John the Baptist, Matthew 23:27-32. August 26, 2020 by Nigel

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Welcome to our reflection on Matthew 23.27-32 from Leicester, to which I have just returned after a three-thousand-mile European ride.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have stayed with a brother in Holland, stopped of at Berlin on route to Poland, for our Baltic run. From there I took a break in Prague, and rode to Germany with a Supporter who now lives in Prague, to stop with a German brother for the night. On the way from there, heading to the Hook of Holland where I thought I was catching the ferry, we stopped to fill up with petrol.

Our government had decided that we needed to be in the UK by 4am if we didn’t want to isolate for two weeks, and my ferry would get in long after that. However, my wife told me that she could book a ferry from Calais, leaving at 1am, which I then raced to catch. On coming to my bike, on leaving the ferry, my clutch cable had snapped, so the rest of the ride was interesting. After sixteen hours riding without sleep, I arrived home at 7am, exhausted but also blessed.

My bike has served me well over the years, and after 136, 000 miles, it still didn’t miss a beat on this recent trip. I knew I could rely on it because I had recently opened it up to change my cams, rebuild the clutch, and had checked it over thoroughly, so I personally knew what was going on inside the bike. I had replaced all the oil, and on observation everything internally was clean and fully working. If we want to actually do some serious miles, establishing new friendships as well as building established ones.

If we want to spend time listening to God as we ride, then sharing some encouragement from him, the internals of our bikes need to be maintained, clean, and reliable. We can’t serve if the internals of our bikes are neglected, however clean we make the paintwork look. Our spiritual lives need the same care, we need to be clean on the inside, where only we and God know what is truly going on.

Our private prayer between ourselves and God, our renewing of our minds, as Paul says in Romans 12, not conforming to the pattern of the world. It is like the renewal of the oil which passes through every part of the engine, enabling it to run well.

In our reading today, this is what Jesus was getting at, in his interactions with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The Pharisees were like a showroom Harley, sparkling in the window, but inside the engine was neglected and corroded, unable to take anyone anywhere. The image Jesus used was ‘whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean’.

He continued, ‘on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness’. I have mentioned before that hypocrisy comes from the Greek understanding of an actor wearing a mask in the theatre. This is what the Pharisees were doing, when their righteous outward show didn’t match the reality of what was going on inside.

I think this is also a challenge for us in God’s Squad, who wear the colours and the cross. We need to make sure our inner spiritual life, our lifestyle, and values, line up with what our colours say about us.

We need to acknowledge our weaknesses, and bring them to Jesus in repentance, and unlike the Pharisees, inside we need to be authentic and righteous. I know my bike has been through some challenging situations, which has left their marks on it, but it has a healthy inner life.

Some of us also carry the wounds from a challenging history, but hopefully our inside integrity and authenticity remain central as we travel with Jesus Christ.


Nigel – European president God’s Squad