No Prisons in His Presence

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Have you ever had a problem that made you anxious and unsettled to the point of pacing? Pace around and be held prison by it?

These past few weeks the murder of George Floyd and the injustice has caused me to pace. Our passage today is also a story of injustice. If you have found yourself restless and pacing because of injustice you will find yourself in our scripture today. It’s my hope that by the end of this video you will have an action plan to help you stop pacing and live in His rest, because in His Presence there are no prisons.

In Matthew 11, who would you say is in prison? If you said John, you’d be correct. A physical prison. Will you allow me to challenge you a bit this morning that his disciples are in a type of prison? A prison you may have experienced yourself. A “pace prison.” I made this term up, but you can imagine: a pace prison is when you pace around because a gap exists between what you are sure of and reality.

What would you say is the one thing John’s disciples were sure would happen? Jesus will free John. This is not happening. John is unjustly imprisoned! Harrod, the king, did not like John’s assessment of his unlawful marriage. John suffered in prison for over two years. Prisons back then was difficult. They were not feed. Most likely John’s disciples would have brought him food daily. They watched John struggle, at the injustice of it all. If this is your friend, would you be fretting, pacing at the injustice? Is it plausible now for you to see John’s disciples are in a pace prison?

Turn your attention to John. Did you notice, no where in our scripture does it say John doubted? What it does say is John heard about Jesus. Recall in the Gospel of Luke the angel of the Lord says, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit before he is born […] to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”

John baptized Jesus and heard God’s audible voice say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” John lived in the desert, he ate locust and wore camel hair clothing. In our passage, Jesus confirms John is not swayed and is more than a great prophet. John suffered physically, but you could infer the Spirit of the Lord abiding in John, gave him freedom (2 Corinthians 3). He lived out the truth that in His presence there is no prison.

Why did John send His disciples to Jesus? Perhaps they were the doubting ones. John living out his prophetic word, “he will make ready for the Lord a prepared people”, points them to Jesus. Can you see it? I imagine it like this, they complain over and over to John about the injustice of it all and John says, “Guys, go ask Jesus for yourself.” Finally, they ask Jesus, “Are you the one we are to expect, are do we expect someone else?” Jesus gives a remarkable answer: “Blessed is he who is not offended by me.”

Offended, this word here means to snare. It is used as an offence, putting a negative cause-and-effect relationship into motion. It targets the relationship turning negative.

Why do you think Jesus answered this way?

You are privy to John’s beheading. These guys seem to already be offended by Jesus. The negative cause and effect relationship seems to be in motion. Do you think they will be even more offended by John’s death?

Jesus and John seem to be a team, prepping the disciples to live out the truth that in His presence there are no prisons.

Earlier I mentioned that it is my hope that by the end of this video you will have an action plan to help you stop pacing and live in His rest. Here is step one of the action plan: ask Him.

Have you ever seen a child ask their parent a question, by first placing their hands on the parent’s cheeks, their eyes lock, their foreheads touch? The child has a specific question and is hoping for, expecting a certain answer.

Can you imagine this kind of longing in the disciples heart when they ask Jesus? Understandably so, it seems like a good, reasonable request.

Jesus gives a vast answer.  The answer is full of treasures! The lame walk, the deaf hear, and the poor hear the Good News. The poor have a heart of humility. All the people described here are in a sense poor. “Good News”, historically, is powerful term. Timothy Keller says, “It was used to announce something—a historic event, a new order—and it was something done for you. You did not do it, you received or accepted it. This term was used to announce a new King.”

It appears Christ is announcing a new king, who is breaking through with power to heal, transform, and invite eternal relationship. The poor are broken enough, humble enough, child-like not childish enough to receive relationship with Jesus, transformed lives, and a new Kingdom with a new perspective.

Jesus’ answer reveals to the disciples everything John lived for—preparing the people—is happening. John doesn’t get to see it. They don’t get the answer they wanted. They get so much more! In my mind, John, full of the Holy Spirit, appears to be wholehearted; he is living out the truth that in His presence there are no prisons.

A pace prison is the perfect place to be offended if you stay there long enough to miss the Good News. The disciples were missing the Good News.

The disciples’ pace prison is their position that Jesus will vindicate John. It is the action of asking Jesus that John hopes will humble them to accept Jesus, to prepare and equip them for the rest of their lives and the other offences to come.

To experience Jesus like John the Baptist did the disciples will need to come to a place to learn that in His presence there are no prisons.

Have you ever allowed a problem to put you in a pace prison? Can you recall feeling offended by Jesus and this prevented you from experiencing His presence?

The disciples’ opportunity to ask Jesus shifts their focus to who He is for them and allows them to experience His presence. Now in His presence the have another step available.

This is the last step in your action plan: see Him.

All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:27-30

Why do you think Jesus said this here? At first glance it seems out of place.

You know the disciples will experience a great loss. The injustice could result in anguish, offence, and disillusionment.

Jesus says, “come to me.” How do you come to Jesus? There are some examples in our scripture. The broken and the poor came to Jesus with humility. In verse 27 we see it’s earthed in relationship: when you see Jesus, Jesus shows you the Father and the Father shows you the Son. Their relationship involves a deep knowing of one another. You are invited into their relationship. To know and to be known by them through the power of the Holy Spirit and the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The disciples are being assured that Jesus will exchange their burden for rest and revelation. What an upgrade! The move from learning from John the Baptist—take up my yoke and learn from me—to learning from Jesus. You see from a kingdom perspective over a kingdom of earth perspective.  This is a new view for our disciples.

Seeing Jesus and learning from Jesus can help you to experience His presence where there are no prisons. When you see Jesus you become aware that He sees you. Jesus saw the disciples and their offenses, He offers them an exchange. He offers them more than comfort; He will give them revelation and new perspective.

Have you ever prayed for something for years? It may seem like a righteous prayer, a good prayer, like the disciples’ desire for Jesus to come free John. I’m with you! Most of you know my son, Lyon, who is developmentally disabled and doesn’t speak. You can imagine the anguish of never hearing your child tell you about his day, or if he feels sick. I prayed for years God would give him speech. One Sunday, I turned around to see him greeting a new family to our church. Perhaps you’ve experienced him do this with you. In that moment, I sensed I was seeing Jesus and He was seeing me. I had this impression like the Lord was giving me a new perspective. What if He could use Lyon to reveal Himself to people, without him ever saying a word. Is that okay with you? What would you say?

This is how seeing Jesus can lift your burdens in exchange for His rest and revelation. The relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one of continual union and you’re invited into it, moment by moment, to exchange anguish and pain to see Jesus. John’s life of wholehearted surrender to this exchange enabled him to live out his destiny. Would his disciples be able to lay down their offence and surrender whole-heartedly to experience the freedom in His presence where there are no prisons?

Can you see Jesus offering to take your burden and give you rest and revelation?

Today you saw how John’s disciples’ action of asking Jesus who He is shifted them to Jesus’ presence. You witnessed John’s steadfast wholehearted surrender that prepared people for the Lord. You saw how Jesus offered comfort and a new perspective to the disciples by coming to him. This enabled them to see life through the Good News of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Is God reminding you of pace prison that you need to ask Him about? Will you allow Him to shift your focus to who He wants to be for you and give you a kingdom of Heaven perspective?


Matthew 11

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