picture of woman on a swing
July 5, 2023

Jesus of Unexpected Joy

A prayer based on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, the gospel reading for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost that can be adapted into a prayer of confession, intercession, illumination or application.

Lord God,

we thank you for the pleasures you fill our lives with:

   pleasures of food and drink;

   of rest and recreation.

Every good thing comes from your hands

   and you have shown us in your word that you delight in our delight.

Show us how to orient all our joys towards you

   so that we may never forget from whom they come.

We are tempted at times to think of you as

   a God who restricts our actions and curbs our delights;

   a God who imposes burdens.

But you revealed in your son, Jesus Christ

   that there is a freedom and joy to be found in you

  that unlocks the chains we put on ourselves.

In the name of Jesus,

the reliever of our burdens,




The middle chapters of Matthew’s gospel reveal a Jesus who defies expectations: Jesus breaks traditions, spends time with and heals the wrong sort of people, and preaches not rousing sermons of rebellion and nationalism, but obscure parables about a coming Kingdom of mercy and forgiveness. In these chapters the devotion and obedience of his disciples and the desperate need of the crowds is set against a backdrop of resistance from religious leaders, puzzlement from John the Baptist and his followers, and his family’s interfering concern for his mental health.

The unexpectedness of Jesus’ kingdom ministry in the gospel of Matthew can guide us in our journey of humility with Jesus in our own daily lives and in the lives of our churches. We don’t always know what to expect about God’s kingdom building work, but Matthew instructs us in the essentials that we need to follow this unexpected Jesus wherever he takes us.

Dr. Bethany Besteman is the worship coordinator and church administrator at Silver Spring Christian Reformed Church in Maryland where she lives with her husband and son. She also works as the intake editor for Reformed Worship.