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Matthew 11

March 13th, 2011 by Vic

“Correcting our Expectations”

Matthew 11

March 13, 2011

Try to put yourself in John the Baptist’s situation.  He was a miracle baby.  He praised God while still in his mother’s womb.  He had been told from his birth that he was to be a special servant of God.  I’m sure he was a spoiled child.  He dressed like a prophet.  He ate like a prophet.  He lived like a prophet.  He preached the truth.  He called people to repentance.

Why has God left him in prison for a year?

How do you feel when you have been doing the best you can and everything seems to fall apart?  You’ve paid all your debts.  You’ve repented to God for all your sin.  Your heart is right with God.  But you are in a dark place.

Read Luke 4:18ff, Is 35:3-6, Is 61:1-2.  Notice how blessing and judgment are related to the Messiah’s coming.  John’s preaching had been a call to repentance because he was expecting the Messiah to bring judgment on the wicked immediately.  Isn’t that what the Scripture says?

If the Messiah was coming to set the captives free, why was John still in prison?  If the Messiah was bringing judgment, why was Herod not being judged for his adultery?

But Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that John and the people had expected.  John did not see the second coming.  John heard that Jesus was doing a lot of miracles, but the wicked were not being judged.  The prisoners were not being released.  John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the Messiah that the prophets spoke of.  Had John preached the wrong message?  Had John identified the wrong Lamb of God?

11:1  I’m not sure why the NIV translators have substituted the word ‘Galilee’ for the pronoun ‘their’  at the end of verse 1.  The Greek literally reads “in the cities of them”.  Jesus had just sent his 12 disciples out on their first mission assignment to the lost sheep of Israel in the neighboring cities (10:7).  At the same time Jesus goes to their home towns to teach and preach.  He was not the executive who sat in his office and directed the mission.  He continued to do what they were doing.

This word ‘teach’ means to give instruction.  This word ‘preach’ means to proclaim or herald.

11:2  When John heard what the Messiah was doing, he had some questions.  John had always lived in wide open spaces.  Now he was alone in an underground prison across the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum.  John had spoken too boldly for his own safety.  He told Herod that it was a sin to divorce his wife and marry his sister-in-law.  The Messiah was coming and if Herod would not repent God would soon judge him.

After a year or so in prison, John was doing some second guessing.  He knew the OT.  His mother had told him the miracle of his birth.  He was to be the messenger prophesied in Mal 3:1.  His disciples knew that he was preaching in the spirit of Elijah as prophesied in Mal 4:5.  In his better days John had declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God.  But circumstances had robbed him of his confidence.  He had become demoralized like Elijah.  He had preached that the Messiah was coming in blessing and judgment.  Jesus had brought healing and blessing to many, but it does not seem He brought judgment to anyone.  John needed to hear from Jesus.

11:3-6  He needed an answer.  “Are You the One who was to come or should we expect someone else?”  Are You expecting someone else?

How does Jesus encourage John?  Jesus quotes Isaiah to say the blessings have come, but the judgment is delayed.  When Jesus quotes the OT scriptures He does not quote the judgment part.  He does not tell John that everything will be all right and he will soon be set free.  He says God is right now fulfilling prophecy.  God is directing our lives.  Keep trusting.

Don’t stumble just because things do not happen like you think they should.  The kingdom that Jesus is advancing does not bring judgment for all the wicked.  There will continue to be unjust suffering and death.  Prophecy is being fulfilled, but not completely fulfilled.  The miracles are not irrefutable proof that Jesus is the Messiah.  Faith is still required to see the evidence accurately.

Some will be offended by the nature of God’s kingdom.  God wants to change hearts, not political leaders.  Those who trust God and are not offended will be happy.  Jesus came for the sinner, not the righteous like John.  The kingdom has come in our hearts and gives us forgiveness, peace, and inner strength.  But the judgment of the wicked and our final reward will only come when Jesus returns to reign.

11:7-11  Were people criticizing John because the wicked were not being punished?  Were John’s disciples frustrated because he was in prison?  Were John’s disciples doubting because John was doubting?

After John’s disciples leave, Jesus reminds the crowd who John was and is.  3 times He asks, “What did you go out to see?”  Weren’t you hoping for a prophet?  Jesus bears witness to John.

Reeds don’t grow in deserts.  John was not like a reed moved by winds of public opinion.  John was not a weak blade of grass.  John was no softy.  He did not have the finest clothes.  He was not an iron man.  He was a messenger for God in the wilderness.

John was a prophet like your great grandfathers told you about and something more.  He was neither unstable not faithless.  He did not clearly see the blessing and judgment of the Messiah coming at 2 different times.  John did not know about the Jesus’ cross and resurrection.  He did not know how much God loved the world. He was called to preach repentance.  He was faithful.

John was a spokesman for God like other OT prophets, but he was also the subject of prophecy.  Many were excited with John because he was the 1st prophet that had appeared for several hundred years and the religious leaders did not know what to do about him.  John was greater than all other prophets because he was spoken of in Scripture before he appeared (10).  He was greater because he was the link between 2 ages (11).  The least in the kingdom of God, those with the Spirit of Christ in their hearts are greater because they can see God’s love more clearly.  John was the greatest of those born in the flesh, not because he did miracles, but because he announced the coming of the kingdom of God that would change men’s hearts.  His position and role were greater than all his predecessors.

11:12-15  During John’s ministry, the kingdom was inaugurated.  During his ministry the message was attacked by violent men.  The kingdom of God seemed so weak and vulnerable.  Why did God allow the message of His kingdom to be attacked and rejected?  Why doesn’t the kingdom of God show its power and eliminate all opposition?  This may have been part of John’s question.

Man can choose to ignore God’s messenger.  Man can hear the truth and refuse to obey.  If you have ears, listen!  John is the Elijah that was to prepare the way for the Messiah.  Another messenger will come as Elijah when the Messiah returns the 2nd time in judgment.

11:16-19  People are just like children.  They do not think about the implications of all their actions.  They want to play even when life and death issues are involved.  They did not believe John.  They did not believe Jesus.  God validated the ministry of both John and Jesus, but like disgruntled children this generation found it easer to whine and complain rather than to play the game and cooperate with God.  They refused to participate in what was offered to them.  The deeds of Jesus will vindicate themselves in the long run.

God’s wisdom is vindicated by her actions.  Wisdom is concerned with right living.  The lifestyles of both John and Jesus were criticized.  They lived contrasting lives.  Both John and Jesus were wisdom’s children.  Both were radically different, but the same.

11:20-24  Chorazin was about 2 miles NW of Capernaum.  Bethsaida was the home town of Andrew, Peter, and Philip.  These cities were not vicious in their opposition to Jesus.  They did not kick Jesus out.  They did not oppose Him.  They liked the miracles He was doing.  But they did not repent of their sin.  They are held more accountable because Jesus was there.  It is interesting that we have no record of the miracles that Jesus did there.  Maybe because the disciples were not with Him in this ministry.

In the last judgment, the non Jewish cities of Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon will fare better than the Jewish city of Capernaum — the greater the revelation, the greater the accountability.  This statement gives us a little insight into the Judgment.  It suggests degrees in punishment and degrees in reward.  Punishment takes into account opportunity.  A man is judged by that which he had a chance to know.

11:25-26  Jesus’ prayer of thanks and praise to the Father would be an encouragement to John.  The proud, self-sufficient, and wise of this world have the ability to blind themselves to the truth.  A childlike mentality is dependent, receptive, simple, humble.  A child sees things that the wise and educated do not see.

11:27  This is the greatest claim that Jesus ever made.  Jesus claims that only He can reveal God to man.  If you want to know the heart of God, the mind of God, the nature of God, the ways of God, you must look at Jesus.  In Jesus we see what God is like.  Only the Son really knows the Father.

11:28-30  The weary and burdened are invited to follow Jesus and He promises to give rest.  He does not invite the wise and learned.  He does not gratify the curiosity of the scholar or reinforce the wisdom of the arrogant.  He invites the children, the weary, and the burdened to a salvation rest.  Those exhausted with the search for truth can find rest in Jesus.  Your search for God is fulfilled in Jesus and in Him is rest.

The yoke suggests a task to do, a load to pull.  We can have rest in our task because Jesus is gentle and humble in heart.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Jesus is quoting Jeremiah and promises rest to our souls, a peace that passes understanding, a sense of well being in our relationship with God.

The word ‘easy’ means comfortable, well-fitting, or tailor-made.  In Palestine yokes were made of wood.  The ox was measured, the yoke was roughed out, and the ox was brought back to try it on.  The yoke was carefully adjusted and smoothed so that it would fit well and not cause sores.  There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee.  It has been suggested that the sign above the door of His carpenter’s shop in Nazareth said, “My yokes fit well.”  “My yoke is easy.”

Jesus is saying, “My yoke fits well.”  All the good deeds that He has planned for you to do will not be a burden to give you blisters and rub you raw.  Your life has been custom made to fit you.  The yoke has been made in love.  Love makes the heaviest burden light.

Jesus invites us.  “Come unto Me and experience rest for your soul.”  When you are in a dark place and have a lot of questions, Jesus invites all of us, “Come unto Me”.

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