Gospel Reading: John 7:40-52 (alternate reading: Luke 1:26-38)
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, "This is really the prophet." 41 Others said, "This is the Christ." But some said, "Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did you not bring him?" 46 The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!" 47 The Pharisees answered them, "Are you led astray, you also? 48 Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed." 50 Nicode'mus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?" 52 They replied, "Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee."
Old Testament Reading: Judges 13:2-7,24-25
2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines." 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, "A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name; 7 but he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son; so then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.'" 24 And the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson; and the boy grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahanehdan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Meditation: When resistance and opposition to God's word rears it head how do you respond? With fear and doubt? Or with faith and courage? The prophet Jeremiah was opposed by his own people because the words he spoke in God's name did not sit right with them. They plotted to silence him and to "cut him off from the land of the living" (Jeremiah 11:19). Jeremiah responded with meekness and prophetic insight "like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 11:18).
Are you willing to take a stand for the Lord Jesus?
No one can be indifferent for long when confronted with Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah and Savior of the world. Jesus' message and the miraculous signs he performed caused division for many in Israel. Some believed he was a prophet, some the Messiah, and some believed he was neither. The reaction of the armed officers was bewildered amazement. They went to arrest him and returned empty-handed because they never heard anyone speak as he did. The reaction of the chief priests and Pharisees was contempt. The reaction of Nicodemus was timid. His heart told him to defend Jesus, but his head told him not to take the risk.
Who is Jesus for you? And are you ready to give him your full allegiance? There will often come a time when we have to take a stand for the Lord Jesus and for the truth of the Gospel - the good news of God's kingdom and the free gift of salvation which Jesus came to bring us. To stand for Jesus and his kingdom may provoke mockery and opposition. It may even entail suffering and hardship - such as the loss of job, reputation, or life.
Costly grace versus cheap grace
There are fundamentally only two choices that determine the course of our lives and the final destiny that awaits us: the choice to live for God's kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness or the pursuit of the world's kingdom which stands in opposition to God's authority and commandments. We can choose to obey God's word and promise of blessing or we can choose to follow the voice of those who promise success and happiness apart from God's truth and laws. The costly grace and freedom - which the Lord Jesus offers to those who embrace the cross for his sake - leads to joy and blessing in this life as well as the promise of eternal happiness with God. Cheap grace - which tries to bypass the cross for the sake of being my own master and the ruler of my own destiny - leads to emptiness and endless futility. Who do you choose to be the master and ruler of your life and destiny?
"Lord Jesus, your Gospel brings joy and freedom. May I be loyal to you always, even though it produce a cross on earth, that I may share in your crown of victory for all eternity".
Psalm 7:1-2, 8b-11
1 O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my
pursuers, and deliver me,
2 lest like a lion they rend me, dragging me away, with none to rescue.
8b judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.
9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous, you who try the minds and hearts, righteous God.
10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: A miraculous birth of a great hero of faith, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"When the spirit of the Hebrews had been so
crushed by long and injurious subjection that no one with manly
vigor dared to encourage them to freedom, there arose in their
behalf a great hero, Samson, whose destiny was ordained by Godís
words. He was not numbered with the many, but outstanding among
the few; he was without question easily reckoned as surpassing all
in bodily strength. We must regard him with great admiration from
the very beginning, not because he gave great evidence of
temperance and sobriety from boyhood by abstaining from wine, nor
because as a Nazarite he was ever faithful to guard his sacred
trust, with locks unshorn, but because from his youth - a period
of softness in others, but truly remarkable in him - he worked
amazing deeds of strength, perfect beyond the measure of human
nature. By his deeds he soon gained credence for that divine
prophecy. For no slight cause had such great graces preceded him
that an angel came down to foretell to his parents his unexpected
birth, the leadership he would hold and the protection he would
give his people who had been tormented so long by the oppressive
rule of the Philistines.
"His god-fearing father was of the tribe of Dan, of no low station in life, preeminent among others. His mother, a barren woman, was not unfruitful in the virtues of the soul. She was worthy to receive into the dwelling of her soul the vision of an angel, whose command she obeyed and whose words she fulfilled. She did not permit herself to know even the secrets of God without her husband's sharing of them; she told him that a man of God had appeared to her, of wondrous beauty, bringing her a prophecy that a child would be born. Because she trusted his promises she shared with her husband her trust in these heavenly pledges." (excerpt from Letter 35)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible:
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright
1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the
Division of Christian Education of the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the United
States of America. Used by permission. All rights
reserved. Citation references for quotes from
the writings of the early church fathers can be
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