Last time, we took a look at Matthew 10, where we saw Jesus appointing his 12 Apostles and sending them out among the lost sheep of Israel to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven.
John the Baptist, More than a Prophet
Messengers from John the Baptist
1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Does it strike you as odd that this account falls here in Matthew’s Account? I have wrestled with its placement here. It seemed like a cut-scene event not necessarily a chronological succession to the events/teaching of Chapter 10. The problem of this passage for me was that I kept treating it as an update on what was going on in John the Baptist’s life… like some voice-over guy would narrate, “meanwhile, back in the prison of John the Baptist”… but that’s not Matthew’s intention. Remember Matthew’s audience is the Jewish reader, the one familiar with the Law and the Prophets (more-so than the Gentile, anyway). Matthew isn’t setting out to record a detailed account of the likes of Luke, he is writing to Jews so that they might know exactly who Jesus is. John the Baptist is a critical figure in prophecy, and being a man in prison about to die, he inquired of Jesus one last time, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? Jesus’ answer is two-fold, He tells the disciple to report what he sees and He also points out that everything Jesus is doing is in fulfillment of the prophecies that testify of Him as the Messiah. Let’s continue reading…
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
This is a tough passage to get a full grasp of especially for those who treat Jesus as a man or an example for how we are to live. How can John be the greatest of those born of women, wasn’t Jesus also born of a virgin? Yes, but Jesus has no equal for He is the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Messenger of God, God the Son. John is the last great Prophet of men to the children of Israel, and his purpose was to announce the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, the Messiah had come. All of the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus. John the Baptist is His herald and has been imprisoned by violent, pagan men. He would soon be put to death, and Jesus will also suffer and die at the hand of men… the Kingdom of Heaven indeed has suffered violence. For those of you in the Pentecostal camp, this is NOT a teaching on spiritual warfare. This is about Jesus coming, the Kingdom of Heaven preached, and the violent prevailing against Him… to death on a cross.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
The chief priests and elders who wage war against the kingdom of Heaven, pursue John by one standard and then Jesus by another… excuses for their core sin of rejecting the very Son of God they claim to serve.
Woe to Unrepentant Cities
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Miracles, signs, and wonders do not produce faith. Hearing the word of the Lord and believing it does. Miracles can, however, intensify guilt. Jesus makes it plain here that had He performed the mighty works in Sodom that He had performed in Capernaum, Sodom would have remained to this day, meaning some would have repented (at least 10, for the sake of Abram’s intercession). He knew this, he wasn’t merely speculating or using hyperbole to highlight a point… Jesus knew. That Capernaum refused to repent earned them a worse fate on the day of judgment than that of Sodom. That boggles the mind. When Jesus returns, it won’t be as a silent lamb to preach repentance… He will come to judge the living and the dead. It will be the end for this life, this Earth, under these heavens. The Grace of God can be seen even in the fact that He tarries to return.
Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We talked about Rest in this past Monday’s CTT post. Jesus isn’t talking about coming to make everyone rich so that they’ll never have any struggle. He’s not offering the “easy life”… Jesus is offering rest from the brutal taskmaster of the Law. The Law kills all who are under it, for they cannot keep it. Jesus came to lift that burden Himself, and then to lay down His perfect life as payment for all sin, so that by faith we might join in His resurrection, and enter into His Rest.
Until Next Week…
Be faithful stewards of the Gospel of Grace, and preach the Word. Miracles, signs, and wonders belong to God and are His to work, not ours. We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sin. That He was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven at the Right Hand of God the Father, and returning soon to judge the living and the dead. Nothing we come up with, devise, or scheme has any chance of building or granting faith to the unbelievers… only the Word of Christ has that power. Until next week, spend some time in His word. Read in larger chunks, making note of the immediate and general context of what you are reading. Pray for understanding and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Our household will be very busy over the summer, lots of travel. I will do my best to keep to a steady blogging schedule, but I pray your forgiveness if (like today) things get pushed back some. Thank you for your prayers.
Amen. In Christ Jesus, Jorge