September 20, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 143, 149, 1 Kings 11:26-37, 1 Thes. 5:1-11
Evening – Psalm 19, 112, Job 2, Mt. 11:20

You have probably noticed that Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are designated as Ember Days, meaning they are set aside for prayer and fasting for those studying for the ministry and preparing for ordination.  How very appropriate that, during this time, we have been reading the Lord’s words to His disciples as He prepared to send them on their first missionary journey through Galilee.  Certainly His words to them have a direct application to those who would serve Him today, whether ordained or lay. The beautiful Collect for Ember Days is set forth below.  It is followed by the Prayer for the Clergy and People from Morning and Evening Prayer.  Let them both rise to God from our lips this night.

O Almighty God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; send down upon our Bishops, and other Clergy, and upon the Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing.  Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Commentary, Matthew 11:20-30

The reaction of the people to the ministry of Jesus and the disciples was tremendous.  People flocked to Him, traveling long distances at great expense.  They listened to His teaching and said that a prophet had come to them.  They saw His miracles and said the power of God had come among them.  We are told many times that great multitudes followed Him.  Sometimes, they even attempted to make Him king.  Great crowds came with great excitement and great rejoicing.  But few came with great repentance or faith.  They came to be healed, or entertained, but not to be saved.

Jesus rebukes the cities in which He did much of His preaching and ministry.  Chorazin and Bethsaida are near Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  They were Jewish cities, which Jesus probably went to after He sent His disciples on their mission.  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities northwest of Israel on the Mediterranean coast.  Jesus is saying that if He had done his preaching and miracles in Tyre and Sidon “they would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes” (vs.21).  Even Sodom would have repented and been spared (11:23).  Perhaps you are thinking now of Nineveh, which, at the very reluctant preaching of Jonah, believed God and proclaimed a fast in repentance of sin.  They, Gentiles, put on sack-cloth and ashes, “from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).  Even the king of Nineveh repented publicly. And God had mercy on that Gentile city whose people had more faith than Jonah.  It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for Chorazin and Bethsaida on Judgment Day.  Capernaum, where Jesus did so much, will go down to hell, for they have seen and heard the Messiah.  The Gentiles have not.

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