Matthew chapter 11:1-11 (continued)
“When Jesus finished instructing His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said to Him, ‘Are You He who should come, or should we look for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. Blessed is he who does not fall away because of Me.’
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the crowds concerning John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written:’
‘Look, I am sending My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You. Truly I say to you, among those who are born of women, there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’”
We ended our look at chapter 10 with a challenge to all of us to invest our resources in the kingdom of heaven. We are to look out for the needs of our brothers, sisters and the needs of the poor around us whenever and wherever possible.
Too many of us use our monies and resources for a lot of things that have no eternal benefits. Where you spend your money will say a lot about what or to whom you are committed. Money talks as they say. My question is what does your money say about you, your loyalties and your priorities?
Today we will move into chapter 11 and we encounter Jesus teaching about John the Baptist. He is a great part of the Gospel story and we will explore a bit about him today.
Are You the One? Verses 1-3
When one sees this verse it would be easy for some of us to judge John and say that he was doubting that Jesus was who He said he was. John, of course, was Jesus’ cousin; he was about 6 months older that Jesus. He would have known Jesus from his youth, he would have seen him at family functions like weddings or as they went to the Temple to sacrifice. We are not told how much they would have seen each other but John certainly would have known both from his mother and father who Jesus was and is.
John was more than just a messenger or a prophet of God. He was the greatest prophet in two senses. He was the last Old Testament prophet. After 400 years of silence from God after Malachi the prophet spoke, God raised up John the Baptist to usher in the age of the New Covenant. John was the forerunner to the Messiah and as Jesus points out the fulfillment of a prophecy found in Malachi 3:1:
“I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. He is coming, says the Lord of Hosts.”
A forerunner in that day was someone who ran ahead of a dignitary (most often a king), to let the people know that he was coming. The forerunner would go to the people that the king was planning to visit and let them know to “make the paths straight” for the king to come to them.
The people upon hearing the news would flatten the roads and make the road as straight as possible so that the king would have the least amount of work to get there. He would be able to make a straight line to the place he was planning to visit.
This was the intention with Jesus leaving heaven to come and visit Israel. He sent a herald ahead to prepare a people for the Lord. John, we are told came preaching “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” or near. He was alluding to the coming King—Jesus, who would come to establish a new covenant in His blood with all mankind. As was His practice, God came to the Jews first to reveal himself.
He came to honor the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It would appear from some of the studying that I have done that John, like many of the Jews may have been disillusioned by the coming of Jesus. I mean here he was sitting in a prison, held captive by Gentile rulers when the man he knew was the rightful king of Israel was there in person, walking amongst them.
Where was the revolution? Where was the restoration of the nation? He was not the only one disillusioned; even after the resurrection the Apostles still were missing the point. They asked Jesus in Acts 1:6 if He (Jesus) was going to restore the kingdom of Israel?
Jesus reassured John that He was (is) indeed the Messiah. He told the men from John to tell him of the miraculous signs that they saw and had heard about. Jesus asks them to reassure John and tell him to keep the faith in Acts 1:6. It is not abnormal to have doubts or questions; this is a part of the human experience.
How we deal with doubt is very important. Jesus goes over all the miraculous works that He is doing, things we see in our lives and the lives of those around us. One of the greatest signs is that the poor have the gospel preached to them. This is still happening in every corner of the earth today.
There are missionaries in the deepest darkest places on this planet preaching the gospel; men and women who have moved their families, given up their comforts and literally risk their lives to take the gospel to those who have not heard it. The message is still the same, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As you look around you it is easy to get discouraged and downhearted, we see the state of our nations, the state of our homes, the murder of babies, and the complete disregard for the morality of God in our governments. We can get defeated and get to thinking “Woe is m.” Look around you, read the paper and the Bible and you will see that God is in control; everything He said would happen is happening and so you can trust your today and your tomorrows to Him.
He inhabits tomorrow and He will prevail—you will prevail. God is God and that cannot be changed; chin up my brothers and sisters, God is not mocked. This little ball in space will not continue to wave its fist in God’s face for much longer.
But while we wait let us be about the Master’s business, let us love one another with the fervent love. Let us serve one another with honest genuine care and concern and let us serve the lost so that by our love they too can miss hell and see the gospel in us. Jesus, are you the One? Yes, He is!
Prophets and Profit, Verses 7-9
I like money. I like to be able to take my wife out for dinners and make sure my kids have all they need and on and on I can go. Money, they say, makes the world go around. But the Bible warns us that the “love of money is the root of all evil.” All through the Bible there are dire warnings against the prophets, priest and judges of Israel not to take money or be after “filthy lucre.” In Micah 3:11 we see this verse:
“Her leaders issue rulings for a bribe, her priests teach for payment, and her prophets practice divination for money. Yet they lean on the LORD, saying, ‘Isn’t the LORD among us? No disaster will overtake us’”
In the New Testament in 1 Timothy 3:3 a bishop is also called an overseer or in today’s vocabulary (a pastor) and he should not be one who “loves money.” Man this is tough on some men today. A man naturally wants to take care of his wife and family. But standing for the truth is not supposed to be a way to riches.
If the Lord allows you to become rich, then so be it. But it is not the goal of the ministry. In the case that we are considering, the religious rulers of the day were often very wealthy, much more so than the common people, they certainly had more money than Jesus. John was of the priestly tribe, Levi, he could have been wealthy or at least wealthier than he was but he chose to be poor for the sake of his message.
The gospel is not a way to get rich. It was offered freely to all men by God so we should honor that and offer it freely as well. Money perverts the truth and once you and your family have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle it is hard to come down.
Even if you have lots of money and God blesses you that way, it may be wise to reinvest the money in God’s work rather than to spend it on things. There is nothing wrong with being rich. Solomon was rich beyond anything we can imagine even in the world of billionaires that we see today.
But getting rich at the expense of the loss of integrity is sin. It is idolatry when money becomes your god. John the Baptist was unlike the religious leaders of his day, he shied away from the luxuries and dainties of the religious sect, he, and as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) he did not drink wine, eat grapes and he certainly did not cut his hair. John would have been a very rough character compared to the groomed and polished religious sects of his day.
Unlike the religious sects of the day his message was the truth and his warning about the coming kingdom of heaven is real. John was preaching in the wilderness out by the Jordan River and people had to go out to see him. They did, many did and even Jesus did one day. John was given the privilege of baptizing Jesus as He was about to begin his earthly ministry.
Old Testament Covenant vs. the New Testament Covenant, Verses 11-12
John ended the time of the Old Testament Covenant of Laws and ordinances when he introduced Jesus to the world. He was executed shortly after that, his job complete. Jesus ushered in the New Testament Covenant that brought freedom to the whole earth. This new covenant would open the door for the Lord’s people to see Jesus at death and not pine away in Paradise waiting for the death, burial and the resurrection of the Messiah.
This new era ushered in by John when he introduced Jesus was a time when the Holy Spirit would come to live in men and women like you and me once we believed in Jesus. This new era would see you and me as the temples of God, not some ornamented building in the heart of Jerusalem that we had to go to meet with God.
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came on people at certain times. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit actually lives here on earth. In the Old Testament the High Priest had to offer a sacrifice for us so that God would have temporary peace with us. In the New Testament Jesus has offered an eternal sacrifice once and for all that allows us to have peace with God forever.
My sins are wiped away forever (Micah 7:19), cast into the bottom of the sea. You and I carry a message of grace that supersedes the Law of the Old Testament. We preach the gospel of God’s great love shown by the death of His Son on the cross. The Old Testament Law condemned us and revealed our sin. The New Testament grace, when accepted—justifies us and covers our sins.
“Jesus did it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow.”
You and I, my dear friends are greater preachers that John the Baptist; not in actions or ability, BUT in our message. The great and mighty God of heaven stepped out and touched this sin ravished earth, His holy feet walking in our filth, His holy hands touching our sinful faces, His holy love having compassion on us helpless humans, and His righteous blood spilled by the very ones He came to save.
This is the message we carry: Jesus came to us and He bowed down and put off His royal garments and put aside for 33 plus years His glorious glow so that we could touch and see and hear that God is real and that He loves us right to the utmost, even to die for us and to pay for our sins (Romans 5:8).
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of heaven? Do you want God to know who you are?
Take the message of Jesus Christ—executed, buried and resurrected to ALL that you know. Wear it on t-shirts, put it on bumper stickers, hand out Bibles, tracts and share it on FB. Get the message out: God loves you, He loves you so much that He died for you.
He took away your sin debt, He made a way, the ONLY way to heaven if you believe you can have forgiveness of your sins and eternal peace with God. This is how you become great in the kingdom of God. Tell someone, anyone that Jesus saves.
Luke 19: 9-10 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. ‘For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’”