diligent student will note, from verse 1, that this action takes place with the
disciples absent. It is necessary; why would anyone ask a disciple for
healing or forgiveness when the Christ is present? A question which has its
uses even today.
also that, after the disciples have left, Christ Himself goes about preaching
and healing. They have no one to run back too until He meets them again. What
we see here is that which Lord does without His attendants. We would do well
to remember that sometimes we, too, will be alone before the Lord.
Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed
from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John, while
imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word
by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we
look for someone else?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT
lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at
Me." As these men were going away,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What
did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear
soft clothing are in kings' palaces! "But
what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more
than a prophet. "This is the one about whom
it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER
AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE
YOU.' "Truly I say to you, among those born
of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in
the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. "From
the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and violent men take it by force. "For all
the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. "And
if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
(Mat 11:1-15 NASB)
the early church fathers a debate arose about this passage – concerning the
motives of John the Baptist. There are three stated possibilities:
may be that, alone and imprisoned, John is losing faith, wondering if it
was all a fool’s errand. So he sends to be reassured. This seems
incompatible with the statements of Christ concerning John’s greatness.
In modern times this has become much more acceptable; I attribute this to
a lack of recognized lordship in modern thinkers.
interpretation, much debated in early times, was that John was
contemplating his own death. He therefore sends to Jesus to ask if He,
too, will allow Himself to die – and thus require John’s services as a
herald in the underworld. This theory seems to have come and gone in
fashion as the years passed. This is favored by the more theoretical
(e.g., Jerome) and discounted by the more practical (e.g., Chrysostom).
third theory was this: John was contemplating his death. He seeks a way
to turn his disciples over to the Christ. If he simply tells them again
that he is less and Christ is more, his disciples might have been inclined
to attribute this to a modesty fitting a prophet. Therefore, he sends two
of the most trusted so that they might themselves see and hear, and so
convince the others.
is interesting: in the face of the Pharisees He has no hesitation in
proclaiming Himself the Christ. But to the disciples of John, looking for the
“expected one”, He simply points them to the prophecies concerning the Christ –
and the evidence that those prophecies are fulfilled. Some things he cites are
miraculous; others ordinary – but the thought behind this is simple: look with
your eyes, hear with your ears and judge for yourselves. The same method may
be used today.
parting words to John’s disciples are a keen insight into human thought. Some
of the most painful human conflicts come between two good things. My bunch is
a good bunch; I’ll stick with my bunch.
My team’s quarterback is better than any other. It’s a natural human reaction,
and commonly used to inspire performance. It’s often hard, therefore, to see
the best when the glare of the good is in your eyes. Indeed, we are often
offended by someone touting some other leader.
however, is the rock of offense and the stone of stumbling. All other great
religious leaders seem to have happy endings; Christ ends on a cross, like a
common criminal of the time. If you consider the shame of His death, it would
be hard to accept Him as Lord; therefore the Christian must despise the shame
and glory in the Cross.
does not address the crowd until John’s disciples are gone – He has no reason
to offend them, but his blunt approach to the crowd might have distracted them
from their mission. When they depart, Jesus answers the question in the minds
of the onlookers. For their questions are rather different. From their
perspective, they’d like Jesus to clear up John’s status with them – and Him.
then points out to them a very human characteristic: whatever God says or
does, it will be held against Him:
you go to see a reed swaying in the wind? Someone who pleases your ears
with the latest and greatest in inoffensive sermons? Hardly.
did you go into the desert to hear this man because he’s part of the
religious or political establishment? To ask is to answer at once.
Christ points out the problem as it applies to John and to Himself. John is
the classic prophet – camel hair coat and locust and honey diet. Official
reaction: this guy must be nuts. So Jesus comes along, partying hearty with
the common sinner – and the reaction is that He’s a drunk and a glutton. There
is just no pleasing you people, is there?
as an afterthought, Jesus explains John’s role. He is the prophet prophesied
as the forerunner, the messenger.
In a phrase of distinct honor, he is named as Elijah – the consummate prophet
of the Old Testament.
– if you will accept it. John’s testimony is either that of a desert crazed
nut case or a prophet of God. The authorities were in no doubt whatever; a
nut case can be safely ignored.
preached that the kingdom of God was at hand. To understand this passage
correctly, we may picture the kingdom of heaven as a fortress under siege –
surrounded by the violent and wicked who want in. They know that they will
never get in by fulfilling the Law, but now another way seems at hand. And
they are only slightly premature; at the Resurrection the gates will open; at
Pentecost the armies of heaven begin their march around the globe.
Friend to Sinners
"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like
children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We
played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did
not mourn.' "For John came neither eating
nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' "The
Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man
and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated
by her deeds."
(Mat 11:16-19 NASB)
comparison here is telling even today. Just what does the messenger of God
appear to be?
he’s one of those austere, self sacrificing souls who holds prayer vigil,
fasts and is possessed of extremely little – then he’s a nut case.
if he’s an ordinary guy – including the eat, drink and be merry part –
then obviously he can’t be God’s messenger. How ungodly this man is; he
eats and drinks with the common sinners.
just can’t get it right, can He?
a new story
is not a new story. For 1500 years God – through His prophets – tried to teach
the nation of Israel just what He is like through the means of the Law of
Moses. The result was a wretched confusion of interpretations, most of whose
adherents were hypocrites.
God finished that by sending the reign of Grace – which seems to have no idea
of what we’re supposed to be doing. Forgiveness, it seems, is impossible. God
can’t win, no matter what He does.
by her children
first reaction to the Gospel from the scholarly, intelligent and
self-sufficient souls of this world is, “You’ve got to be kidding.” It seems
so simple, indeed to the point of being foolish. It appears to be a complete
paradox – and it is, as long as man thinks he is in the position to judge. For
to pronounce judgment on Someone you must be somehow greater. As long as man
thinks himself in such a position, the gospel will seem foolishness.
what’s the average guy to do? The answer is the same one John’s disciples
got: stick around and see. Wait for wisdom to show its results.
He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done,
because they did not repent. "Woe to you,
Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and
ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will
be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You
will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred
in you, it would have remained to this day. "Nevertheless
I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment,
than for you."
(Mat 11:20-24 NASB)
might ask why so vigorous a condemnation? This is, after all, the loving God,
right? True enough, but it is also the just God. Perhaps it’s this way:
didn’t keep the Law of Moses.
didn’t even repent when you saw the miracles of Christ.
condemned Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon without those advantages; is it
not just to condemn you even more because you did have these things?
I submit, for your thought, three failures that condemned the cities?
to see the sin.
to learn the lessons of history.
to heed the warning signs of God.
that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord
of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent
and have revealed them to infants. "Yes,
Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father;
and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except
the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. "Come to Me,
all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am
gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
(Mat 11:25-30 NASB)
begins with Christ’s confession. Kindly remember that confession has two
meanings in the Scripture:
may confess one’s sins, or
may confess God’s greatness.
Christ gives us the example of proclaiming the greatness of God. And in
particular, He uses this to explain to His listeners something of eternal
importance: He is the only way to God the Father.
way? Modern Christianity has largely rejected that. Denominations that used
to sing “Nothing but the Blood” now pass the time with “Kumbaya.” The idea is
clearly taught in the Scriptures; the same spirit that accepts homosexuals as
church leaders has no problem with this, either.
authority of Christ
the kingdom of God, you get responsibility from God – and authority to match.
Christ here tells us that all things have been handed over to Him. From that,
we may deduce that all authority is His as well. In this passage, however,
Christ makes it clear that such authority is exclusive.
the paradox: the proud in their own wisdom cannot see it, for it leaves no
room for their own brilliance. The humble accept it as revealed. So it seems
you either accept this as beyond you but blessing you, or you look around for
another solution to the problem. Some of us have been looking for a long, long
appeal is simple: skip the theory, come to me. I am the One. See the steps:
that your burden is heavy (you are a sinner).
that his burden is light! (Salvation is His free gift)
from Him. Yes, there is much to know – but first things first, then your
burden is the burden of grace – the burden of being forgiven. It will humble
your pride to admit you have something to be forgiven; you must have the
humility of repentance. But even in that He does not shame us – He restores
us. Truly, this burden is light.