1 Thessalonians 2:9-10
9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
Perhaps there had been doubts or criticisms of Paul’s ministry. He responds by reminding the Thessalonian church that his labour in the gospel was an honest one. That he had in fact foregone the rights, that as an Apostle he might have taken up and had laboured himself in his trade, that of tent making. We too perhaps are reminded not to place an undue burden upon others if at all possible. As Peter Orr reminded the gathering of Fellowship leaders on Saturday we should seek to lead quiet, useful lives going about our work and lives as peaceful law abiding people. As Paul had shown them in his brief time with them previously, the ministry was sacrificial, holy, for their building up.
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
The Sign of Jonah
29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
The Lamp of the Body
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy,[b] your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
What is it that brings real joy to God? Are the words we utter of our devotion to him and our thanks for his grace and mercy, music to his ears? Isaiah 57:19 reminds us that it is in fact God himself who enables us to praise him and that it is right and proper as Psalm 147:1 says to speak well of him. But, you have heard the expression that talk is cheap? It is possible to say something without it having any real or heartfelt conviction. Lots of hot air in other words.
We all have the ability to flatter those we seek to impress. I’ve done it and so possibly have you? Today’s reading sees a woman of some standing call from the crowd, praising Jesus. Her words were heard by others. Jesus responded to her and his words would have been heard by those in the crowd also. Words and compliments are all very well but what brings real joy, real blessing, Jesus responds, is hearing the word and being obedient to it. It is lives lived in faithful obedient dependence upon the living God and the Gospel that really testify to Jesus’ sacrifice. Can we at times in front of each other get carried away and seek to impress other people by the way we praise God so that it elevates us and not Him?
Blind to his presence
The references to The Queen of the South refers to the Queen of Sheba who had journeyed from afar to meet with Solomon and recognised and praised his wisdom (see 2 Chronicles 9). Yet here was Jesus who stood among the Jews and still they did not recognise him and thus stood condemned. Likewise the Ninevites testified against the Jews. They had repented on hearing Jonah, yet Jesus’ words fall on deaf ears.
Hiding the truth
Verses 33-34 see Jesus speaking directly to the religious leaders, confronting them with the fact that they had ‘hidden’ what they knew of God’s truth. They had failed to give the ‘light’ of truth to other people. They had demanded evidence. Their spiritual sight was not healthy. They were in darkness because they refused to accept the one who stood before them. How terrible to to hear the Holy One of God pronounce these words upon them.
How important to listen and respond in obedience. Throughout the week and when we meet on Sunday, let’s spur one another on to look closely into the word, pray earnestly, let the Holy Spirit minister to us and minister to each other with thankful hearts.