Title: This Is Not The Messiah You’re Looking For
Text: Matthew 11:1-19
FCF: We often struggle with preconceived notions of who Christ is and what is message was.
Prop: Because the Kingdom coming was not what any expected, we must trust Christ’s message and ministry.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 11.
I hope that you have not forgotten about your reading assignment of Foxes book of martyrs. I was speaking to someone a couple weeks ago and they were saying that there are two things that make the reading difficult. First is the fact that Mr. Foxe takes such a great deal of ink to say what he is trying to say. It really speaks more to our society than his. We tend to write as little as we can because time is always of the essence. So know that you may be in for a challenging read if you go in unprepared. Secondly, the reading is difficult because of the overwhelming sadness it is to read of the barbaric nature of those who oppose the gospel. As we move on in Matthew, keep reading Foxes Book of Martyrs. It will help to provide a good backdrop to what Matthew’s readers were facing.
[Slide 2] It has almost been a year since we started our study in Matthew. Over the course of a year our finite little minds tend to allow things to slip out of them. We forget what we have learned. So it may be wise for us to hit some highlights of our journey through this book to jog our memories a bit before we proceed.
[Slide 3A] We began the book talking about Matthew. A vile and hated man prior to coming to Christ, because he was a Jew that was a tax collector. Upon following Christ, he was one of the few disciples that could never go back to what he did prior to following Christ. He is writing to both Jewish Christians to help them solidify their faith and to non believing Jews to convince them that Jesus indeed was their Messiah and King.
[Slide 3B] The Gospel of Matthew is not written in chronological order, which helps us to understand why things he writes appear to be smooshed together with other things that happen later or earlier. Matthew is building an argument, not recording history. Our minds tend to work Chronologically, but that is not really true culturally of middle eastern thought. Even the Old Testament is arranged thematically and not chronologically. So as we go through Matthew we have to recognize themes that are being developed and not events that are being recorded. The events serve the theme and not vice versa.
[Slide 3C] In the first two chapters we see Matthew defending the heritage of Jesus, even to the point of jabbing at the Jewish gilding of the line of the Messiah and how regardless of who would have been the messiah it would have been a linage full of wicked people. That the best of them tended to be gentile women. Then Matthew develops the various Old Testament clues of what the Messiah would come from – and shows how Jesus fulfills each.
[Slide 3D] In the third chapter we see John the Baptist step on the scene urging people to repent because the King and His Kingdom is coming in judgment producing both life and death. This particular point is important for us today so tuck this away in the back of your mind.
[Slide 4A] In the third and fourth chapter we see Jesus fulfilling righteousness by being baptized, submitting to the Spirit’s direction, resisting temptation, living by the Word of God, and submitting to His father’s will. We see Him then begin his ministry which included both healing and preaching. His preaching ministry consisted of the message “repent and believe the gospel”
[Slide 4B] In chapter 5-7 we see the first and largest discourse by Jesus in the book. We noted that Matthew has designed his book around 5-7 discourse and narrative pairings. Matthew shows us Jesus living the Kingdom life, then inserts Jesus’ sermon on what life is like in the Kingdom. Who its citizens are, how they live, and what it takes to be admitted into the Kingdom.
[Slide 4C] Matthew mentions the crowds marveling at Jesus’ authority to segue into the narrative section of chapter 8-9 showing Jesus authority over life, nature, disease, death, spiritual forces, spiritual status of men and more.
But Jesus chooses to delegate that authority to His disciples and sends them out on their first short term mission. Before doing this He speaks to them, which Matthew includes as his second discourse in chapter 10. Jesus tells his disciples to preach to those who will listen and not to preach to those who will not. He warns them that many will not, and they will be persecuted for preaching the message of the Kingdom – but to rely on Him and He will make sure they know what to say. Ultimately Jesus reveals that His message is war inducing because it forces men to see that they are wicked. But then Jesus finishes this talk with reference to the few that will offer to take them in and listen. These few, who offer even as little as a cup of cold water to the disciples, reveal themselves to be genuine believers.
[Slide 5 (blank)] Now Matthew steps into another narrative section where we see what Jesus spoke come true. In the next two chapters we will see people struggling with Jesus’ message, others will outright reject it, and still others will seek it and find it.
So let us start reading in verse 1 of chapter 11. I am reading from the NET but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
Today we will focus on a group of people who struggle to accommodate what Jesus is teaching, because it wasn’t what they were expecting. Jesus’ response, is to stop insisting on their own way, and just listen to Him. Look at verse 1.
I.) Jesus fails men’s standard of the Messiah, but fulfills scripture, so we must trust Christ’s message and ministry. (1-6)
a. [Slide 6] 1 – When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their towns.
i. So the master sends his apprentices out
ii. Meanwhile he stays behind to preach and teach in their towns
iii. In effect what is being said here is that all 13 of them were going out to the many towns in Galilee.
b. [Slide 7] 2-3 – Now when John heard in prison about the deeds Christ had done, he sent his disciples to ask a question: “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?”
i. John’s imprisonment is not an event that is recorded in the gospels. So we are not really sure about the specifics.
ii. We can assume, relatively safely, that it was primarily for his teaching and influence.
iii. But even in prison he hears of what Jesus has accomplished in Galilee. The miracles he has done and the message he is preaching.
iv. He sends his disciples – but Why?
v. Something about Jesus’ deeds and message has John a little – confused.
vi. Now it is important to understand that by asking this question, John is not doubting the Messiahship of Jesus – he is doubting his interpretation of the work of the Messiah. And well he should, because he had it slightly wrong.
vii. Way back in chapter 3:12 – John preached to the crowds saying that that one would soon come that would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. That his winnowing fork would gather the wheat and burn the chaff.
viii. Now after some time in prison and hearing that Jesus is healing people – even people that don’t become His disciple. He is preaching, but to those who reject Him, he does not judge them. To those who accept Him, he is not granting them invulnerability. He is not granting them protection… in fact he is promising that they will be hunted and killed. He says He came to bring war but encourages his disciples that when they find those who will not listen that rather than killing them or bringing them to Him – that they simply shake the dust from their feet.
ix. John’s eschatology assumed that the baptism of the Spirit and the baptism of fire would be one event.
x. So John asks – are you not the one who is gonna bring down the hammer?
xi. And I love Jesus’ answer because He NEVER answers something with a simple yes or no. Even when the Pharisees ask Him – answer us plainly, are you the Messiah – he responded with 2-3 sentences.
c. [Slide 8] 4-5 – Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.
i. So did He answer the question? Sorta.
ii. Isaiah 26:19 – in a context of God coming to punish sin on earth and vindicate Israel – the prophet says that their dead will be raised to life
iii. Isaiah 29:18-19 – Again in a context of judgment where God plans to eliminate those who love doing wrong, the prophet predicts that the deaf will hear and the blind will see.
iv. Isaiah 35:5-6 – Again a context of divine judgment on those who opposed His people, the prophet predicts that the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap the mute will speak.
v. Isaiah 61:1 – Again in a context of exacting vengeance, in the voice of the Servant of Yahweh, the prophet records His words when He says that the poor will be encouraged with good news, the brokenhearted will be given help, the captives will be released and that it is His place to announce the year when the Lord shows His favor.
vi. By all this John would have gotten a non-definitive answer. These are all contexts of judgment where God destroys the wicked – So yes – Jesus is doing these miracles… but where is the destruction of the wicked? Where is the blessing that is supposed to be poured out on faithful Isarel?
vii. Whether or not Jesus was the one is not the right question. The right question is when and how.
viii. The death and resurrection of Christ was a mortal wound inflicted on the world and all those who continue to pledge allegiance to it. The church is the blood that is running out of that wound. Our existence is the evidence that the world is dying because it is losing people. We are part of the instrument of judgment on the wicked, because we were once one of them. God will destroy all that are wicked but for us, he destroyed our wickedness by replacing it with righteousness.
ix. He says to tell John one final thing.
d. [Slide 9] 6 – blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.
i. This is a beatitude! What is it doing way out here all by itself?
ii. Blessed, favored, or given grace is someone who…
iii. Takes no offense
1. To take offense is to be hung up, or caused to stumble. In other contexts this word is used to communicate that someone sins.
2. Can Jesus cause someone to sin? What is Jesus saying?
3. We haven’t quite got into Jesus’ parables but we have seen the sermon on the mount and we can all agree I think that His teaching is pretty radical. Pretty soon he is gonna say things like “only if you eat my flesh and drink my blood can you enter the Kingdom” and He has already said “If you love your father more than me you cannot follow me”
4. If a person hears what Jesus says, and does not walk away. If they understand and submit to His teaching. If they surrender completely to what He is saying and continue to do so… then they have been given grace.
5. We will see a real life example of this in Matthew 16 where Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is. Peter answers – You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus does not say – I’m glad you listened. He doesn’t say good job at working hard to understand. Jesus says – you have been shown grace Simon of Jonah, because no one taught you this, and you did not work to discover it, it was revealed to you by God the Father.
6. Jesus is saying by grace you are saved through faith. He is saying… KEEP TRUSTING ME JOHN!
7. I’m gonna say some pretty crazy things. And It is NOT going to go the way you think. But KEEP TRUSTING ME! KEEP DEPENDING ON ME!
e. [Slide 10] And that is our dilemma isn’t it? Living here in this nation – having been exposed to Christianity probably all our lives – each of us have an image, a picture, a paradigm that we have assigned to Jesus. We assume we understand what He was here for. We assume we understand why He came. Besides the heretical positions of Him being only a man or only God, and the unbelieving positions of Him being a great prophet or teacher. There are still other versions of Jesus that do not quite conform to what we have seen thus far in the gospels. The interesting thing is that we stand on opposite poles of where John was. John was expecting Jesus to come and bring the heat. To give prosperity to those who follow Him and judgment to those who do not. Our tendency is to see Jesus as this fluffy character that welcomed all and preached the gospel to everyone he met. The truth is somewhere in between really. Jesus was pretty selective to whom He shared the truth to, but offered compassion and healing to as many as He could. And His judgment was woven to salvation. It was one act the baptizing of the Spirit and the baptizing with Fire – but the end results of all of this would be delayed.
f. We aren’t blind to the differences between the Christ we want or know and the Christ who actually is. We simply ignore the passages that we do not like or the times that He doesn’t behave as we’d like Him to.
g. Jesus’ words to us are the same as they were to John.
h. [Slide 11] Favored is anyone who trusts what I say to the degree that they do what I tell them to do.
Jesus having a significant crowd around Him addresses their need of the same message He just gave John.
II.) The Least in the Kingdom is greater than any prophet before, so we must trust Christ’s message and ministry. (7-15)
a. [Slide 12] 7-10 - While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? Look, those who wear fancy clothes are in the homes of kings! What did you go out to see? A Prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Look I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way before you.’
i. We see here that Jesus knows the people who stand before Him were not just familiar with John, but most (probably not all) but most had actually gone out to the wilderness to hear him.
ii. Jesus is asking them questions to help them understand their own motivation for going to hear John preach.
iii. A reed shaken in the wind is an idiom to describe someone who is a pushover. Did you go out to the wilderness to hear a man that was easily silenced? A man who was easily unconvinced of his beliefs? Of course the answer is no. No he was a man of conviction. That is what drew us to him.
iv. [Slide 13] A man wearing fancy clothes or soft clothes is a description of someone who was in the elite class. Jesus is asking, did you go because society told you to? Did you go because it was good for your career or good for your advancement? Again the answer is no. In fact the opposite. To go and hear John would have been political suicide because he was not of the elite, he wore camel skin, ate locusts, and lived in the wilderness.
v. [Slide 14] A prophet? – YES a prophet. And what is the significance there? Israel has neither seen nor heard from a prophet of God for 400 years. To put that in perspective for you…
1. The invention of the automobile (something most of us have had in our lives since birth) was 132 years ago in 1886.
2. The Declaration of Independence was signed 242 years ago.
3. 400 years ago, Europe was embroiled in a civil war over protestant and Catholic States and lasted more than 7 times longer than our Civil War and claimed almost 13 times as many lives. Can anyone name the war? [you got it right. Can you name the primary nations in the war?]
4. My point is that 400 years ago is an awfully long time. And the Nation of Israel had not heard from God for that long. It was the first dark ages.
5. So when John walks on the scene – it is like blinding light entering a dark room. You can’t help but turn your eyes to look.
vi. But he was more than a prophet. He fulfilled prophesy as a prophet.
1. From Malachi 3:1 – God will send a messenger to clear His way.
2. John is the prophet of prophesy. He is the greatest prophet that has ever been. He prepares the hearts of the people for the Lord who came to save them.
b. [Slide 15] 11 – I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.
i. Born of women – This is an idiom to mean everyone. Not too hard to spot since everyone is born of a woman.
ii. However there may be an interesting play on words here. We know that elsewhere Jesus has taught that a person must be born again. Not of woman but of Spirit.
iii. So even though of all natural men, John the Baptist was the greatest born…
iv. Even the least of those who have been born of the Spirit of God into the New Covenant of Christ’s Blood – will be greater than he. What does this mean?
v. There are probably two elements to this
1. A person living under the old covenant will only see shadows and glimmers of the Messiah – but a person in the New Covenant are placed IN CHRIST. We are intimately woven to Him. So even the least of us, are in Christ.
2. The second element is probably that Jesus is predicting that John the Baptist will die before the crucifixion and resurrection. Which we know is also true. He would never have the opportunity to be a New Covenant believer because he would die before the New Covenant was ratified.
c. [Slide 16] 12-14 – From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is come.
i. Ever since John began to preach the persecution of those who spoke about the coming Kingdom had been turned into HIGH gear.
ii. Forceful people lay hold of it – What does this mean? - Contextually speaking it makes most sense that there are those who have tried to forcefully take the keys of this kingdom for themselves to prevent others from entering. (which is a theme he later brings up as He accuses the Pharisees of knowing the truth but keeping people from it)
iii. Even in that 400 years of no new prophets, the old prophets’ words endured. They could have looked to those. And now, Jesus using the same context from before cites Malachi 4:5 where the prophet records God’s promise to send Elijah at the dawn of the salvation of Israel and the world. Jesus says – that John is Elijah. Not literally – not reincarnated or possessed. But Elijah and John have so many similarities it is – eerie. And that is what Jesus was pointing out.
d. [Slide 17] 15 – The one who has ears had better listen!
i. This is a pretty common expression from Jesus, but what does it mean?
ii. He ended his statements to John, basically saying, John, LISTEN UP – TRUST ME.
iii. It is almost the exact same thing here. Jesus says to the crowds. You better listen and you better trust me.
iv. But about what?
e. John was special. He fulfilled some great prophesies and was a great prophet. He prepared the way for the Messiah. But guys! I AM THE MESSIAH. Stop trying to fit me in to your old system. In my system… my covenant that I am bringing… the least partaker is greater than John. WAKE UP! TRUST ME! Forget what you think you know and listen.
f. Again the application is readily available to us.
g. I was raised in church. I’ve been taught Churchianity for a long time. I know how church is supposed to be. I know how to market the gospel. I know how to make it appealing. I know how to do outreach. I know how to design programs. If we wanted thousands of people here, we could do it.
h. [Slide 18] Great idea – two words – FREE BEER. We’d have boatloads. They’d come for miles.
i. [Slide 19] But our perception of the gospel, of the church, of Christ – is a slave to what the Word of God says it is. And if it isn’t in here – we have NO BUISIINESS DOING IT. And yes that means we throw out free beer. But I fear that much of what we call church – must also be cast aside. Much that we claim is the character of Christ, would need to be put into appropriate perspective. And much of what we claim is woven to the gospel, must be trimmed instead.
j. Stop listening to what you have always been taught. And listen to Him.
Jesus now is going to point out the fundamental problem in all of this, the one thing preventing them from listening to Him. And it is pretty scary.
III.) John and Jesus failed men’s expectations but their work is indisputable, so we must trust Christ’s message and ministry. (16-19)
a. [Slide 20] 16-17 – To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
i. Jesus is not at a loss for a comparison here.
ii. He isn’t actually asking for a good analogy. This is a rhetorical device used to clue us in to the extremity of the fallen generation.
iii. And indeed his comparison is extreme
iv. But what is this comparison? Children in the market playing a flute and weeping? What is that about?
v. This is probably an ancient version of simon says. Who knows how many other commands and responses there were, but what is clear is that when the leaders start to pretend to play a flute, everyone is supposed to act the part and dance. When the leaders wail and mourn, the others are to do the same.
vi. Ok. So how does that apply to the generation of Israelites that he is talking to?
vii. Read on
b. [Slide 21] 18-19 – For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
i. John came with a message of repentance. He separated himself from society and people had to come to him. But they called him demon possessed for doing it. They told him to dance and he didn’t.
ii. Jesus came with the same message, but dwelt among them, eating and drinking with sinners and healing the sick and afflicted. But they accused him of being a glutton, a drunk, and consorting with seedy characters. They told him to weep and he didn’t.
iii. They wanted to determine the message of John and Jesus, but John and Jesus did not listen.
iv. But in the end, the message and ministry of John and Jesus are indisputable because of the prophesies they were fulfilling.
c. And this is the great tragedy, the one thing preventing them from understanding what Jesus was saying. It is that while this generation was playing games, with a specific set of rules that all the players are expected to play by – God sent His Son to break the power of sin and make them new. It was no longer a game with their man made rules. It was God bringing life to the dead through His Son.
[Slide 22 (blank)] So at the end of this encounter, what can we glean? What can we learn and how can we live?
The correlation between 1st Century Israel and 21st Century USA is astounding.
They had a long deeply religious history. In foundations we have been able to trace that from the nation’s inception. But what we have also noticed is the roller coaster ride that is this nation’s Spiritual connection to their God. It goes in cycles or waves and each low is lower than the last – each high is lower than the last – until God does something big. Then they surge ahead and have a time of devotion and dependence on their God. But those times grew shorter and farther between.
In the first century, they very much were a post-Yahweh culture. They had the visage of spirituality. There were temples and people read from the scrolls. But the holiest among them were arrogant, self-righteous and unloving. And while there were some who genuinely depended on and sought after God – most were in it to gain something for themselves.
To the extent that they had made God’s salvation plan all about making them the greatest nation on earth. They had devolved his favor and grace into a birthright connected to Abraham, something they did not deserve became something they were entitled to. And they had exchanged true contrition and dependence into a growing list of rules, ceremony and tradition to which they adhered in varying degrees.
They had a form of godliness – but were devoid of His power.
And in this post-Christian culture – we too have boiled down the gospel to a 3 sentence prayer. We made God’s salvation plan all about His love for us and His desire for us to be happy in this life or the next. We have chosen to emphasize our choice to rescue ourselves by reaching for his life raft, instead of emphasizing that He threw it to us. Instead of seeing ourselves as wicked and only deserving of God’s wrath – we insist that He came to save us because we were of immeasurable value to Him. We have exchanged the message of repentance and belief for the message of getting heaven and adherence to a creed. Instead of including both the message and ministry of Jesus, we extrapolate his message from his ministry. He spent all his time healing the sick and helping the poor. He will help you to so you can help others. And if you don’t believe that this is true – glance at verse 29-30 . If you think those verses are talking about Jesus helping you deal with trials then I rest my case because that isn’t even close to what He is talking about. We’ll get to that soon.
In all of this there are hints of truth– but there were hints of truth in all of what the 1st century Jew believed too.
It is not the truth in this that is the problem, it is all the missing truth and outright lies that have invaded that render it a form of godliness that is devoid of HIS POWER! It is a useless gospel, a useless Salvation, a useless Christ that we have made.
John and Jesus stepped on the scene then, as they would also do today, with a message that is radically different than what the mainstream religious entities were teaching.
Jesus’ message was of hope and judgment. Repentance and belief. He didn’t offer it to everyone and although He showed compassion by healing, the most compassionate thing He did was not telling the truth to those who would not believe.
Our application from this is to stop adhering to baseless theology that has no roots in the Word of God. Stop believing something just because it sounds good or is popular among Mainstream Christianity. If you cannot find it in the Word of God – or if it is not plainly taught in God’s word – then STOP BELIVING IT. Why?
Because it shows that you believe and depend on religion and not Christ. That what you’ve been taught is greater than the Spirit’s teaching through the Word.
[Slide 23 (end)] Stop making the bible a slave to your theology and make your theology a slave to Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
Because to be quite honest it doesn’t matter what Calvin, Luther, Ryrie, Jeremiah, MacArthur, Chan, Stanley, Platt, Walker, Sproul, Osteen, White, Freeman or anyone else says. Total dependence on Christ begins and ends with deriving all we believe from what He reveals in this book – and nowhere else.
Our usefulness for the Kingdom of God depends on this… That God gives us grace to show us who Christ truly is, so we may know Him in His death and resurrection.
I hope that is your prayer today.