MATTHEW 11: 1-6 [THE MESSIAH REVEALED Series]
THE UNSWAYED MESSIAH
[ Isaiah 35:2b-l0]
Do good Christians sometimes doubt the reality of the testimony they hold? Do believers who shouted from the roof tops have moments when they are unsure about the Christ they have so boldly proclaimed? What should they do in these moments of doubt when life is against them and God doesn’t seem to heed their prayers? They should reflect back to what they have seen and experienced Jesus accomplish and be content with the ministry He is performing in the lives of others (CIM). We are not to disbelieve because He seems unheeding of our present difficulty. Our doubting will not force Him to prove Himself. He responds to faith, not doubt.
I. JESUS' MINISTRY, 1.
II. JOHN'S QUESTION, 2-3.
III. JESUS' SOVEREIGNTY, 4-6.
In verse 1 Jesus finishes instructing His disciples then He sets out on his own ministry. “When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. "
The twelve disciples needed a few more instructions [διατασαων] distributed among them and they were ready to fulfill their outreach responsibility. Jesus also departed to continue ministering in the cities of Galilee. His ministry focused on teaching and preaching. Teaching is didasko which is to "explain" and “give instruction." He exegeted or interpreted the Scriptures for them. After establishing a solid doctrinal understanding or foundation by His teaching He would preach (kerusso) or announced - proclaimed the people's responsibility to respond to God's Word (particularly the Gospel). Still today people first and foremost need to understand God's Word and then be exhorted to live it out.
II. JOHN'S QUESTION, 2-3.
While Jesus was teaching and preaching, disciples of John the Baptist approach Jesus with a question from John. Let us look to the greatest among men and learn a lesson of faith, starting with verse 2. “Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples"
Herod, the ruler of Israel, had taken his brother’s wife as his own, and John the Baptist boldly, pointedly publically rebuked Herod's flagrant sin (14:3-5). Herod retaliated by imprisoning John. The dark, frightfully hot dungeons of Macherus [Josephus] deprived prisoners of fresh air, bodily exercise, cheerful mental employment, and the opportunity to do good. This man of power in word and deed became despondent in his forced idleness.
John had been in prison for about a year there. He probably wasn’t worried initially. He probably thought, that’s okay. Messiah’s on the scene. He’ll spring me out of here in no time. Don’t the prophecies declare He shall open prison doors and set the captive free? I won’t be in here long! No problem! [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 79.]
As John sat week after week, month after month in that dingy, damp dungeon he began to have some doubts about whether Jesus was the Messiah. John's purpose was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah (3:3). If Jesus was the Messiah why was he in prison instead of preaching and preparing the people for Him?
John's doubts apparently came from His personal situation which was not being addressed by Jesus. The works of Christ which John heard of were very remarkable. But he wondered why the King of God's kingdom working such powerful and astonishing miracles would leave His devoted servant and herald to languish in unjust imprisonment cut off from his calling. John pictured the Messiah coming in power to free him and punish the sinners but Jesus' works and words were those of grace and mercy.
But John did the right thing. He took his doubts and frustrations to Jesus.
Verse 3 contains the question John sent to Jesus. “And said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’”
So John sent word to Jesus: “What’s going on? You’re Messiah, aren’t You? That’s what I was preaching. I even saw the dove of the Spirit descend upon You. Why, then, haven’t You established Your kingdom? Why am I still in prison?”
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever ask, “Lord, why are you not acting on my behalf? Why haven’t You answered my prayer? Why haven’t You worked it out, Lord? Week after month after year has gone by, and still you haven’t responded.” John did. So he sent emissaries to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. If not, they would start looking for another.
“Are You”- emphatic, the Expected One [erchómenos] or Coming One (Ps. 117:26; Isa. 59:20; Zech. 9:9; Dan. 7: 13; Mk. 11:9; Lk.13:35,19:38; Heb. 10:37)? Now in Matthew 4:11-15 John had already baptized Jesus as the Coming One, the long expected Messiah. He knew but he now was puzzled. Jesus was not the type of Messiah he expected. Since He was not what John expected nor doing for or with John what he expected, could it be that Jesus was not the Messiah? [Matthew used heteron rather than allos for someone else suggests that John was expecting a Messiah of a different sort.]
Many people in the world today do not think Jesus is the kind of Messiah, the kind of King that they want and thus doubt Him and do not follow Him. Jesus has not done for them as they wanted. He hasn't proven Himself to them according to their conditions and they doubt Him.
When Jesus does not respond to us as we hope or want, when life doesn't turn out for us as we expected - or expected God to make it, when Jesus doesn't get us out of a tough spot or condition and darkness and depression begins to set in, look up to Jesus. Don't doubt decisions in the darkness of depression you made in the clearness of your illuminating experience with God. Don't doubt at night what God told you, did for you, in the day.
John was wanting Jesus to set up His kingdom and reign here on earth. He wanted Jesus to justify John's integrity and service by acting on his behalf. Let's see how Jesus responds.
III. JESUS' SOVEREIGNTY, 4-6.
Jesus’ answer which begins in verse 4 will refocus John on the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. “Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see:"
Sometimes Jesus changes our circumstances, usually Jesus changes us. Jesus tells the disciples of John to carry this message back. They were not given an answer suited particularly and especially for John but they were to take him the same information that was available to all or to anyone who would seek it.
Jesus did not give John any special help or assistance about a second coming being different than the first. He simply gives John the same opportunity to believe that He was giving to any interested person, what the public heard and saw concerning Jesus.
Verse 5 is the report. “The blind receive 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.”
Jesus’ answer calls John’s messengers’ attention to what is heard (words) as well as to what is seen (works). This ministry is what He has been carrying out in Chapter 8 and 9 of Matthew. The evidence which Jesus gave was that the prophet’s words were being fulfilled (Isa. 26:19; 29:18; 35:5–6; 42:7, 18; 61:1), that the messianic age had dawned with the Messiah’s activities.
The six specifics miracles Jesus lists are: cleansing the lepers (Isa. 29:18-19), the blind receive sight (Isa. 35:5), the lame walk (Isa. 35:5-6), the deaf hear (Isa. 35:5-7), the dead are raised up. As a climax Jesus adds and the poor have the gospel preached to them (Isa. 61: 1-2). The poor are not only the physically poor but also those who realize their spiritual poverty.
While John was asking for “proof” of Jesus’ messiahship, Jesus, instead of offering proof, gave him evidence. To walk in faith means we most often must accept evidence in the place of personal proof. Jesus is saying this ministry, though it does not change your personal circumstance is all I will give you to verify Myself as the Messiah. With so much evidence, Jesus' identity was obvious. John ought to be content with those fulfilled prophecies.
If you sometimes doubt your salvation, the forgiveness of your sin or God’s work in your life, look at the evidence in Scripture and the changes in your life since you have come to know Christ. When you doubt don’t turn away from Christ, turn to Him.
Jesus’ statement focused His authority to reinterpret the messianic expectation in verse 6. “And blessed is he who does not take offense (stumble) at Me."
Jesus is emphasizing a different aspect of messiahship than that which was the popular concept. His messianic activity did not include expulsion of the Romans or restoration of the temple religion, or delivering John from his circumstances in prison.
The political, material, physical kingdom John was hoping for will come eventually. But now Jesus is establishing His kingdom spiritually, through His teaching and healing ministry. Jesus blesses not only John but whoever is not offended by Him or stumbles at Him because He will not physically enact His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven..
"The idea of stumbling comes from the concept of ensnaring an animal by means of a trap." It is developed in the New Testament to mean "cause to be caught or fall," "cause to sin or give offense to", or "make angry." Jesus was reminding John not to be trapped by unjustified assumptions or expectations about the Messiah. He was not to be caused to stumble - for John this meant lose his blessedness by doubting because of false expectations of what Jesus should do." [Glasscock, Ed. Moody Gospel Commentary. Matthew. 1997. Chicago: Moody Press. p 244.]
It is difficult to conquer prejudices, and dangerous not to conquer them. For those who believe in Christ, the conquering of our misconception will raise our faith to much more praise, and honor, and glory if we will simply follow Christ. We lose our joy in the Lord when we expect Jesus or our new life to be something or do something for us that Jesus has not promised and become disappointed when He doesn't fulfill what He never said He would (or when we have not met the prerequisites). The Jews stumbled at Jesus' failure to be and do what they thought He should.
Jesus' statement is an implicit challenge to reexamine our presuppositions about what the Messiah should be and do in light of Jesus and His fulfillment of Scripture and to bring our “understanding and faith into line with Him. Truly this same warning applies to contemporary Christianity, where Jesus has often been misrepresented and many false assumptions have led to discouragement and stumbling.” [Glasscock, p 245.]
How do you expect Jesus to act? If He does not act the way you think He should, does your belief in Him or His power stumble? What are you expecting Jesus to bail you out of? Are you threatening to stop living for Him and proclaiming Him as Messiah if He doesn't demonstrate His power in your situation? Even if you should threaten Jesus so, He would not be swayed to your cause, but continue to expect you to be swayed again to His. Even if you should be the most deserving, the greatest born of women, Jesus will not be swayed to react the way you think He should. He expects what He is doing, the fulfillment of Scripture and your recognition of it to be sufficient to warrant your belief and continued service.