The Best and the Baddest
April 6, 2014
Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 11:1–11:30
“Matthew: The Gospel of the Grace of God”
“The BEST & the BADDEST”
The first 10 chapters of Matthew are basically a series of TESTIMONIES that PROVE WHO Jesus is. Chapters 11-12 focus on the REACTIONS of various individuals & groups to that evidence.
To this point, Jesus had encountered only BRIEF HOSTILITY, but it is beginning to GROW, as we will see throughout chapter 11.
The first 19 verses tell us about:
The BEST: JOHN the BAPTIST
JOHN’S QUESTION: Vs.1-3.
Luke 3:19-20: “But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had one, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.”
Knowing that John the Baptist, one of the BRAVEST & GREATEST characters in scripture, could have DOUBTS, can actually be an ENCOURAGEMENT & a RELIEF to we who sometimes find OURSELVES doubting (although PERPLEXITY or CONFUSION may be a better description than doubt).
There are several reasons WHY John may have doubted:
He was in PRISON. Therefore, he was CUT-OFF from what was happening, which must have been EXTREMELY frustrating to one who was so accustomed to uninhibited FREEDOM.
He must have been DRAINED EMOTIONALLY. It is not difficult to compare John to ELIJAH, who was drained after his encounter with Jezebel.
Jesus was not LIVING UP to what John had EXPECTED or PROPHESIED.
Warren Wiersbe: “It is not difficult to sympathize with John as he suffered in prison. He was a man of the desert, yet he was confined indoors. He was an active man, with a divine mandate to preach; yet he was silenced. He had announced judgment, and yet that judgment was slow in coming. He received only partial reports of Jesus’ ministry and could not see the total picture.”
Matt. 3:11-12 – the MESSIAH was EXPECTED to exercise a ministry of JUDGMENT, & John had EMPHASIZED that in his preaching.
Malachi 4:5 prophesied the coming of Elijah “before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord” – a time of TRIBULATION that would come on all the earth. But, although Jesus was clearly doing much GOOD in His ministry, NO such judgment had followed the ministry of John the Baptist.
“Sin was still rampant, injustice was still the rule, political and religious corruption were the norm, and the world was essentially the same as it had been for thousands of years.”
John was asking for CONFIRMATION here, not INFORMATION. He BELIEVED, but his faith had been WEAKENED by his ordeal.
Humanly speaking, John’s CAREER had ended in DISASTER! He had done EXACTLY as God had told him to, & now THIS!
JESUS’ ANSWER: Vs.4-5.
Jesus did not CONDEMN John for his doubt, any more than God had condemned ELIJAH for his breakdown after Mt.Carmel.
One day, Jesus WOULD come in JUDGMENT – but NOW, His task was to PREACH, TEACH, & HEAL.
In other words, these were days of GRACE.
The next verse is both a BLESSING and a WARNING: v.6. As with ALL His followers, John must PERSEVERE to the END.
As we know, John’s CIRCUMSTANCES did not IMPROVE; in fact, he would soon be BEHEADED. But we can assume that Jesus’ RESPONSE to him RENEWED his faith & courage for those final days of his life.
Of JOHN: vs.7-9 – “more than a prophet” could read, “abundantly more.” Israel did not esteem ANYONE HIGHER than a PROPHET.
V.10 – John was not only a PROPHET, he himself was the FULFILLMENT of prophecies about the FORERUNNER of the Messiah.
Also, UNLIKE previous prophets, John had the unique PRIVILEGE of actually POINTING-OUT the Messiah.
V.11a– This must have SURPRISED everyone who heard this statement, for every Jew was FAMILIAR with the names of such GIANTS as Abraham, Moses, and David - & ELIJAH, who had done great MIRACLES, which John HAD NOT done.
But, in the next breath, Jesus delivers an even GREATER surprise: v.11b.
This truth does not DENIGRATE John. Rather, it MAGNFIES the WONDER of being a KINGDOM citizen. What a PRIVILEGE!
But, HOW can such a statement be TRUE? For one reason: because we can point to the COMPLETED WORK of Christ, while John could only ANTICIPATE it.
Do we truly UNDERSTAND the great PRIVILEGE that is ours? If we did, wouldn’t we be more DILIGENT in actually POINTING people to Christ?
V.12 – one of Jesus’ most UNUSUAL statements, which is explained in VARIOUS ways.
Some say it refers to the VIOLENT OPPOSITION to the kingdom MESSAGE of John & Jesus.
Others say it means that the Kingdom had been ADVANCING FORCEFULLY, & those who would ENTER it must be BOLD & DETERMINED in doing so.
Vs.13-15 – merely HEARING is not enough; one must be willing to accept JESUS as MESSIAH if they accepted JOHN as His FORERUNNER.
Of THE CROWD: Vs.17-19.
A PROPHET had indeed come, & the MESSIAH had indeed came, but they were willing to ACCEPT NEITHER.
Jesus said they were like spoiled CHILDREN who would not play, regardless of WHAT GAME was being proposed. They refused to DANCE or MOURN.
They found fault with JOHN, & they found fault with JESUS as well. And so, they would not REPENT with JOHN or REJOICE with JESUS.
Instead of being CHILDLIKE & HUMBLING themselves, they were CHILDISH & STUBBORN, like children POUTING because they could not have their way.
V.19b – the truly WISE person will turn FROM SIN & turn TO JESUS.
What WILL HAPPEN to those people who DO NOT act wisely? They will PERISH at the JUDGMENT.
V.20 – Jesus DENOUNCES those cities where He had done MOST of His MIRACLES:
He had healed the servant of the Roman centurion;
He had cured Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever;
He had cast out demons & healed other sick people;
He had healed a paralytic;
He had raised a dead girl to life;
He had restored sight to two blind men;
He had cast a demon out of a mute person, enabling him to walk – yet amazingly, the people were INDIFFERENT to Jesus! (And Jesus had surely done MUCH MORE in these cities than the scriptures tell us.)
INDIFFERENCE is a particularly HEINOUS form of unbelief, because God is not taken SERIOUSLY enough even to CRITICIZE.
The Bible tells us that such indifference to the Lord will CONTINUE until His RETURN: Luke 17:26-28.
The Lord was not looking for AMAZEMENT or ADMIRATION, but REPENTANCE - & yet, due to their indifference, the people REFUSED to repent.
JUDGMENT, therefore, was God’s ONLY choice.
Vs.21-24 – “woe” means JUDGMENT, but it also means PITY & SORROW. (To the Jews, being compared UNFAVORABLY with Sodom & Gomorrah was INFURIATING.)
In these verses, Jesus tells us about:
The JUDGMENT of God
There will be judgment.
There will be DEGREES of PUNISHMENT in the judgment. When people have had a great OPPORTUNITY to HEAR God’s Word, & have even seen it MIRACULOUSLY verified, their GUILT for REJECTING it is ENORMOUS.
It will be BETTER in the judgment for those who NEVER HEARD the gospel, than for those who heard, & REJECTED it:Heb. 10:26-27.
The WORST SIN of all is UNBELIEF. PRIDE is at the ROOT of unbelief. The people of Capernaum apparently thought HIGHLY of themselves, but Jesus tells them that HELL, not heaven, is their final DESTINATION.
God’s judgment is regulated by His “contingent knowledge.” That is, God judges, not only in response to what people HAVE done, but also in response to what they WOULD HAVE done if the CONDITIONS they were under had been DIFFERENT.
D.A Carson: “At the final judgment God will take into account not only North America’s and every North American’s moral standing and response to Jesus Christ and use of opportunities, as compared with, say, every Cuban’s use of the same – but also what both parties would have done if their roles and advantages had been reversed.”
“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3, NIV)
Those who have been BLESSED the MOST will be PUNISHED the WORST, if they REJECT Christ.
God does NOT OWE SALVATION to ANYONE. Although, as Jesus said, the people in places like Tyre, Sidon, & Sodom WOULD HAVE repented IF they had WITNESSED what Korazin, Bethsaida, & Capernaum did, they were STILL GUILTY & JUSTLY DESERVING of God’s judgment, due to their sin.
Vs.25-27 – it is intellectual PRIDE, not intelligence, that SHUTS people OUT of the Kingdom.
The KNOWLEDGE of God does not DEPEND ON human WISDOM & EDUCATION, but on childlike TRUST & HUMILITY.
And yet, God is MERCIFUL!
The INVITATION of CHRIST: vs.28-30.
The invitation is FOR EVERYONE. Jesus invites EVERYONE who is EXHAUSTED from trying to FIND & PLEASE God ON THEIR OWN to come to Him.
The invitation is for those who are BURDENED by SIN.
“Heavy laden” does not refer to a PHYSICAL burden, but to the burden of SIN.
DESPERATION is ESSENTIAL for true salvation, because a person will NEVER COME to Christ as long as he has confidence IN HIMSELF.
The invitation is TO LEARN. Jesus is comparing Christianity to a SCHOOL in which HE is both the TEACHER and the SUBJECT.
John 17:3 (NIV): “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
The invitation is TO REST.
Following Christ does not EXEMPT one from WORK, but it makes that work JOYFUL. Instead of work that is DRUDGERY, it is work that is a DELIGHT.
JESUS is the ONLY REST that WORKS; the only rest that we NEED.
Your BURDEN CANNOT be LIFTED any OTHER way! In fact, following another way will only ADD TO your burden.
But, because Jesus LOVES you, He can LIFT you. Exchange YOUR BURDEN for HIS, & do it TODAY.