Matthew 11:7-19, April 05, 2020
John the Baptist
11:1 The disciples were sent out following the instructions given by Jesus while He taught and preached in Galilee.
11:2 John the Baptist in Prison. Turn back to 4:12 when John was imprisoned. He was in prison because he had spoken directly against King Herod who had taken his brother Phillip’s wife Herodias as his own. He dared to tell Herod (and Herodias) he was living in sin, committing adultery. For this he was thrown into prison. John had baptized Jesus (3:16-17) so he knew the Messiah was here on the scene ready to make things right – at least as far as John was concerned. Still, John had been in prison for over a year. As the months went by he began to doubt.
11:3 John’s Disciples. Because of his doubts John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was indeed the Messiah because John did not understand why he was still in prison. He knew it was in the Messiah’s power to release him. He had the expectation Jesus would use His power to release him. This was John’s unmet expectation.
11:4-5 Jesus’ Answer Part 1. Jesus’ answer is right out of Isaiah 35:5-6a:
These are words John would recognize and they would give him peace in knowing Jesus was the One, the Messiah.
11:6 Jesus’ Answer Part 2. Then came part 2 of Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples. It is somewhat of an awkward answer. One we would easily read over and not understanding or questioning and simply read on. After all, it seems to make no sense. Let’s look at it in a few different versions:
It is only in the New Century Version (NCV) that the thought becomes clearer, but still confusing. Why would we stumble in our faith because of Jesus?
Because of unmet expectations. We all have them at one time or another. Whether it be a job, health, family, peace, you name it. We know Jesus can meet our expectations if He would just do so. Yet He does not. As a result we end up having a Crisis of Faith – like John. And it does not take us a year in prison to have this Crisis of Faith. All we need is for life to become difficult, knowing God could fix things if He would only see things our way. But He does not for He has infinite wisdom compared to our limited wisdom. Jesus in verse six wants us to know even when things are going terribly, He is still our Messiah just as He is when things are going well. We all know unmet expectations have knocked many a pastor out of the ministry and many Christians out of their walk with Christ. This is why Jesus sent His message in verse six; Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me. Jesus is telling John that he won’t understand on this side of heaven, but trust me anyway.
. Isaiah 57:1 provides an answer when we do not understand. Job with his unmet expectations said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
11:7-15 Praise. Rebuke in private, praise in public.
11:7 Reed? By asking this question Jesus is saying this is not the character of John even if he had doubts.
11:8 Fine clothes? Once again Jesus asks a question knowing the answer. What person living in the wilderness would be wearing fine clothes? Turning back to 3:4 we find he wore clothes made of camel’s hair and a leather belt.
11:9-10 A Prophet. They came to see a prophet and Jesus tells them John is the prophet of Malachi 3:1, but let us look at Malachi 3:1 in full.
. All of the prior prophets spoke of the Messiah to come, John spoke of the Messiah being here. John alone had the privilege of saying, “The Messiah is here.”
11:11 Greater/least. Some see John as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the last of the OT dispensation as his and Jesus ministries where very different:
The weakest believer who has the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of the risen Christ is, therefore, in a more privileged position that the greatest of the OT prophets. The thought meaning the greatest of all in this life simply cannot be compared with the glory of the life to come.
11:12 Forcefully advancing. This verse like verse six is very awkward and subject to many interpretations. Looking at the two versions:
and Strong’s/Thayer’s Greek Lexicon we can see how eagerly, how forcefully, people sought the blessing of God’s Grace. Q: How strongly, how forcefully do we seek God’s grace? How strongly do we seek to share it? Spurgeon quote:
11:13-15 John/Elijah. John was not actually Elijah, but he served in the same spirit and power of Elijah, thus fulfilling his “office” as noted in Luke 1:17. Because John was Elijah in this symbolic sense, Jesus added “if you are willing to receive it.”
11:16-19 What of this generation? Those who are always criticizing will find something to criticize and will not be pleased with John or Jesus – somber or joyous news. Jesus quoted the criticisms of others against Him. Though these words were meant to condemn, they have become wonderful. Jesus really is a friend of sinners. Wisdom is justified by her children: However, the wise man is proved to be wise by his wise actions.