Bible Society of South Africa

When hope fails us – 8 December 2020

By Hennie Symington

Bible text(s)

16“Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, 17‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn't dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn't cry!’ 18When John came, he fasted and drank no wine, and everyone said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 19When the Son of Man came, he ate and drank, and everyone said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results.”

(Lk 10.13–15)

20The people in the towns where Jesus had performed most of his miracles did not turn from their sins, so he reproached those towns. 21“How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you too, Bethsaida! If the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would long ago have put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves, to show that they had turned from their sins! 22I assure you that on the Judgement Day God will show more mercy to the people of Tyre and Sidon than to you! 23And as for you, Capernaum! Did you want to lift yourself up to heaven? You will be thrown down to hell! If the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would still be in existence today! 24You can be sure that on the Judgement Day God will show more mercy to Sodom than to you!”

(Lk 10.21–22)

25At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. 26Yes, Father, this was how you wanted it to happen.

27“My Father has given me all things. 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.

28“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”

The Question about the Sabbath

(Mk 2.23–28; Lk 6.1–5)

1Not long afterwards Jesus was walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began to pick ears of corn and eat the grain. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do this on the Sabbath!”

3Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry? 4He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it — only the priests were allowed to eat that bread. 5Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty? 6I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. 7The scripture says, ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty; 8for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Man with a Paralysed Hand

(Mk 3.1–6; Lk 6.6–11)

9Jesus left that place and went to a synagogue, 10where there was a man who had a paralysed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong, so they asked him, “Is it against our Law to heal on the Sabbath?”

11Jesus answered, “What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12And a human being is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and it became well again, just like the other one. 14Then the Pharisees left and made plans to kill Jesus.

God's Chosen Servant

15When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:

18“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,

the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.

I will send my Spirit upon him,

and he will announce my judgement to the nations.

19He will not argue or shout,

or make loud speeches in the streets.

20He will not break off a bent reed,

or put out a flickering lamp.

He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,

21and in him all peoples will put their hope.”

Jesus and Beelzebul

(Mk 3.20–30; Lk 11.14–23)

22Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see. 23The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. “Could he be the Son of David?” they asked.

24When the Pharisees heard this, they replied, “He drives out demons only because their ruler Beelzebul gives him power to do so.”

25Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. 26So if one group is fighting another in Satan's kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart! 27You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. Well, then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out? What your own followers do proves that you are wrong! 28No, it is not Beelzebul, but God's Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.

29“No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.

30“Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering. 31And so I tell you that people can be forgiven any sin and any evil thing they say; but whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who says something against the Son of Man can be forgiven; but whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven — now or ever.

A Tree and its Fruit

(Lk 6.43–45)

33“To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears. 34You snakes — how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35A good person brings good things out of a treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of a treasure of bad things.

36“You can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken. 37Your words will be used to judge you — to declare you either innocent or guilty.”

The Demand for a Miracle

(Mk 8.11–12; Lk 11.29–32)

38Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up. “Teacher,” they said, “we want to see you perform a miracle.”

39“How evil and godless are the people of this day!” Jesus exclaimed. “You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah. 40In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 41On Judgement Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah! 42On Judgement Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she travelled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!

The Return of the Evil Spirit

(Lk 11.24–26)

43“When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can't find one, 44it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ So it goes back and finds the house empty, clean, and all tidy. 45Then it goes out and brings along seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in a worse state than he was at the beginning. This is what will happen to the evil people of this day.”

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

(Mk 3.31–35; Lk 8.19–21)

46Jesus was still talking to the people when his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. 47So one of the people there said to him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak with you.”

48Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 50Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”

The Parable of the Sower

(Mk 4.1–9; Lk 8.4–8)

1That same day Jesus left the house and went to the lakeside, where he sat down to teach. 2The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it, while the crowd stood on the shore. 3He used parables to tell them many things.

“Once there was a man who went out to sow corn. 4As he scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn't deep. 6But when the sun came up, it burnt the young plants; and because the roots had not grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up. 7Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and choked the plants. 8But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants produced corn; some produced 100 grains, others sixty, and others thirty.”

9And Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!”

The Purpose of the Parables

(Mk 4.10–12; Lk 8.9–10)

10Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

11Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. 13The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. 14So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them:

‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand;

they will look and look, but not see,

15because their minds are dull,

and they have stopped up their ears

and have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, their eyes would see,

their ears would hear,

their minds would understand,

and they would turn to me, says God,

and I would heal them.’

16“As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. 17I assure you that many prophets and many of God's people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower

(Mk 4.13–20; Lk 8.11–15)

18“Listen, then, and learn what the parable of the sower means. 19Those who hear the message about the Kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The Evil One comes and snatches away what was sown in them. 20The seeds that fell on rocky ground stand for those who receive the message gladly as soon as they hear it. 21But it does not sink deep into them, and they don't last long. So when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they give up at once. 22The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear the message; but the worries about this life and the love for riches choke the message, and they don't bear fruit. 23And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as 100, others sixty, and others thirty.”

The Parable of the Weeds

24Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. 25One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26When the plants grew and the ears of corn began to form, then the weeds showed up. 27The man's servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?’ 28‘It was some enemy who did this,’ he answered. ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked him. 29‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’ ”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

(Mk 4.30–32; Lk 13.18–19)

31Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast

(Lk 13.20–21)

33Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with forty litres of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”

Jesus' Use of Parables

(Mk 4.33–34)

34Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. 35He did this to make what the prophet had said come true:

“I will use parables when I speak to them;

I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”

37Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are gathered up and burnt in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: 41the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, 42and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth. 43Then God's people will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

44“The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl

45“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

The Parable of the Net

47“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into their buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth.

New Truths and Old

51“Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who takes new and old things out of his storeroom.”

Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth

(Mk 6.1–6; Lk 4.16–30)

53When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place 54and went back to his home town. He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed. “Where did he get such wisdom?” they asked. “And what about his miracles? 55Isn't he the carpenter's son? Isn't Mary his mother, and aren't James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56Aren't all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?” 57And so they rejected him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town and by his own family.” 58Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.

The Death of John the Baptist

(Mk 6.14–29; Lk 9.7–9)

1At that time Herod, the ruler of Galilee, heard about Jesus. 2“He is really John the Baptist, who has come back to life,” he told his officials. “That is why he has this power to perform miracles.”

3For Herod had earlier ordered John's arrest, and he had him chained and put in prison. He had done this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. 4For some time John the Baptist had told Herod, “It isn't right for you to be married to Herodias!” 5Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid of the Jewish people, because they considered John to be a prophet.

6On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced in front of the whole group. Herod was so pleased 7that he promised her, “I swear that I will give you anything you ask for!”

8At her mother's suggestion she asked him, “Give me here and now the head of John the Baptist on a dish!”

9The king was sad, but because of the promise he had made in front of all his guests he gave orders that her wish be granted. 10So he had John beheaded in prison. 11The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. 12John's disciples came, carried away his body, and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

Jesus Feeds a Great Crowd

(Mk 6.30–44; Lk 9.10–17; Jn 6.1–14)

13When Jesus heard the news about John, he left there in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself. The people heard about it, so they left their towns and followed him by land. 14Jesus got out of the boat, and when he saw the large crowd, his heart was filled with pity for them, and he healed those who were ill.

15That evening his disciples came to him and said, “It is already very late, and this is a lonely place. Send the people away and let them go to the villages to buy food for themselves.”

16“They don't have to leave,” answered Jesus. “You yourselves give them something to eat!”

17“All we have here are five loaves and two fish,” they replied.

18“Then bring them here to me,” Jesus said. 19He ordered the people to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20Everyone ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up twelve baskets full of what was left over. 21The number of men who ate was about 5,000, not counting the women and children.

Jesus Walks on the Water

(Mk 6.45–52; Jn 6.15–21)

22Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people away. 23After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone; 24and by this time the boat was far out in the lake, tossed about by the waves, because the wind was blowing against it.

25Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. 26When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It's a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear.

27Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don't be afraid!”

28Then Peter spoke up. “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you.”

29“Come!” answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried.

31At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, “How little faith you have! Why did you doubt?”

32They both got into the boat, and the wind died down. 33Then the disciples in the boat worshipped Jesus. “Truly you are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

(Mk 6.53–56)

34They crossed the lake and came to land at Gennesaret, 35where the people recognized Jesus. So they sent for the sick people in all the surrounding country and brought them to Jesus. 36They begged him to let those who were ill at least touch the edge of his cloak; and all who touched it were made well.

The Teaching of the Ancestors

(Mk 7.1–13)

1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked him, 2“Why is it that your disciples disobey the teaching handed down by our ancestors? They don't wash their hands in the proper way before they eat!”

3Jesus answered, “And why do you disobey God's command and follow your own teaching? 4For God said, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.’ 5But you teach that if a person has something he could use to help his father or mother, but says, ‘This belongs to God,’ 6he does not need to honour his father. In this way you disregard God's command, in order to follow your own teaching. 7You hypocrites! How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you!

8‘These people, says God, honour me with their words,

but their heart is really far away from me.

9It is no use for them to worship me,

because they teach human rules as though they were my laws!’ ”

The Things that Make a Person Unclean

(Mk 7.14–23)

10Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand! 11It is not what goes into a person's mouth that makes him ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes him unclean.”

12Then the disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what you said?”

13“Every plant which my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up,” answered Jesus. 14“Don't worry about them! They are blind leaders of the blind; and when one blind man leads another, both fall into a ditch.”

15Peter spoke up, “Explain this saying to us.”

16Jesus said to them, “You are still no more intelligent than the others. 17Don't you understand? Anything that goes into a person's mouth goes into his stomach and then on out of his body. 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make a person ritually unclean. 19For from his heart come the evil ideas which lead him to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things; to rob, lie, and slander others. 20These are the things that make a person unclean. But to eat without washing your hands as they say you should — this doesn't make a person unclean.”

A Woman's Faith

(Mk 7.24–30)

21Jesus left that place and went off to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.”

23But Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples came to him and begged him, “Send her away! She is following us and making all this noise!”

24Then Jesus replied, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.”

25At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said.

26Jesus answered, “It isn't right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.”

27“That's true, sir,” she answered; “but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters' table.”

28So Jesus answered her, “You are a woman of great faith! What you want will be done for you.” And at that very moment her daughter was healed.

Jesus Heals Many People

29Jesus left there and went along by Lake Galilee. He climbed a hill and sat down. 30Large crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the dumb, and many other sick people, whom they placed at Jesus' feet; and he healed them. 31The people were amazed as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they praised the God of Israel.

Jesus Feeds Another Great Crowd

(Mk 8.1–10)

32Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away without feeding them, for they might faint on their way home.”

33The disciples asked him, “Where will we find enough food in this desert to feed this crowd?”

34“How much bread have you?” Jesus asked.

“Seven loaves,” they answered, “and a few small fish.”

35So Jesus ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to the disciples; and the disciples gave them to the people. 37They all ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up seven baskets full of pieces left over. 38The number of men who ate was 4,000, not counting the women and children.

39Then Jesus sent the people away, got into a boat, and went to the territory of Magadan.

The Demand for a Miracle

(Mk 8.11–13; Lk 12.54–56)

1Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times! 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”

So he left them and went away.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

(Mk 8.14–21)

5When the disciples crossed over to the other side of the lake, they forgot to take any bread. 6Jesus said to them, “Take care; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7They started discussing among themselves, “He says this because we didn't bring any bread.”

8Jesus knew what they were saying, so he asked them, “Why are you discussing among yourselves about not having any bread? How little faith you have! 9Don't you understand yet? Don't you remember when I broke the five loaves for the 5,000 men? How many baskets did you fill? 10And what about the seven loaves for the 4,000 men? How many baskets did you fill? 11How is it that you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? Guard yourselves from the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”

12Then the disciples understood that he was not warning them to guard themselves from the yeast used in bread but from the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Peter's Declaration about Jesus

(Mk 8.27–30; Lk 9.18–21)

13Jesus went to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, where he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14“Some say John the Baptist,” they answered. “Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah or some other prophet.”

15“What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17“Good for you, Simon son of John!” answered Jesus. “For this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven. 18And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

20Then Jesus ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Jesus Speaks about his Suffering and Death

(Mk 8.31—9.1; Lk 9.22–27)

21From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”

22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!”

23Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don't come from God, but from human nature.”

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26Will people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! There is nothing they can give to regain their life. 27For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds. 28I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”

(Mk 9.2–13; Lk 9.28–36)

1Six days later Jesus took with him Peter and the brothers James and John and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. 2As they looked on, a change came over Jesus: his face was shining like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white. 3Then the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. 4So Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how good it is that we are here! If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5While he was talking, a shining cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased — listen to him!”

6When the disciples heard the voice, they were so terrified that they threw themselves face downwards on the ground. 7Jesus came to them and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don't be afraid!” 8So they looked up and saw no one there but Jesus.

9As they came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Don't tell anyone about this vision you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from death.”

10Then the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah has to come first?”

11“Elijah is indeed coming first,” answered Jesus, “and he will get everything ready. 12But I tell you that Elijah has already come and people did not recognize him, but treated him just as they pleased. In the same way they will also ill-treat the Son of Man.”

13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

(Mk 9.14–29; Lk 9.37–43a)

14When they returned to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, 15and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son! He is an epileptic and has such terrible fits that he often falls in the fire or into water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

Matthew 11:16-17:16GNBOpen in Bible reader

During this season, as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the question asked by John the Baptist languishing in prison comes to mind. He sends Jesus a message asking: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2b). For John this was an existential question: Had his life and preaching been in vain? Did the hope of encountering Jesus as the Messiah vanish into thin air? Did he get it wrong and put himself out on a limb? Was there perhaps another Messiah with a more respectable lineage born somewhere in a palace?

Like John the Baptist, we too are familiar with the attributes of the Messiah, but often our loyalties lie elsewhere. Often we are enticed by the promises of other Messiahs we meet along the way: our love of material goods, success, security, luxury, selfishness and pride, which all promise to save us from our sense of hopelessness. How then shall we recognise the Messiah in the midst of all the attractions and distractions of the “festive season”?

Perhaps we should tune our ear to Jesus’ reply to John’s followers: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5). Being human, we’re prone to missing the signs of hope. Hope is not born of the vain expectations of a culture, which has abandoned the promise of salvation along the way a long time ago, or has bartered it for the empty promises of the rich and mighty. Hope comes to pass where new life is born.

May you celebrate Advent this year as a time of renewed hope and rekindled joy for you and your loved ones.

Prayer: Lord, as we celebrate the season of hope, remind us once again of the shepherds who took the message from the angel to heart and set out to find the Child. May we celebrate this Advent season with stars in our eyes and great expectations in our hearts. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.14.1
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