Today: [Matthew 11] Did John the Baptist Miss Out on God? 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 take back 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 as well 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 been specifically 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 protoges. 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 apparently 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 matter). 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 2 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…”
John was struggling why? 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.
Jesus tells John’s disciples “go and show John AGAIN these things…” John had not witness many if any miracles of Jesus before Jesus was baptized. Apparently, John saw by the spirit these things but circumstances and situations regarding how these played out clouded his vision and he became offended. It is very likely that John, had he stayed on task would have played a much larger role in the first century church than eventually took place. Paul himself suggested that he was a man born out of due season. It may be that Paul was brought in by the sovereignty of God to fill the role that many have originally fallen to John, that John disqualified himself from due to lack of understanding, regardless of and in spite of his unique role and singular place among all the prophets in the entire biblical narrative.
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and [he] to whomsoever the Son will reveal [him]. 28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
In continuing commentary on the challenge issued by John the Baptist Jesus compares John’s complaint against Him to the general attitude of resistance He was coming up against from those around Him. He speaks to the character of His generation as those saying “why have piped, you did not dance, we have mourned, you did not lament…” In other words, those who were having problems with what Jesus was doing could not impeach His character or miracles, they rejected Him because He wasn’t playing by their rules. They couldn’t make merchandise of what He was doing, and they were frustrated that in pursuing His ministry, Jesus wasn’t properly deferring or acknowledging the contribution of the Pharisees or Sadducees regarding what they felt was their important role of leadership in the nation. Furthermore, they expected Jesus to act like them, and issue tirades against the Roman’s etc., but instead Jesus came kissing babies, drinking wine and hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes, and they were offended in Him. Make up your mind now, that you cannot please God and man. If you are listening to and following after what God tells you to do, you are going to have people come against you if for no other reason than not asking their permission to go do what God has given you no other choice to do. Obey God! Then let everyone else cope with your call!
Then Jesus begins to upbraid various cities in the nation for not receiving Him or being convinced by His message and His miracles. He declares that notorious cities such as Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom would have willingly repented if they had seen what Jesus had demonstrated of Himself, while these cities remained unfazed. Again, the thought of cities being judged, which you hear no teaching on in the modern church. We emphasize individual judgment because our society makes spiritual matters a private thing on a personal basis, but over and again the scripture says that whole cities will be judged. What will you do when after individuals are judged, you find yourself called forward with all the citizens of your city and face God’s divine justice? Will it be said you were part of the solution or part of the problem? What are you doing to confront your city with the claims of Christ?
Jesus concludes chapter 11 with a call for all that labor and are heavy laden to come to Him that they might have rest. In context, what is the heavy burden Jesus is speaking of? Is it not the heavy burden of judgment and opinion that John carried and that ultimately led him to the headsman’s axe? Is it not the heavy burden of having an opinion and getting offended at what someone else is doing in terms of spiritual activity or leadership, when in fact our eyes should be upon Jesus and not preoccupied with minute examination of other’s lives when our own lives are so woefully inadequate? The energy expended to scrutinize and judge another person’s ministry or life has to be taken from the energy and effort God has called you to expend in following him without a thought for whether others are likewise doing the same. That is the easy yoke and the burden light that Jesus offers us still today as He did so many years ago.
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