In chapter 11 of the gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus confronted by John the Baptist. John, from prison, sends two disciples with a veiled threat to rescind John’s endorsement of Jesus’ ministry. Did John miss God? Are we in danger of missing God ourselves when we deviate from our call as John did from his?
[Mat 11:1-30 KJV] 1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. 2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is [he], whosoever shall not be offended in me.
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft [clothing] are in kings’ houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is [he], of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
After instructing and commanding His disciples as to their conduct in going out on their own healing campaigns in His name, Jesus departed alone to preach in the cities of the Galilee. What we see happening is the training of the disciples, and then the 12 with Jesus as the 13th all scattered through Galilee with the disciples implementing like actions in preaching and healing as they had observed and explicitly been instructed by the Lord in terms of how they would carry out their own preaching missions. What we can learn from this is the fact that these men didn’t just go out, each acting as he saw fit. They went out only after being instructed by the Master. This was more than the ancient equivalent of receiving their seminary training before taking a pulpit.
The word “command” here includes the idea of the 12 receiving their orders and being appointed by Jesus to conduct their own ministries in His name. It’s all about accountability. There is a great problem in Christian ministry today regarding unaccountable sons. Many are going out, but they haven’t received or waited for the command from the Master. One reason for this is that what training we do give our leaders is institutional rather than apostolic. The training role that we leave to institutions of higher learning such as seminaries and bible schools, in Jesus’ day and that of the early church was carried out as apostles trained their proteges. Jesus as the chief apostle of the faith (Heb. 3:1) models for us how ministry is to be raised up. Since the modern church rejects the ministry of the apostle, and what apostles we have largely do not understand the nature of their calling, we, therefore, have 10’s of 1000’s of ministries out there doing their own thing, with no connection one to another, no accountability to anything other than themselves and as a result, ministering with little power, and little impact on a lost and dying world.
After sending out the 12, Jesus receives a visit from two of John the Baptist’s disciples. John has landed in prison for confronting Herod regarding an unscriptural marriage, and upon hearing that Jesus is preaching the kingdom and performing healings and miracles, John sends two of his own followers to challenge Jesus regarding what he is doing. Now, what is John’s problem? Jesus is healing the sick, casting out devils, and preaching the kingdom, but John doesn’t find this sufficient, and his followers are dispatched with a message “are you he that should come or do we look for another?” There is a veiled threat in threat in this challenge. What John seems to be issuing is a threat to take back his endorsement of Jesus’s ministry. Was John deviating from his mission? The fact is that John, in his early ministry, stated that his calling and purpose was to find and make known the Messiah:
[Jhn 1:33 KJV] 33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
John is not in prison because he baptized Jesus. He is in prison because he felt compelled to tell Herod that he should not have married his brother’s wife. (Herod has divorced his wife to marry Herodias, who had ended her marriage to Herod’s brother Philip to facilitate the affair). Because John spoke against this, Herod had him put in prison. Was John suffering for righteousness? The fact is we have no record of John being told to speak against Herod. He does so in any case, and now in prison, he is challenging Jesus no doubt because he thought Jesus should get on with restoring the kingdom to Israel, driving out Herod and the Romans and establishing what would be, in essence, the Millennial kingdom. Jesus answers the two disciples sent from John that the blind were healed, the lame were walking, the lepers were cleansed, and “blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me…” Why was John struggling? Because while correctly identifying Jesus for who he was, John was offended because Jesus wasn’t conducting himself as expected. Have you ever been offended at how some ministry conducts itself? Take care that you don’t wind up in Herod’s dungeon. Paul said this:
[Rom 14:4 KJV] 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.
To Be Continued Next Week
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