Reflections for the Week of Sunday July 9, 2017 Fifth after Pentecost

Gospel: Mt 11.16-19,25-30. Jesus says His generation are like children who can’t decide whom to emulate. And He says come to Me; I will give you rest. “Following Me is the easy way.”

Jesus has come to show us the way to live. He calls the goal the kingdom God and His followers are called to bring it into existence under His rule and in His name. Jesus is the example and following Him in the power of the Spirit is the means by which Christians achieve the goal of the kingdom of God on earth. In the text for this Sunday He speaks of most of us as little children who can’t decide how to live our lives. When they see John the Baptist living an ascetic life of strict adherence to the Mosaic law, they accuse Him having a demon. But when they see Jesus exemplifying the joy of the kingdom in terms of table fellowship with the pariahs of the world, He is accused of excess. Is America guilty of the same sort of destructive wholesale criticism of others? Jesus wants us to have joy and peace and create a new world of love and acceptance. He invites us to come to Him as the Way to fulfill this vocation. What if this vocation is living in terms of Christian virtue, and what if missing this mark is the meaning of sin. What if sin is not so much a matter of morals as it is failure to understand the nature of the kingdom and to take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves to exemplify His gentleness and lowliness so as to bring in the kingdom? Is He saying that any other way – doing it in our own strength – is to labor in vain and to be heavy laden? To implement His kingdom is to assume the role defined in Ex 19.4-6 and 1 Pet 2.5,9-10 as a royal priesthood in loyalty to Jesus the King and in extending worship of Him throughout the world. The Old Testament is full of accounts of the tabernacle and the Temple where God’s shekinah glory is present to meet with His people. The Temple is built by the King (Solomon) (1 Kings 8) so it is royal; and it is administered by the Levitical priesthood (2 Chronicles 29.20ff). But in the New Testament Jesus, the living stone, is the cornerstone (Mt 21.42) and His people are living stones built into the temple (1 Pet 2.4-7). But this was just a foretaste of God’s filling the whole world (Isa 11.9; Hab 2.14). The Israelites were to be His special people to minster to the new creation constituted by Christ as King and his people with the Spirit dwelling in them with a new vocation to inaugurate the kingdom. His people, Israel, were to extend God’s rule into the world but they failed in this commission and the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. In the New Testament we see Jesus returning to the rebuilt Temple but being disappointed and saying that He Himself is the replacement of the Temple where God and man meet together. And 1 Peter 2.4-7 says that believers are living stones that are being built into a temple which will be worldwide, and Jesus Himself is a stone (Dn 2; Ps 118.22) that was rejected but became the chief cornerstone. Jesus’ followers, “rulers and priests serving our God,” (1 Pet 2.9) will be temples scattered throughout the world implementing by their new Spirit-filled nature the messianic rule of Jesus in all the world. This is what it means to be a “royal priesthood” which will bring in the rule of Jesus. They may be rejected though living lives of holiness and hope while making Jesus known throughout the world.

Memory Verse: As living stones, be built into a spiritual house, to become a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah…. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pet 2.5,9).

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