The Expanding Ministry of Christ the King, and His Kingdom.
AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 11:1-19
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.
The Doubt John Had About Jesus
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
John was imprisoned because he had publicly rebuked King Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife and marrying his niece, Herodias, who had been the wife of his own brother, Philip. The marriage was a violation of God’s Law (Lev. 18:16; 20:21).
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
It is possible for the greatest of saints to have doubts. Emotions fluctuate. Therefore, every effort must be made to remember the promises, character, and good ness of God. John had a question to ask Jesus: “Are you the coming one? Are you the Messiah?”
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
In matchless grace, Jesus answered John’s specific question. Sometimes God does not give us a definitive answer to our questions. When heaven is silent, faith must believed that God always has a purpose for what He does and what is happening in the life of the believer. However, in this case, Jesus responded to John’s inquiry. “Go and show John again,” Jesus said.
The little word “again” teaches us that Christians need constant reassurance, and constant reminders of spiritual truths. Perhaps it should not be that way, but then, Christians are like children, in many ways, easily frightened and in need of reminders.
Six Messianic Signs
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. Isaiah 29; 35
There is much about the Christian life that can be heard and seen, thereby giving empirical evidence for the hope that is within the heart.
The blind is given sight.
The lame is made to walk.
The leper is cleansed.
The deaf are able to hear.
The dead are raised from the grave.
The poor are given the gospel message.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
A personal word of exhortation was given to John, for faith is personal. There is a blessing for every person who is not offended of Christ.
Three Sights to See
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?
The characteristic of a reed is that of instability. It moves one way, and then another with the blowing of the wind. When John preached, he was not a vacillator. Whatever personal doubts John might have in a private moment of personal weakness was not characteristic of his public ministry. John preached with the power and authority of Elijah the prophet. John told the truth. He spoke plainly. He was no Mr. Pliable as found in John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress.
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.
As John preached plainly, so he dressed the same. John did not clothe himself with soft raiment. He wore the rough clothing made from the skin of a camel. The longer hair of a camel, from the neck and region of the hump, was used for weaving. A “hairy mantle” was a mark of a prophet (Zech. 13:4).
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
Did you go to see a reed shaken with the wind?
Did you go to see a man clothed in find raiment?
Did you go to see a prophet?
Was John the Baptist a prophet? Jesus said He was. In fact, John was more than a prophet. He was the fulfillment of the great prophesy of expectations.
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. Malachi 4:5, 6
There are two simple principles of interpretation when reading Scripture. First, let the Bible interpret itself. Second, when it does, believe what is said.
In context, Jesus taught that John was the fulfilment of a very familiar prophesy. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5, 6).
The Jews might be looking for the literal return of Elijah the prophet, but that was not necessary. Elijah is the fulfillment of prophesy, not according to fleshy understanding, but according to Divine revelation. “This is he of whom it was written.” Prophesy is fulfilled, if you can receive it.
By quoting the prophet Malachi, and applying it to John, Jesus was identifying Himself as Jehovah, the self-Existent, or Eternal God. “Behold, I send my messenger.” Jesus was complete deity, and does not hesitate to identify Himself with the eternal Jehovah.
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.
What a superlative honor is given to John. Of all the men that have been born to women, no one is greater than John the Baptist. This would include Moses, David, Solomon, and even Isaiah.
From these words, it is evident that Jesus has a different standard of greatness than many people would have. Political, military, scientific. or personal achievement is not in view. John was great because John preached the gospel. John told people that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and they should repent.
According to Jesus, the standard of greatness is a person’s proximity to the Lord God, and to accomplishing His will in their life. By this standard, John the Baptist stands preeminently at the top.
When Christians think of greatness, let the Church consider those who have been faithful to Christ, who have proclaimed the gospel, while being within the will of the Lord.
As great as John was under the old order, the Law of Moses, with the coming of the new order, the kingdom of heaven, “The least in the gospel stands on higher ground than the greatest under the Law. How privileged are we who, by virtue of entering into the kingdom of heaven by faith, are made to see, and hear, and enjoy those things which even the prophet of prophets could not enter upon!” (Commentary on Matthew, by Charles Spurgeon.)
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Since the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, during the reign of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, political and religious leaders in Israel had been trying to impose a materialist idea of the kingdom of heaven on earth. The result was war, and rumors of war, mixed with burdensome rules and regulations on God’s people.
The true nature of the kingdom was assaulted, and rejected, reflected in the hostility of the Sanhedrin toward Jesus, and the imprisonment of John. The kingdom of heaven suffered violence.
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.
Many Bible students cannot receive what Jesus has taught about John being Elijah. There is speculation that one day Elijah will return to earth. It is believed he will prophesy for 1, 260, and become a martyr, be resurrected, and return to heaven (Rev. 11:3-12). The Jewish faith teaches the return of Elijah. In the Passover ceremony, there is a vacant chair representing a place for Elijah.
It is better to believe that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was not Elijah, but John did fulfil the ancient prophesy concerning Elijah’s appearance before the Messiah. John called upon people to repent as he proclaimed the kingdom of heaven.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Jesus Evaluated His Generation
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.
Jesus said the people of His generation were like children trying to decide what game to play. The suggestion was made to play a happy game, such as attending a wedding with music and song. No, that game was not liked. The suggestion came to play a sad game, like conducting a funeral service. No, that game was not like either.
In like manner, when John came with a sober message, it was rejected. When Jesus came with a joyous message, that too was rejected.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
When John came with a sober message telling people they had sinned against God and must repent of their sin, the people said, “He has a devil.” They did not value John, or appreciate his message.
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.
When Jesus came with a joyous message, filled with hope and happiness, the people said He was not a serious person. But they were wrong. Jesus was a very serious person. He was serious about being a Friend of sinners. He was serious about fulfilling His Father’s will. Jesus was serious about going to the Cross as the Savior of souls.
The Insults and Mockery Christ Endured
Jesus was called a glutton.
Jesus was called a drunkard.
Jesus was called a friend of publicans.
Jesus was called a friend of sinners.
Jesus was called a blasphemer.
Jesus was called a servant of Beelzebub.
Jesus was called in derision, “KING OF THE JEWS.”
Now, wisdom is shown to be right by what is done. Jesus, as the embodiment of wisdom, is shown to be the righteous Messiah, and not a glutton, or a drunkard. Jesus was not a blasphemer. Jesus was a Friend of publicans and sinners, but only so He could rescue them from the power, pollution, and penalty of sin. By using wisdom, by Being wise, Jesus vindicated that He was the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, and of His kingdom, there will be no end. It will keep on expanding.