chose disciples from the most dubious of backgrounds (fishermen and tax collectors).
  • He challenged traditional interpretations of the law of Moses (Sermon on the Mount)
  • He touched people who were regarded as “unclean” (lepers and dead bodies)
  • He commended Roman military officers for having great faith (centurion)
  • He claimed to be equal with God – granting forgiveness.
  • He didn’t keep the traditional fast days.
  • He didn’t keep traditional Sabbath laws.
  • He didn’t carry out the ritual washings before eating a meal.
  • He commended a Gentile (Canaanite) woman for having great faith.
  • He refused to give the religious leaders the kind of sign they were looking for to prove his identity.
  • He tells many parables that point out the failure of the Jewish religious authorities to remain faithful to God.
  • He rebukes the religious leaders for making the temple a place to rip people off when it should have been a place where all the nations were prayed for.
  • During his time in Jerusalem, he lists off a series of objections to the way the religious leaders have failed to fulfil their responsibility before God, placing themselves and the people in jeopardy.
  • When arrested and tried by the ruling religious council, Jesus refuses to take back his claim as the Messiah.

And this is just a casual list that was compiled by flicking through the chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. It is easy to understand why John might have been sitting in his prison cell having second thoughts. Things just weren’t working out as he had anticipated.

It is possible that John thought the coming Messiah was going to be a supercharged version of Elijah. If John was the forerunner, then Jesus would be like John but would complete the job that John started. Now that he languished in Herod’s prison he might have imagined that Jesus would do a “Mount Carmel” on the morally corrupt and spiritually compromised Idumean puppet ruler. It just didn’t happen. In fact, Jesus spent most of his time in Galilee which was considered a cultural and political backwater by those who lived in Judea (esp. Jerusalem). In our circumstances, it would compare to some political hopeful for Australia spending most of their time campaigning around Birdsville. From John’s perspective, it seemed that nothing was happening and nothing was going to change.


I have come to the conclusion that great godliness is modelled in the way Jesus responds to questions, especially this straightforward one from John’s disciples. What they wanted was a simple “Yes” or “No.” You have to ask yourself the question as to why Jesus didn’t just offer a simple affirmative reply. This is a big issue in the ministry of Jesus and with Christian discipleship in general. There is a process of learning that is based on a simple transfer of information. The one who knows tells the one who doesn’t know. Then the person who has been told tries to remember the answer so that they will be able to show that they now KNOW. But all they have done is hear and remember. They have not made any personal discovery for themselves. They may possess information, but they won’t have experienced knowing. Remembering is not knowing. That’s why the experience of truth from Scripture is of much more value than memorising the verse. If Jesus answers “Yes,” the disciples would have told John what he had said. That would have been Jesus’ information being passed on rather than John and his friends making a discovery for themselves.

This is something of a dilemma for the way we often do church. First of all, we produce a special class of professionals called pastors, ministers or priests. They are called that because they have spent some years at theological colleges or seminaries and have passed all of their exams. By the time they hit the local churches they are way ahead of just about everyone in their congregation when it comes to professional skill and academic knowledge. They preach lots of sermons and teach Bible studies and the like. They expound their knowledge, and it usually helps people to have confidence in what they say. The problem is that this process just offers more and more information and very little growth in experience. When you consider how sermon-proof the average congregational member is these days, the expensive investment will be guaranteed very little in the way of return. We have substituted information at the expense of faith-based obedience. I am not suggesting that sermons have no value. They will always have some value, and God uses everything offered to him. Sermons and teaching sessions are great for inspiration and encouragement, but they are very low on the scale when it comes to heart transformation and genuine growth and change. This system has no place to measure obedience or change, and there is virtually no accountability or the expectation that there should be. Imagine if a preacher started his or her next Sunday sermon by asking how many people put into practice the revelation from the previous week’s message. When only a few, if any, responded he could then say, “Well, I am going to preach last week’s sermon again and continue to preach this sermon until people start to embrace the message with faith and obedience.” What if he asked for testimonies of what happened when people implemented the message?

All of this is involved in this story of John’s men coming to Jesus. Jesus was not going to give them a piece of information. They didn’t need more information as such.  They needed to make their own discovery and come to their own conclusion. We need to do the same when we are making disciples. In our self-obsessed systems, when a person doesn’t learn we blame the teacher for their poor skills. Learning has much more to do with the learner than the teacher.


Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

The response Jesus made does nothing to answer the questions posed by the list of unfulfilled Messianic expectations (listed above) that probably fueled the disillusionment of John the Baptist. I have long admired the way Jesus uses genuine and spurious questions to turn people again to the matter of what the kingdom of God IS about rather than trying to explain why it is NOT satisfying accepted cultural assumptions. The way to look at this is to answer the question, “If Jesus is describing the kingdom of God coming when he points to the things that have happened as a result of his ministry, what kind of kingdom is it?”

To put it simply, the kingdom represented by Jesus is a kingdom where human brokenness is mended and where social disadvantage loses its power to oppress (good news proclaimed to the poor). My suspicion is the “good news … proclaimed to the poor” is a summary of the five previously described acts: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers clean, deaf hear, dead raised. I have to confess that this arises from my conclusion about the Biblical idea of poverty. I don’t think poverty is just talking about economic circumstances. I think “poor” refers to people who find themselves in situations that are so deeply oppressive that no matter what they do or what decision they make; they cannot bring about any relief from the oppression. The blind person is poor because of their physical disability. So to the lame, leprous, deaf and dead. When Jesus came and removed their particular form of poverty, they were free to make choices that could bring about change. The good news for them was that the source or power that held them in that poverty was broken and they were released from its enslavement.

This brings us to the big issue. If John was hoping that Jesus would challenge Herod (and/or Roman rule) to a Mt. Carmel showdown so that they received their judgment and lost their power to oppress the people of God, he was going to be disappointed. Tragically his demise was a result of the moral depravity he accused Herod of in the first place. His stepdaughter took advantage of his indulgence and John was beheaded. No Messianic deliverer and no divine vindication. The kingdom Jesus was establishing was a different kind of kingdom. When Jesus later stood in Herod’s court, he chose to say nothing to the questioning or the ridicule he was actively engaged in building that same kingdom. This was a kingdom John the Baptist didn’t really understand. Later in this chapter, Jesus is going to tell us that even though John is the greatest of prophets, he just didn’t get the kingdom of God. Jesus said the least person who “gets” the kingdom of God is greater than John. A lot of people who connect with the name of Jesus don’t “get” the kingdom. This is a kingdom that takes broken people and destroys the power that locks them into sickness, oppression, sorrow and hardship. It is a kingdom that starts making things right on the inside of a person and then between people. This is the kingdom that will take abuse from a ruler like Herod but will deal with the power that stirs up unforgiveness. It will never be anything like the other kind of kingdom. The sooner we get hold of that the better servants we will be, and we will be better at living it, speaking it and doing it.

The sad reality is that John knew Jesus, but he wanted Jesus to be the king of a more powerful earthly kingdom. Probably the disciples wanted the same thing, at that point. Every day Jesus kept on living, speaking and doing the work of the kingdom. I’m sure they liked what he did. They were probably thinking that this was a warm up act and that one day Jesus would rise from his sleep and start being the king they all expected, building a more powerful version of the kingdom of Herod, of the Jewish religious system or even Rome. It never happened. It never will happen. Jesus did wake up one day and crush the power of the real enemy. He did it using an empty cross and then an empty tomb. That’s the only kind of kingdom he will ever rule over. It is the only way heaven gets to invade earth. This is such a hard lesson to learn, but it is lesson number one in the kingdom of God. Jesus gave that answer to John because he wanted John to gain an understanding of the kind of king he was and the kind of kingdom he was building.


 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”         

This may well be the most accurate summary statement of the whole of Jesus’ ministry.  From the day he stood in Galilee and said, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1), the biggest challenge facing the people who heard and saw Jesus was to think beyond that failed to fulfil their set of expectations about the Messiah and what he would be like.  I’m sure you are aware that Messiah is a Hebrew word. The root meaning is “to smear” and describes the anointing of a person who will perform a special holy function.  Here is a description I found in a contemporary Jewish encyclopaedia about the Scriptural meaning of the Hebrew, “mashiach.”

The mashiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The mashiach is often referred to as ‘mashiach, son of David’.  He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5).  He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example.  He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel.  He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15).  But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being.  ( http://jewfaq.org )


Not many people I know have difficulty embracing the Jesus revealed in the Gospels because they have been influenced by traditional Jewish teaching. We have any number of substitutes:  our ethnicity, our education, our culture, our denomination, our favourite theological system.  It goes on and on.  It is the reason why we have invented 40,000 different denominations of Christianity around the world.  We desperately want to tailor him to suit our own preferences and make sure he will sponsor our selective causes.  We will want him to conveniently fit within our preconceived boundaries and comfort zones.

Jesus offers us the same choice as he offered John’s disciples that day.  There are many things about Jesus’ life and ministry that challenge our ways of thinking, challenge our priorities and our behaviour.  We have to make a choice.  We should take a good look and see what sort of King the Messiah is and what sort of Kingdom he has established.  We need to be shaped by that discovery and be motivated by that purpose. Jesus said that the happiest people would be those who were not offended by what they saw and heard.  As we read the Bible and respond to its message we need to get over the “offences” and get on with following the Jesus we see there.            


I am a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia. I gained that citizenship because of my birth. For the first nineteen years of my life that citizenship was unrivalled. When I started following Jesus, I began to experience a new sense of belonging. It grew stronger over time. For a time, I thought there was no conflict, but as I began to meet and work with people from different backgrounds who served and followed Jesus I discovered what it meant to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. That citizenship wasn’t something that I knew would happen when I died; it was current. I found that this new citizenship destroyed barriers of race, language, social status, education, personality, gender and age. I have changed my citizenship. I am a citizen of the kingdom of God. As a citizen, I am also a subject of the King of this kingdom, and I am its ambassador.  I am also a soldier in this army. My King has declared war on everything that wants to kill, steal from and destroy people who have been created in the image of God. So I have dedicated my life to fight this battle and represent this King.

I understand that at certain times in history other servants of this King thought they could only fulfil their commitment by withdrawing from the mainstream of the community. Other servants have made the mistake of thinking that this world’s kingdoms can be a tool that will serve the kingdom of God. Both are mistaken. This kind of commitment and this kind of identity means that although I will always be living and working in various expressions of this world’s kingdom, I have no confidence in the ways of that kingdom. In fact, I am an ambassador for my home country. More than that, I am at war with the kingdoms of this world. One of the signs of mission accomplished is when “the kingdoms of this world have …. become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Messiah.” (Revelation 11:15) That’s what Jesus started, and it is the task he has commissioned us to complete. Our message is the good news of the kingdom of God, and its power is pitted against everything that wants to steal from people what God has intended for them.

So if I get this kingdom message I have to take that role seriously. I think I would work hard to see what the kingdom of God might look like if it came to my marriage, household, family, neighbourhood, workplace, groups, etc. I would use the weapons Jesus used and become skilled in using them. I would never confuse the real enemy with anything that had flesh and blood and would keep on laying down my life through selfless redemptive love, and Holy Spirit power, to see the real enemy defeated and broken humanity healed and whole. Whole people can then build whole relationships, and whole relationships can build whole communities. That wholeness only happens when Jesus is honoured as the King of this very different kind of kingdom.


I love the way Jesus can proclaim the gospel by not answering a direct question. When the twelve disciples and the other people heard John’s faithful followers asking a very sincere question and listened to the response Jesus made, they would have had the opportunity to see the difference between the kingdom presumed in John’s question and the kingdom that Jesus had come to proclaim. Giving them that choice is a gospel presentation. I only hope we will continue to hear this message until we fully “get” it. When we get it, I hope we never lose it.




Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:  “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”


To gain a better understanding of these instructions I have simply re-arranged the text according to information and subject matter without changing the words. I did this using the tools available from the multi-level function of the word processing software. I find this more useful than making presumptions about the verse divisions. By this method, I end up with five different subject areas covered and have added the headings.


Conferring Authority

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:


1.1. “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.


2.1. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

2.2. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

2.3. Freely you have received; freely give.


3.1. “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.

3.2. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.


4.1. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

4.2. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

4.3. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

4.4. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.

4.5. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

4.6. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

4.7. “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

4.8. “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

4.9. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

4.10. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.


5.1. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

5.2. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

5.3. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

5.4. “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”


Jesus called the twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive our demons and heal every disease and sickness.

The names of the twelve were: Peter, Andrew, James (Z), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (A), Thaddeus, Simon, Judas.


Jesus gave them the following instructions:

  1. They were to go only to Israelite towns
  2. They were to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God as they had watched Jesus doing.
  3. They were to heal, raise the dead and drive out demons as they had seen Jesus doing.
  4. They were to offer this ministry indiscriminately, humbly and generously.
  5. They were to trust that their work would be the basis for provision, rather than carry their own provisions.
  6. Their first objective was to find a household that was receptive to their message and to accept the hospitality of that home.
  7. If they didn’t find such a person/home, they were to move on to the next place – with a sense of sadness, not resentment.
  8. They were to be prepared to work in a hostile environment without any human status or power. Their tools would be wisdom and the absence of malice.
  9. They would be arrested by authorities, but should use the opportunity to testify to Jesus using words that the Holy Spirit would give them at the time.
  10. They would find that believing in Jesus could cause tension and division within families.
  11. Different kinds of people would hate them without a reason.
  12. They would experience persecution so intense that they would need to leave and go to another place.
  13. This opposition would replicate what they had seen in the ministry of Jesus.
  14. They were to speak openly about every revealed truth they had discovered.
  15. They would need to be more concerned about being separated from Jesus than being killed.
  16. They needed to carry the assurance that they were valued by their Father in heaven.
  17. They needed to be as willing to acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus as he was ready to acknowledge them.
  18. They needed to be prepared to face the tension created in families without compromising their commitment to Jesus.
  19. They should no try to avoid the risk of suffering but realise that God would use even suffering to shape and mould them to become the whole person they were created to be by God.
  20. When people welcomed them for who they were, those people would receive the same favour from God as they, themselves were to receive.


This is a story about Jesus training his disciples to go and do ministry on their own. I’ve been to some training sessions in my time, but I can’t ever remember a training agenda like this one. If Jesus offered a Q and A segment in a western culture context like my own, it would be easy to anticipate some of the questions. A few students in the class would have found themselves starting to feel uneasy. If an exit poll was taken as people left the room, you might have heard statements like, “It wasn’t quite what I expected,” or “this isn’t what I signed up for,” or “I think I’m going to transfer to a different course.” These are the reasons why we should pay a little more attention to the text before we glide along to the stories recorded in Chapter Eleven and conveniently leave our uneasiness behind.

Imagine being in a small home Bible Study group studying this passage. You would most likely marvel at the things that Jesus said and have a prayer time where we prayed for Christians around the world who were being persecuted and thanked God for the freedoms of our own nation. You might assume that the words only applied to professional pastors and missionaries who had received a “call.” You would easily presume that such instructions were largely for another time, another place or another (less fortunate ???) group of Jesus-followers. What if none of those assumptions was true? What if every follower of Jesus was meant to be a missionary and these instructions defined universal missionary dynamics rather than occasional ones?  We might find that the circumstances of our own neighbourhoods, workplaces and community spheres bore the hallmarks of a lack of missionary authority rather than a state of grace. We might find that our circumstances are the product of an unconscious deal we have made with the principalities and powers – a deal that amounts to appeasing the enemy rather than uncompromised opposition.

There isn’t the latitude in this current study to develop this theme fully, but my own observations here have produced some ideas that may be a tad over-analytical, but attempt to use these instructions as a window through which we can view the missionary sphere anticipated by Jesus. I have identified twenty separate instructions (as previously listed).

Twelve Disciples Chosen and Authorized

These instructions were given to twelve people who had a particular contract with Jesus. He had called each of them to follow him, and when they graduated from the training course, Jesus said that they would be qualified to “fish for people.” Up to this point, they had watched as Jesus preached, taught, healed and set people free. Now they were being sent out on their first field work assignment. In case some are tempted to see the Twelve as a special class of professionals, I challenge you to find a single qualification that does not apply to every follower. We are all called to follow Jesus. Like the twelve we are called to be with him and to be trained to serve his kingdom purpose. Whenever you read about the understanding and relationship between Jesus and the twelve disciples, see yourself and every other person who makes a sincere commitment to Him. So we are reading about a particular historical situation here, but we are genuinely reading about ourselves. The instructions apply to us. Every believer is called to be a missionary. Every believer is to be Holy Spirit empowered and every believer is called to serve Jesus as Messiah/King (Lord).


and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Just take this information slowly. This was another ordinary day in the lives of twelve people who had been following Jesus, believing him to be the promised Messiah. It started out like every other day. At some point in the proceedings, Jesus called the twelve people to come around him. When they did, he GAVE them authority. That authority was the power to command demons to leave a person and the authority to heal all kinds of diseases and sickness. We might call this an “impartation.” One moment they were like they always had been and the next they have the ability to set someone free from a demon and to make someone else well no matter what their sickness is. That’s pretty impressive. We have no idea how this impartation happened. Some of us would feel more comfortable if he laid hands on each of them since that’s the method we are accustomed to. But the truth is we aren’t told HOW we are just told that it happened. They left that meeting with Jesus possessing something they didn’t have previously.

The important issue for me is the fact that I desperately need more of that authority. I have some of it, but not enough. One way of thinking about authority is ability. When there is a noise in the engine of my car it is just a noise. I don’t know what causes it, and I certainly don’t know the first think about how to fix it. If I take it to a good “qualified mechanic” he has a listen, like I did. The difference is that he will most likely know what is causing the noise. He will also know how to fix it. I give the car to him, and when I go back, the noise is gone, and the car operates as it should. The only other thing that changes is that my bank balance goes down by a significant amount. Regardless of that pain, I go to him because he has the authority. He has trained for it, and he is experienced in it.

When Peter and John were going into the temple for the regular prayer session and saw a lame man begging for money, Peter said, “I don’t have any money, BUT WHAT I HAVE I give to you.” With that, he grabbed the lame man and lifted him up. Peter had authority over whatever had caused the man’s disability. He explained to the crowd that it was “faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see was made strong” (Acts 3:16). Something had happened inside of Peter to give him the confidence to say what he said. I am certain that the first experience he had with all of that happened on the day that is being described here in Matthew Chapter 10. We can quote all of the texts we like, but that doesn’t give us the authority. Only the experience of this kind of impartation will enable us to do what Jesus did and greater (John 10).

Unless this happens to us, all we have are a bunch of other people’s stories and a few Bible references. That’s not enough to expel a demon or heal sickness let alone raise a dead person. All of the instructions that follow presume this kind of authority. Only this kind of authority will challenge the legitimacy of all the principalities and powers that prevent people from experiencing the redeeming love and grace of God. We need it, and Jesus is the only one who can impart it to us. I cannot understate the importance of this. It is embarrassing to talk about this because the proof of having it is not just sprouting some words, but demons leaving, health returning and dead people coming to life. Stark, but true.


Given that I have already listed a summary of  twenty instructions for Christians when they take up their calling and become missionaries, I have some comments to add by way of a few more lists. I think it is helpful to see the assumptions that these instructions make about the missionary environment. We have not understood these too well. Instead of being normal operational assumptions we think of them as emergency procedures. I am using pilot language here. When you learn to fly a plane, each plane has a book with a section called, “Normal Operations.” It covers pre-flight checks, start up, taxi, take off, climb, cruise and landing. This is what you do when you fly a plane. The section before Normal Operations is called “Emergency Procedures.” It includes a whole lot of different things that pilot’s practice for but hope they never have to carry out. The content of this section includes things like engine failure, forced landing, icing, electrical failure, vacuum failure and a few others. The normal procedures are the things you expect to happen every time you fly, and the emergency procedures are hardly ever, hopefully never.

Jesus’ instructions to the twelve disciples were not “emergency procedures” but “normal operations.” When we read through them from the perspective of our own experience in a rich western society like Australia (especially Canberra), they seem more like emergency procedures. We don’t encounter most of these very often. I suggest this is a reflection of how WE have backed away from aggressive, loving missionary endeavour. So I am going to write a summary of the assumptions that Jesus instructions make about what HE presumed would be a normal missionary enterprise.


A Summary of Missionary Presumptions

  1. There are people we need to target first so that we will be able to complete the full task outlined in the great commission commanded by Jesus.
  2. The only message we should be bringing is the one that announces the kingdom of God as accessible.
  3. The ministry of the kingdom of God is to drive out demons, heal sicknesses and raise the dead.
  4. This ministry will challenge us to remain humble and generous.
  5. The work of ministry will always create its own provision.
  6. The first priority in a new missionary sphere will be to find people and households whose receptivity to the message will form the base for ongoing work.
  7. There will be times where we go to every house but find no one who is receptive.
  8. We will always be offering the greatest gift from the lowest and most vulnerable human status.
  9. The incumbent civil authorities and influential groups will be opposed to what we do.
  10. When a person makes a faith commitment to Christ, it will often lead to tension and even division within their own family.
  11. All kinds of people will show irrational hatred toward us because of our commitment to Jesus.
  12. There will sometimes be opposition and persecution strong enough to require you to leave.
  13. The opposition we experience will be the same as experienced by Jesus.
  14. The resident power groups in a missionary sphere will try to intimidate us so that we don’t speak out the things we have come to know by revelation.
  15. We will have to face threats of death and even be killed by those who oppose the message.
  16. Our self-worth and significance will be attacked.
  17. The attitudes and atmosphere of a missionary sphere will try and make us ashamed to openly acknowledge our love for Jesus.
  18. The tensions within families will pressure us to compromise our commitment to serve Jesus.
  19. The threat of hardship and suffering will often try to shift our focus from serving and trusting Jesus to complete his work of making us whole.
  20. The people who welcome and receive our ministry will share the same favour from God that we will experience.

Now that doesn’t paint a picture of what we would describe as “normal operations.” We need to consider whether our approach to missionary work has been compromised. I am not suggesting that we go out and deliberately try to get people to hate us. There are plenty of people doing that for all the wrong reasons. All of the things in the list above happen because an incumbent power or prevailing set of opinions are challenged. When you get a chance, just read through one of the gospels and see how the ministry of the kingdom that Jesus offered picked its own fights with various authority groups and prevailing attitudes. He didn’t go out to make himself unpopular, in fact, it was his popularity with all the “wrong” people that caused a lot of the trouble. Jesus wasn’t walking up and down outside the temple with placards, nor was he bringing petitions to the Roman procurator’s palace. He just got on with the ministry of the kingdom. And that was what challenged both visible and invisible power bases. His indiscriminate redemptive love exposed false religion and arrogant piety. He was the king of a new and different kingdom making his claim.

What Our Compromise has Done

If I had the time and space, I would take each of these twenty instructions and show endless examples of each one from the ministry of Jesus and from that of the apostles. They are also part of the experience of every missionary sphere around the world that is advancing. They are not a common to missionary endeavour in western nations like my own. Convinced of this, I am going to make some suggestions about the way compromised discipleship and lack of missionary enterprise has rendered most of the things on the list as “special circumstances” rather than normal operations.

How We Have Compromised Missionary Enterprise

  1. Instead of going to a certain group of people as a strategy for reaching all people we open the doors of our building and run programs on the off chance that someone might come in.
  2. instead of offering the invitation of a king we serve people’s ego based self-interest.
  3. instead of taking the hard option and finding out why we can’t drive out demons and heal sick people we stick to our compromised commitment to Christ and hope that God will allow us to keep our preferences but still give us authority.
  4. Instead of humbling ourselves and offering everyone the kingdom we are comforted by the idea that we are going to heaven, but impose fear driven restrictions on who we relate to let alone share the gospel with.
  5. We offer so little of the kingdom that there is little reason for people to support it.
  6. We have no strategic plan to preach the gospel to every person in any region or sphere that we don’t go looking for a person of peace or a ‘household’ of peace.
  7. We have never had a commitment strong enough to go to every house to find out that no one was going to be receptive to the message.
  8. We have such limited missionary commitment that we never do anything where we will risk disapproval or rejection from people who have greater status.
  9. We presume that doing things that are illegal to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom will never be God’s will (e.g. workplace protocols)
  10. We desperately want to follow Jesus in a way that does not create tension within our families, to the point where ‘family’ becomes the ‘lord’ and following Jesus has to fit in with family commitments.
  11. Making sure we don’t do anything that might “offend” people is driven by a need to make sure people will always like us.
  12. We avoid possible offence by modifying our obedience to Christ to avoid persecution.
  13. We have so limited our obedience to Christ that we are hardly ever persecuted.
  14. We have developed one language for our secular world and a different language for our Christian world because we have bowed to the pressure of society that says believing in Jesus is nonsense.
  15. We have no notion of what it feels like to prefer being loyal to Jesus even if it means being killed.
  16. We draw so much of our self-worth and significance from the values of this world: money, possessions, career success that we know very little about receiving them from being a servant of Jesus Christ.
  17. We have mostly become secretive about our commitment to Christ in the wider community. We are ashamed to honour Jesus in the public sphere.
  18. We easily compromise our commitment to follow Christ because of our family circumstances.
  19. We consider the blessing of God as equated with a life experience devoid of suffering. As such we avoid it and encourage others to avoid it.
  20. We impart so little kingdom ministry that few people experience its blessings because of us.

A Way Back to Kingdom Normal?

I am convinced that our major calling as the church is to represent Jesus in our community, the next community to us and every community on earth. We are called to look like him, sound like him, think like him, intend like him and implement priorities like him. I am also convinced that the Bible is the only window that will enable us to see and hear Jesus. I’m not referring to the gospels alone. My view is that the whole of Scripture is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Old Testament points to him, and the New Testament describes him. He has to be the head of the church, and his presence has to be the only reason we are different from any other group of people on the face of the earth. We need to be measured by him, shaped by him and inspired by him. We have no business inventing our own version of who Jesus is or what he is like.

In Matthew Chapter 10 we have been given a summary description of what Jesus own missionary sphere was like and what Paul and the other apostles’ spheres were like. These are not theoretical, and they are not for a few sad unfortunates. We should aspire to every one of these and allow our missionary enterprise to tell our own version of this story. So I am going to make one last version of this twenty-point missionary plan. Here are my ideas of what we (I) could do to see these things restored to the world of normal missionary operations.

  1. Find out who represents the first missionary target group, that will open the way to the full completion of the great commission.
  2. Make sure our message is the same as Jesus’ kingdom message.
  3. Find out why we don’t have power over demonic presence and sickness.
  4. Give away everything we have to everyone we can.
  5. Get workers into the harvest fields and trust the work to produce the support.
  6. Find the persons of peace (Luke 10) as the first priority in every missionary field.
  7. If we don’t find a person of peace, move to another missionary sphere.
  8. Get used to the idea of operating without status in a sphere where the people of status may be opposed to what we are doing.
  9. Respectfully disregard laws that opposed the proclamation of the gospel.
  10. Learn to respond to pressure from family by becoming a more effective servant of Jesus.
  11. Learn to get past the fact that some people will hate us without a reason.
  12. Never allow fear of hardship or suffering to modify out commitment to serve Jesus.
  13. Keep looking to the ministry of Jesus as the model for shaping our expectations.
  14. Always take opportunity to disclose the fact that you serve and worship Jesus Christ.
  15. Be more concerned about staying close to Jesus than fearing possible
  16. Draw all of your significance and self-worth from God’s love for you.
  17. Be up front and unashamed of your commitment to Jesus Christ.
  18. Don’t allow family pressures to compromise your commitment to Christ.
  19. Allow your uncompromised commitment to Christ to shape your sense of personhood.
  20. Make sure the people who accept your message know that they share your blessings from God.



I am a heart-before-head person, for sure.  Whenever I am with another person, or even attending some meeting where there are numbers of people I am always much more aware of what the heart of it is about before I engage with the rationale.  I don’t tend to notice much about physical appearance.  Some years ago now, someone spoke prophetically about me and said that I viewed people from the inside out.  I think that is correct.

This is how I look at Jesus.  When I see and hear Jesus, I know I that the heart of God is being made tangible – what we are seeing is the heart of the Father.  Since God IS love, then it is the expression of pure selfless love.  That can actually be measured.  This love is willing to be beaten, shamed and then die on a cross as the worst of criminals. It was also measured by the things that happened during the three (or more correctly thirty-three) years of ministry.

One of the ways I read that is to watch Jesus’ responding to someone who butted in on an agenda that was in progress.  Can you believe that “love” doesn’t take exception to people who butt in?  There was a man whose friends busted up a meeting in a house by ripping the roof off to let their friend down.  There was a woman who pushed through a crowd while Jesus was rushing to save a dying girl.  There was a blind guy yelling and yelling on the side of the road leading out of Jericho.  And wait, there’s more!

The truth is that I don’t like it when I have something I want to do and someone butts in.  It happened to me today.  And the more salient fact is that what I was doing wasn’t critical and urgent.  And the people who butted in were in genuine need.  There was something pathetic in me that wanted to be with them and get it over with as fast as I could.  Being fulfilled seemed to associate with doing what I wanted rather than what they needed.  I quickly realised this was a very bad deal.  Not at all Jesus-looking.  I urgently called out to God to help me to BE his heart and then I could connect with them on that basis.  It took a few minutes for the old to pass away and the new to come, but it definitely happened. What is more to the point was the fact that it was much more worthwhile and personally satisfying.

It’s one of those funny things that identifies the presence of the kingdom of God.  When we set aside self-preference and self-indulgence in order to make the heart of God tangible, the result is a sense of fulfilment that is much greater than just doing what you want when and how you want it (my rough definition of self-centredness). It becomes the story that happens when we trust what Jesus said,  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it.  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul.”  (Matthew 16)

GOSPELLING Matthew 9.5 Giving Jesus Something He Can Use

Red traffic lights

Red traffic lights


As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”                                Matthew9:27-34



  1. This is a further incident that happened in sequence.
  2. It probably occurred in the town of Caesarea.
  3. Two blind men were following Jesus.
  4. They kept calling out to him with the words, “Have mercy on us Son of David.”
  5. Jesus went into his house.
  6. The blind men followed him inside.
  7. Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
  8. They responded by saying, “Yes, Lord.”
  9. He touched their eyes.
  10. He said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”
  11. Their sight was restored.
  12. He warned them sternly not to tell anyone about it.
  13. Instead of doing what he said, they went out and spread the news everywhere around the region.
  14. As they were leaving a demon possessed man was brought to Jesus.
  15. The demon had caused the man to be mute.
  16. When Jesus drove the demon out, the man spoke.
  17. The people in the crowd were amazed, saying that they had never seen anything like this before.
  18. The Pharisees saw it differently. They could only assume that Jesus was using demonic power to drive out the demons.



As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” “Yes Lord,” they replied.

Why did they call Jesus the “Son of David?”

These accounts of what Jesus said and did are our window into a domain that Jesus came to proclaim. He made this kingdom known by what he intended, how he lived, what he said as well as what he did. His message was the “good news of the kingdom of God,” and he was the King of that realm. It is the underlying explanation for everything we read. That’s why it is important for us to take notice when things happen differently from the way we might expect. The surprises will be like unique “peep holes” for us so that we can look through them and get a greater understanding of this kingdom and therefore be more useful as we live, serve and therefore proclaim the message in our generation.

The first little surprise is the way the blind men addressed Jesus, calling him “Son of David.” The fact that they chose to address him by his Messianic title indicates that there was something more than rank consumer motivation. Hundreds of people were healed by Jesus, but very few of them referred to him as the Messiah. It seems that the religious authorities were constantly at hand as Jesus trod the paths of Galilee and Judea. They were certain Jesus was NOT the Messiah and were trying to justify their conlcusion. They were also looking for ways to discredit him and oppose him. Later they would take steps to have him legally killed. I would think the idea of calling out Jesus Messianic title would be a little risky in such circumstances. They were prepared to make their beliefs about Jesus very clear. They were not just seeking healing; they were willing to honour the Messiah.

Three categories of followers

This is a common distinction in every generation. Think about the ways people who had connections with Jesus could be categorized.

First of all, there were those who saw Jesus as a source of healing, demon dusting and food. Jesus makes this distinction in the Gospel of John. After supernaturally feeding a crowd and returning across the lake to find the people still pressing around him, he tells them,

 “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:25-27)

They didn’t care about Jesus being the Messiah. He was a source of food. In my way of thinking, I refer to these as the “Consumer” followers. They wanted a product and Jesus was the source. Sadly, we have often championed this cause in our day by making church the dispensing portal for consumer goods. I am not talking about souvenirs. I refer to the idea that Jesus is the ultimate “self-help” source. Without getting into the whole “happiness” philosophy that has become a multi-million-dollar export business in the United States, it is sad that Christian leaders and their adherents have seemingly traded on this phenomenon and produced a generation of supposed believers who are nothing more than consumers of feel-good products.

The second kind of followers that are evident from the gospel texts are those who wanted to make Jesus the Messiah, but it was the “Messiah” produced by their culture. It was built around their tribal self-interest. Once again this is referenced in John’s gospel,

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say,

“Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:14,15)

The not so subtle issue that Jesus was not prepared to entertain was the fact that if he acceded to their wishes, he would have become ‘their” king at the expense of being “the” king. He would have set aside the call to be the king of the kingdom of God to take up the role as political leader of a particular ethnic group. This kind of thing happens everywhere. We are more than capable of claiming the name of Jesus to endorse all of the preferences we have independently chosen. We can be confident that he votes for a particular political party, supports our selected moral issues and doesn’t worry about the issues we wish to set aside. Most of all he wants to promote our particular group, denomination, theology so that our attitudes of pride and arrogance can be vindicated.

The third kind of follower is also described for us in the account from John 6. When Jesus continues to speak things that are hard to understand, and people start to leave in numbers, Jesus turns to the twelve he had chosen and said,

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

These twelve people (or eleven of the twelve) hear the same words from Jesus and probably had many of the same thoughts as those who were leaving. They didn’t understand what he meant and were offended by the way he was talking. The difference between this group of eleven and the people who left was a particular kind of relationship. The others were classic examples of the two previous types of followers: consumers and tribals. These eleven had discovered the person who was the King and therefore belonged to his kingdom. Customers leave when the product no longer satisfies them. Tribals move when the agenda challenges their preferences and current identity. Kingdom servants just keep following the king and eventually discover what they don’t know. They are transformed by that discovery. That’s the way the kingdom of God works.

We don’t know for sure whether these two blind men were from this third group. All of us reading the story would like to think they did. What we do know was that they chose to approach Jesus using his rightful title: the Messiah and therefore King.


Why did Jesus make them wait?

Another question that rings some bells warning us that the kingdom of God is near comes from the fact that Jesus didn’t respond to them immediately. If you imagine you are watching the video of this scene it will become clearer. There is no way of knowing how far it was or how long it took from where they encountered Jesus to where he entered a (his?) house. Regardless, Jesus did not immediately respond. He walked calmly to the door of the house followed by two blind men tapping their sticks on the ground and trying not to trip over anything. All the while they are calling out to Jesus using his Messianic title asking for mercy. Why is that?

If we look at the context to give us the clues, the only piece of information we are given happens when Jesus goes inside, and they follow. At that point, Jesus asks them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” To which they reply in the affirmative. The corroborating piece of evidence comes from his answer: “According to your faith.”

When Jesus left the house where a dead girl was raised to life that these two blind men realized he was there and called out to him. It is likely that he was in Capernaum, and the house belonged to Peter. So the sequence started at one house and ended in another. The two blind guys began kept following until Jesus came to his house. He made no response to their plea. He just walked inside. The blind men then followed him into the house. That’s a pretty strong demonstration of faith. It seems that Jesus was not so much testing their faith as allowing their faith to be measured. He did the same thing with the woman from Syro-Phoenecia. What he was doing was not just playing hard to get, he was allowing e.g. his disciples, to see her faith. In this case, it is possible that the disciples were once again treated to an experience of watching faith happening. When John the apostle says that the victory that overcomes the world is our faith (1 John 5) he could have been thinking about an incident such as this one. The way of the kingdom of this world is to have a go and if it doesn’t work, try something else. In their case, they cried out and Jesus did not respond. He walked on, and they followed, crying out once more. He did not provide a response. They continue to cry out all the way to his house. The reason they did this was the faith inside them. They knew that healing was only going to come from Jesus and they kept on deciding that all the way until they entered his house. Faith is exposed by this kind of persistence and boldness. Jesus told numerous other stories that make the same point (e.g. Luke 18:1-8). The point is made again when Jesus asked them directly. I don’t think he was playing games. He was using their faith as an object lesson. When he asked them whether they believed that he could heal them he was asking them to confess with their mouth what they had believed in their heart and expressed by their determination to follow him. We need to do the same thing for the same reason. He stresses the point one more time when he declares that it was their expression of faith that led to their healing. They gave Jesus something he could use. Not only were they healed but the disciples learned a critical lesson about believing and not giving up.

What matters in the kingdom of God is for it to be built on a simple, non-negotiable trust in the King. As Jesus walked from the synagogue leader’s home to his home with two blind men following and crying out, he was modelling something important. In our “this-world’s-kingdom” way of doing business, we consider it a bit weird. What ‘s strange in this world is worthy in the kingdom of God. If you could imagine a few hundred angels watching all this from their vantage point of fully knowing how it works, I reckon you might be able to hear them applauding Jesus and cheering on the two blind men. Kingdom stuff was happening on both counts. Jesus was drawing them into a fuller expression of their faith, and they were rising to the occasion. That faith was not visible to the naked eye but became apparent to anyone who wanted to see and hear – the twelve disciples in particular. It would be a lesson to them when, at some time in the future, they would call out to Jesus, and it would seem to them as if he was walking away. Because of learning experiences such as this, they would do as the blind men had done. They would follow after him, calling out to him until he spoke to them and then invaded the situation with power from heaven – as he did on this occasion.


Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

Here is yet another aspect of the story that clashes with our “this-world” way of thinking and, in doing so, calls us to notice how the kingdom of God works. When we see the huge importance placed on publicity in our world, we can be fooled into thinking that it is by publicity that our message will best be communicated. I can remember being involved in some public Christian events and feeling victorious when we got a few sentences of favourable press. And I know how huge that same issue is in the world of politics – or should I say, the world of ‘how to make sure you get re-elected.’ Sadly, it has become the same world. I get newsletters from Christian ministry organizations all the time bragging about how good they are. I only have to think of how good it would feel to tell a story of two blind people being healed in our church. I would want to put it front and centre of our web page and think that if people read it they would want to come and join our church. I could see myself thinking that if people started coming because of that story, the kingdom of God would be coming. I would be “humble” about it of course, but there would be something in me that would enjoy the whole process. There would be an incredibly subtle shift of glory from what God had done to WHO he had done it through, namely US! This is classic kingdom-of-this-world stuff.

Jesus knew full well that the kingdom of God does not come with a media release, a Facebook post or a YouTube clip, no matter how many hits you may get. Jesus was not going to accomplish his goal by way of popular opinion. Of course, the kingdom of God comes through healing, and demons being cast out. But what makes it the kingdom of God is that there is a King to be acknowledged, trusted and served. It is a relationship with the King that defines the kingdom of God. It is a plan devised by the King and dependence on the King that makes it kingdom. In this case, Jesus told them not to tell. They didn’t listen and Jesus work of proclaiming the kingdom of God was made the more difficult. These two kingdoms don’t mix and don’t match. We do it all the time, and the outcome is always that God’s nature and purpose are always compomised.


While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Another agenda item was added to the job list for Jesus that day. Things were happening one after the other. While the two fully sighted men ran out of the house another small group were waiting, wanting to connect with Jesus.   They had come with a demonized friend. In this case, the demonic presence had robbed him of his ability to speak. Unlike the previous case, we have no information about the process. We just know that Jesus’ response to their request was to cast out a demon. When the demon left, the man was able to speak.

I don’t know how to tell when a sickness is caused by the presence of a demon and when it is not. If I get some infection and then take antibiotics and the infection goes, I am presuming that the sickness was purely physical. I have no knowledge of germ theory, but the presence of germs can be overcome by ingesting some specific chemical substances, and the germs die, and my body is healed. When we read the New Testament, we are brought face to face with sicknesses and disabilities that are caused by the presence of demons. These demons we read about in the Bible have personality and intelligence. They talk and understand and have an independent will. This is a bit hard for us to get our head around when we have been trained in a worldview that presumes a closed, materialistic system. The fact is that all of our sophisticated knowledge has great difficulty in explaining or even coming to terms with a malevolence that would destroy everything good without a reason. It seems to be the only way to account for a lot of horrible things that happen in our world. I consider evil to have a source that is both personal, totally destructive of everything that is seen as good and is entirely indiscriminate. That happens to be the very opposite of everything we know about God from looking at Jesus. The intention we see in Jesus is indiscriminate, self-sacrificial, redemptive love. So the idea of a universe that has been impacted by Satan and his accomplices makes sense to me. There is a battle for supremacy, and it is a life and death struggle.

I don’t have a method for knowing when a person’s sickness or disability is caused directly by the presence of a demon or when it is caused indirectly by the vulnerability to the effects of a broken world. I can only assume from watching Jesus that it is something that needs to be discerned at the time from a Holy Spirit revelation. Given our capacity for systems, I would warn against erecting a model based on experience or the supposed wisdom of an expert. I think these capabilities need to be developed with humility in the company of others. And I think the testimony of Scripture is that we should make each experience a one-off. Some people are too prone to “sense” demons when there aren’t any and other people are going to assume that demons were scared off western society at the time of the Enlightenment. Both are going to be unreliable witnesses.


But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Here is another kingdom of God issue. The very presence and authority of the King of the kingdom meant that demons were commanded to leave rather than being manipulated (as was the case with various forms of exorcism practised then and now.) All the way through the gospels we see this power being exercised in a direct fashion with a one hundred percent success rate. It is of interest to note that the Pharisees were not going to argue that the demons had gone. A man who had been kept mute was talking. They recognized supernatural power. Their problem was that they couldn’t reconcile the fact that a no-name rabbi from Nazareth was the one with the authority. Their world view (correctly) only knew two sources of supernatural power. One was God’s, and the other was the devil’s. Since Jesus was not recognized by any tests of orthodoxy, their only conclusion was that Jesus was working as a factional lord within the general demonic hierarchy.

What they lost sight of was the fact that a man who had been oppressed to the point where he could not speak was free. They should have notice the fruit and then followed the spiritual trail back to the only place where good spiritual power has a source. The only conclusion, based on their worldview, would be that it came from God. Nicodemus drew that conclusion and it was the reason he came to Jesus at night (John 3). This incident testifies to the fact that the presence of the kingdom will always challenge other incumbent kingdoms. The presence of the King will challenge all others who might either pose as a king or serve a different king. In this case, we are witness to the clash between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of traditional religion. That doesn’t just happen from outside of Christian spheres. It is alive and well within them and we shouldn’t be surprised. Religious systems will always oppose the presence of the King of the kingdom. Even though a religious system may use the name of Jesus and seem to have an allegiance to him, they will oppose the presence of Jesus because their very system is designed to operate without it. Please understand that this happens in every sector of the church. Religious “Christianity” is not far from any of us, no matter how contemporary or how ‘spiritual’ we might think we are. Just have a deep think about this. The presence of activities that don’t need Jesus to function will soon oppose the presence of the very One who said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am in the midst.” (Matthew 18:20). Talking about God without relating to him was happening in the church in Laodicea.  Jesus spoke to them prophetically through the Apostle John saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). The church in Laodicea had become religious and didn’t know that he was outside waiting to come in, and no one knew he wasn’t there.



  1. Rather than trying to do all the “faith lifting” for other people, I think I should challenge people to clarify their faith level. It would not be a natural thing for me to walk away from someone who was wanting to ask God for healing. I would be more likely to do the opposite. It seems that in the kingdom of God it is important to figure out where someone’s faith is at. It is also important to help them to give expression to whatever faith they have. In the case of the two blind men, Jesus seemed to push that to the limit. I am going to focus more closely on helping people to have their own faith rather than offering to have faith on their behalf. It doesn’t mean I should never have faith on someone else’s behalf, but I now realise that it is far better to say, “Your faith has made you well” than for people NOT to exercise whatever faith they have.
  2. In the case of the demonised mute man, I want to try and find a way to get a sense from the Holy Spirit about the source of the problem – to determine whether it is demonic presence or indirect effects through their vulnerability. If there is a demon hanging around causing trouble I would like to know how to recognise that in the way Jesus did.
  3. I also need to get more faith for dealing with demons. Since Jesus has direct authority over what demons have to do and if Jesus can just cast them out. I want to be able to exercise his authority – as he has called us to do. If I am casting out demons I want to measure their departure in some tangible way rather than blustering claims that have no tangible evidence to back them up.If the demon is really gone, something else should also be gone and the person should be fully aware of it.
  4. I want to get a clear picture of the difference between a religious activity and one that is build by the presence and power of Jesus. I think it is quite possible that I do things in certain ways where there is no relationship with Jesus and no acknowledgement of his presence at all. We just do the stuff. I will also anticipate that opposition will come to things the Holy Spirit is doing from people who say they are representing Jesus but their opposition will prove that they are in bondage to a religious system or practices and not related to Jesus. I want to make sure the difference is clear. I think the “super-spirituality” of a lot of people is just another form of religiousness. The same goes for the people who have some like belonging to club-type of church but get embarrassed if you start relating to Jesus.


  1. When Jesus walked away from the blind men crying out, he was proclaiming a kingdom that required faith to embrace. That was a bold but important thing to do because it allowed everyone, including the blind men themselves to see faith happening in their experience.
  2. When he asked them if they believed, he was preaching the gospel.
  3. When they were healed, he was preaching the gospel.
  4. When he asked them to tell no one, he was preaching the gospel of his Kingly right to know what was best for them and what was strategic for the situation.
  5. When Jesus delivered the man from a demon the man himself felt the gospel, the friends who brought him saw the gospel and so did the Pharisees. It was an opportunity for each of those three groups of people to put their faith in the Messianic rule of Jesus.



We live in an age where the various forms of mass communication or social media have reduced the attention span of average people to smaller and smaller units.  Like all cultural trends, it has happened over a period.  As such we now assume certain things as fact which have never actually been proved.  They have just been placed before us often enough for us to presume that it must be so.  Add to that the appeal of personal convenience and you have a fully marketable product.  In this case, I am talking about truth.  It could almost be said that if something is going to have a chance at being accepted today it has to come in a thirty second to three-minute package.  It is even more preferred if it is in video format.

No a lot of this is totally understandable.  Because we ‘have the technology’ we can ram home a point in a slogan.  We can back up the slogan by a fifteen or thirty-second video clip.  We can produce a three sentence paragraph.  Not only so, but we can then work on a twenty-four-hour news cycle and create a series of add-ons so that every day for the next two weeks you will be getting our message as if it is something new.  It will be different enough to make it attractive, but it will be another dose of the same drug.

All of this targets one thing. It appeals to human convenience. Human convenience is just another form of self-indulgence.

What if there are truths that cannot be embraced by this process?  What if some things will not be grasped without deeper engagement, more thorough discussion and then practised.  Imagine trying to teach piano students in this manner.  How many people exist whose lives have been transformed in a good way have been able to do that on a diet of thirty-second grabs.  Would you like to submit yourself for brain surgery to a physician who had gained all his understanding and expertise by watching adds and door-stop interviews with other great surgeons?  I don’t think so.

It is true that more is not necessarily more.  Long-winded treatises and never-ending sermons don’t automatically qualify you for more.

But I would be just as suspicious with the “less is more” theory as well. I would be happier if we measured a presentation, training or teaching by why and how it challenged the aspects of my personhood that need to become different.  Then we could measure the same process by the fruit.

By the way, that’s what Jesus said.  “You will know a tree by its fruit,” not its thirty-second ad campaign or extra offers.


Red traffic lights

I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I hate successions of red lights.  It seems to be reserved for when I am running late by definition.  I will never forget an occasion when I needed to get from the Canberra City area to O’Connor and back again in a hurry.  We were doing outreach in Garema Place and I had to go back to get some leaflets.  And every light seemed to be red.  I was frustrated and complaining.  When I verbalised some thoughts about the general lack of God working sovereignly to favour what I was doing I heard one of the clearest Holy Spirit words in my life.  God said, “What don’t you give me something I can bless?”  Presumably, God hasn’t got much use for impatience, anger and presumption.  I quickly told God that I was going to do just that.  I offeren him thanks, praise, confidence and trust and a few other things.  I can’t remember whether the lights were red or green after that, I had just learned that it wasn’t important.  And I still remember it.

Here is a story where a couple of people gave Jesus something he could use to bring the kingdom of God to their circumstances.


While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.

Matthew 9:18-27



  1. This set of incidents happened immediately following the ones previously described.
  2. A synagogue leader came to Jesus
  3. When he got to Jesus, he knelt down in front of him.
  4. He told Jesus that his daughter had just died.
  5. He declared that if Jesus would come and lay hands on her, she would live.
  6. Jesus stood up and went with the man, accompanied by his disciples.
  7. While he was walking, a woman came up behind Jesus.
  8. She had suffered from a hemorrhaging for twelve years.
  9. She had made up her mind to try and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
  10. She believed that if she did so, her body would be healed.
  11. When she touched the edge of his cloak, she was instantly healed.
  12. Jesus turned and saw her.
  13. He said to her, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.”
  14. When Jesus came to the house, he saw people who had gathered to mourn for the dead girl.
  15. The crowd were noisy
  16. There were people playing music on pipes.
  17. He told them to go away.
  18. He said that the girl was not dead, but sleeping.
  19. The crowd laughed at him.
  20. He had the crowd put outside the house.
  21. He went to the girls and took her by the hand.
  22. She became alive and got up.
  23. The news of this spread throughout the whole region.





While he was saying this

It must have been an amazing couple of days. It started with Jesus arriving back in Capernaum, forgiving and then healing a lame man, calling a tax collector named Matthew, going to have a meal with Matthew’s mates, being criticised by the religious leaders, being questioned by John’s disciples and now the local synagogue leader coming with the news that his daughter was dead. If we do a stocktake of kingdom ministry proclamation it will look something like this:  a) Jesus is God because he has authority to forgive sins; b) Jesus has come to give sinners the opportunity of being rescued, not to validate self-righteousness; c) the kingdom of God message heralds a brand new structure rather than being an ‘add-on’ to the old structure. To put it in a simpler fashion: Jesus is God and king, he will build his kingdom with forgiven sinners and institute a new kind of kingdom.

We should consider the flow of these events to notice just how Jesus proclaimed the kingdom differently in each situation, but everything that happened was in response to what was already there. Jesus’ started at the point where people found themselves. First, it was THEIR story. Then there was HIS story, and when they embraced his story, their story had a kingdom of God ending. In other words, he was providing the kingdom-of-God ending to a kingdom-of-this-world story. That’s the process of the gospel. Our job is to notice someone’s story, see what kind of ending the kingdom of God would enable, offer people that ending and trust God to bring it about.


My daughter has just died, but come and put your hands on her and she will live

My hobby is collecting insights about how the kingdom of God works and allow them to shape the way I think, the things I desire, the priorities I choose and the things I say and do. I am a desperado more than a casual hobbyist if the truth be known. The story that starts with a synagogue ruler kneeling in front of Jesus and pleading with him is the first “kingdom thing.” It is a kingdom of God experience because this man had super status in his community. Without all the background knowledge we can see enough to know that he is a person of high status. We are aware from reading around the gospels and the rest of the New Testament that the religious system responsible for his status was widely critical of Jesus. In fact, in this connected sequence of events, both the Pharisees and even the disciples of John had come to question and/or criticise what Jesus was doing. This man wasn’t thinking of his career as a leader when he came to Jesus. His daughter had just died. As we know from some of our own experiences, something like this has the power of reorienting one’s set of values.

But it wasn’t just desperation that was on show in this instance. I suspect that what drove him to Jesus and his knees was faith, not imploding hopelessness. We are given an insight into his private heart-world. I am not aware that there was any precedent for the measure of faith inside of this man’s heart. As far as I know, no one had been raised from the dead by Jesus to that point. This was new territory. I am sure he was acutely aware of sick people being made well and demons being cast out. If this was Capernaum, then we have all of these things on record. When he watched his daughter’s life slip away and saw her last breath he came to a very powerful conclusion: if he could get Jesus to place his hands on her, the same hands that had overcome sickness and disease in other people could also bring life back to this precious girl. His subsequent attitude and actions can be traced back to this point. It is a kingdom moment. When we look more closely at the things recorded about the ministry of Jesus, we will soon discover kingdom of God moments happening among people before they ever got to be where Jesus was. It remains as a warning to those people whose idea of God is as some transcendent puppeteer manipulating the strings of every situation according to a pre-ordained script. That is not supported by the evidence. People make choices. On this occasion, the leader of the local synagogue looked at his dead girl and was confident that if Jesus placed his hands on her, she would be made well. The rest of the story is the testimony of faith and hope that came to life in the midst of the sadness and death. We all have to make choices, and this man chose to honour and trust the defamed man from Nazareth.


Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

I love the way Jesus allowed his day to be interrupted. It happened all the time. I also like the fact that Jesus seems to run his program by responding to the initiative of others rather than ramming home his own agenda. I think about it this way: Imagine breakfast on the side of a road somewhere and the disciples asking Jesus to outline the agenda for the day. Now there clearly is an agenda. We learn that from various things Jesus said. He had an agenda to go to all the towns and villages. Jesus intended to preach the message of the kingdom of God. He was going to offer sick people (unrighteous) the opportunity to become well (made new). He obviously went to villages and preached in their synagogues, but when we read the gospels, we don’t have a list of the sermons he preached in those synagogues. That may have been an entry point, but it was hardly where the action took place. We do have a sermon, but it happened on the side of a hill. Almost everything else happened on roads, marketplaces, in boats, at the seashore or in someone’s house. It was Jesus’ commitment to the goals (as stated above) that placed him in a succession of these kinds of normal human spaces. Once there, the ministry flowed by responding to what he found. His response was to invite them to embrace a “kingdom-of-God” ending to their “kingdom-of-this-world” story. The more commonly known phrase is, ‘preaching the gospel.’


Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.

Interruption number two came in the form of a woman. I think I could produce enough evidence to prove that faith will trump whatever else is going on every time. It was the faith of friends that interrupted a meeting in a house when they busted through the roof. On this occasion, Jesus is in the process of responding to one expression of faith when he encounters another. This is another example of the same kind of kingdom moment experienced by the leader of the synagogue. In this woman’s case, she had this terrible debilitating condition. You can read in some of the back story books that such a condition would have declared her “unclean” by the definitions of traditional Jewish law. For her to plough through a moving crowd must have been physically and socially risky. As in the case of the synagogue leader she was not just desperate. Desperation and faith do not presume each other. In the grim isolation of her own home, she made a few decisions. In contrast to the leader, she didn’t opt for the idea of getting Jesus to place his hands on her. Not only was it considered social and religious taboo, but she also didn’t even want Jesus to see her let alone touch her. Self-esteem was limited and shame, oversupplied. But faith finds a way. She knew that Jesus had the power to heal. That power was associated with his presence. Since she was too ashamed to ask, she created a way for her faith to connect. She would sneak up behind him in the crowd and the moment she touched just the hem of his clothing she knew that she would be healed. She hadn’t learned or seen it anywhere. She invented the idea. When she did, she found that she was able to believe both Jesus and the plan to give expression to her faith in him. Sure enough, she did, and it happened. Healing flowed from heaven through Jesus, and her bleeding stopped forever.

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

She made a decision to trust Jesus. She invented a way to act on that decision. She implemented the plan and got through the crowd and touched Jesus cloak. She was made whole. Then Jesus saw her and made a wonderful public announcement: She was affirmed as having the status of a family member and the plan to exercise faith that she had invented was honoured and vindicated.

I’ve noticed that people who do ministry in Jesus’ name often get too focused on the method at the expense of the relationship. I have been guilty of this and have experienced others who were also guilty when they offered ministry to me. They seem to end up with a regimented way of doing ministry that has no justification from the gospels. We have even formed whole denominations around such practices. We have denigrated and despised one another on that basis. Against the testimony of the gospel stories, it is shown to be so blatantly religious and ungodly. The Roman centurion whose servant was very sick thought Jesus could just give a remote word of command. The synagogue leader thought Jesus should come to where his daughter was and lay hands on her. This woman with a bleeding problem thought that if she touched the bottom of his cloak, Jesus authority would heal the damage to her vascular system. A remote word of command, the laying on of hands and a single momentary touch of Jesus’ garment. All of those ideas were invented as an expression of the author’s faith. And Jesus responded simply and directly to each of them without a hint of amendment. In two of the three instances Jesus specifically commended the choice of action.


When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”

We are looking at these stories from the Gospel of Matthew to get a fresh idea of how the gospel of the kingdom should be proclaimed. I have hinted earlier that one of the markers to look for is to see what Jesus says or does or what someone else says or does that seems counter-intuitive. We have a form of intuition that exists because we have been trained from the time of our birth to think, feel and respond according to our particular culture. Those cultures, regardless of how much they may have been touched by Biblical truth remain intact as expressions of the kingdom of this world. What is intuitive to someone from Australia will depend on Australian cultural norms. The kingdom of God works totally differently. It operates according to the nature and purpose of the Creator God as revealed through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

When Jesus arrives with the synagogue leader at his home, community grief was in full swing. It is different from my culture where we tend to be quietly sad. In this culture, sorrow was loud. The wake was fully operational. It seems that many of the people who make comments about this story take the view that Jesus was getting them out of the house because of their unbelief. The assumption is that the presence of numbers of people who represent unbelief have the power to hinder the purposes of God represented here by Jesus, his disciples and the synagogue leader. That is definitely possible. I am certain that unbelief in a person can totally stop the good purposes of God happening in the life of that purpose, e.g. seed on the pathway, the religious leaders and the rich young ruler. There is little evidence to suggest that a crowd of unbelievers can stop a single believing person from exercising their own faith in God and seeing the fulfilment of that faith. A family who does not believe can’t stop a member of that family believing. I know that. I can’t think of anything Jesus did or said to suggest that it was so. I know that in Nazareth there was such a profound level of unbelief that few miracles happened, but my assumption there is that few people were willing to exercise their faith in Jesus to receive a miracle. That was the reason there were few. The “few” probably referred to the people who DID reach out to Jesus.

It is the way Jesus talks about the girl to the crowd that stretches our understanding. I doubt that we could assume that the girl was genuinely sleeping. The father (and mother) would have known and so would the crowd. Remember what happened here. The girl had died, the father had gone looking for Jesus, and the neighbours had already come and started customary grieving activities. I don’t have a satisfactory understanding to produce a decent conviction, only a few guesses. My guess is that he was deliberately provoking them based on the fact that, (a) he wanted them and their noise gone from the house and, (b) to let them know that she would be “waking up” (coming back to life) very soon. I could believe that to describe her as being “asleep” was a metaphorical way of speaking about the kingdom of God ending that was about to happen. Jesus, the King, was about to exercise his sole authority over death. In the context of that realm her current state of death was better described as temporary or, therefore, sleeping.

After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.

When Jesus clears the space and the room with the dead girl is quiet he takes her lifeless had and life from heaven flows into every part of her body, and she arose from her “sleep.” The fact that she was the daughter of an important family in the town meant that the news went everywhere. This is core to gospel ministry. We should allow ourselves to be tutored by the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, not by our experience or the lack of faith.  Such unbelief that has turned western discipleship and therefore Western churches into cultural cliques or congregational clubs.  Jesus intended a church to be capable of much more: “on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16). It is supposed to be a heavenly force that has the firepower to overcome even the most strongly defended parts of the kingdom of darkness. In these two cases, darkness had locked a woman in isolated shame and degradation, and the family of a community leader had been plunged into despair through the death of their daughter. When we gain that faith and find our own ways to exercise it, as the two people did in this story, we will find that the gospel proclaims itself because of the mighty things that are done by the authority of the King of the kingdom.



I would be obeying the command of Jesus to go to the spaces of my world with the intention of representing his redemptive purposes. I am capable of being a lot of places and totally forgetting that I am a son of God and a servant of Jesus. By the job description given by Paul (2 Timothy 2) I am a soldier who should not forget that I am on a battlefield with a battle to win and the firepower to do it. It is still far to easy to get involved with civilian matters and forget that this war is devastating households, neighbourhoods, cities and nations.  You and I cannot afford to act as if I am on permanent R and R. I can’t remember who said it, but we often use a saying that helps us focus on this matter. If we are anywhere at all, we simply say to God and ourselves, “I am open for (kingdom) business.” I only wish we could be as willing to do business as some of my friends were when they were involved in multilevel product marketing and were ready to use their friendships as business opportunities. We are one step better off than they were. They were selling something. We are giving something away. They wanted to sell stuff to us to make money. We can offer people a kingdom of God conclusion to their kingdom of this world heartache.

I would be practising listening and watching people see where God’s kingdom offer could intersect with their human story to bring them into the presence and work of the King.

I realise that I lack in a measure of faith. Healing sometimes happens for me, and I have a score of zero out of two as far as raising the dead is concerned. When I read the Bible, I am fully confident that, despite my lack of equivalent experience, there is a heritage here for me and that I have authority in Jesus name to do what Jesus did. I am committed to gaining that authority and the only place I can get it is from God and the only place I can exercise it is with people. So I am going to push ahead in both of those directions.



The beginning of the gospel happened when a synagogue leader decided to dispense with his status and risk losing all of that because he was able to believe that Jesus could come and enable his daughter to live again, although she was dead. The woman with the bleeding problem did the same. That decision was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I need to rely on such experiences when I set out to proclaim the gospel to people I haven’t met or don’t know. God is working before I get there and will be working after I leave.

The further proclamation was when Jesus fully acceded to their request and honoured their faith.

It was further proclaimed when a woman’s bleeding was stopped, and a young girl was raised to life.

It was further proclaimed when the story of these things spread around the region.