Are You The One Who Is To Come?
Jesus assures us that He is the one to come.
- call upon someone to summarize the previous week
- read Matthew 11:1-30
- pray for the scripture and the lesson
While in prison, John asks the “Are you the one who is to come? Jesus not only responds to him, but also to the unresponsive majority as well as the responsive minority. When I read the passage, I see 3 main divisions:
- Jesus responds to John who is the last prophet - Matthew 11:1-15
- Jesus denounces the cities who did not repent - Matthew 11:16-24
- Jesus promises to the people who are heavy laden - Matthew 11:25-30
Jesus responds to John who is the last prophet - Matthew 11:1-15
(read Matthew 11:1)
We get the impression from the first verse that Jesus had sent off His disciples, leaving himself free to go out and minister to the people through teaching and preaching.
(read Matthew 11:2-3)
John had spent probably upwards of a year in prison; "For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife," (Matthew 14:3). He hadn’t had the opportunity to see Jesus’ minister directly himself. He probably didn’t even have any direct contact with Jesus after His baptism. He had been getting intermittent reports from his disciples, but he didn’t really have the full picture.
In some ways it is a bit difficult to understand how John could question that Jesus was the Messiah after all that he had seen. As John MacArthur points out, John the Baptist had introduced Christ as One who would bring a fierce judgment and “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (3:12). He was understandably confused by the turn of events: he was imprisoned, and Christ was carrying on a ministry of healing, not judgment, in Galilee, far from Jerusalem, the city of the King—and not finding a completely warm reception there (cf. 8:34). John probably wondered if he had misunderstood Jesus’ agenda. It would be wrong to interpret this as a wavering of his faith - Doubt might be better described as perplexity or confusion. We should remember that John hadn’t seen Christ at the cross, nor obviously His resurrection and ascension. He was did not seem to be indwelt with the Spirit as other prophets had been.
- I know that I have had numerous doubts about both the existence of God and then about His relationship with me. I have seen signs and still wondered if it was God or coincidence.
- Do you have your moments of doubt, particularly when things are tough and not going the way you think they should be?
Like most of the Jews, John was probably expecting the Messiah to come and immediately to judge Israel and to establish His earthly kingdom (read Matthew 3:11). He was meant to come in as a great warrior and political leader. BSF explains that the reality however, was more like 2 mountain ranges, with one behind another - we see both, but do not see the space in between, so the timing of what we are looking at is not correct. The reality is that the first coming of Christ, was as the suffering saviour. He came to earth to save us from our sins and put us in a right relationship with the Father. He will come a second time as the conquering powerful king to mete out justice throughout the world and to judge according to His good will. The Jews tended to focus on the latter, ignoring the prophecies of the suffering Messiah. They only saw the political deliverance of Israel
The whole process of Him coming to earth to save us is sometimes called the beginning of “redemptive history” where He redeems us or in other words, pays the price to have our sins cleansed.
- Do you understand what He came to do and how He came to do it?
(read Matthew 11:3-6)
Jesus wants to reassure John, so he tells John’s disciples to tell him about what is happening. Jesus' response to John's question was filled with quotations from Isaiah and John quoted Isaiah more than any other book of the OT. (read Isaiah 29:18-21, Isaiah 35:4-7, Isaiah 42:1-16 and Isaiah 61:1-3). (NET) Jesus is answering not by acknowledging a title, but by pointing to the nature of his works, thus indicating the nature of the time
- Does Jesus give show you miracles and do you recognise them for what they are?
(read Matthew 11:7-10)
Jesus now turns to the crowds to talk about John. In the light of John the Baptist’s question, some may have questioned his commitment to the Messiah. This may have prompted Jesus’ supportive statements about John. They had been out to see John, so Jesus seems to remind them that they had gone out to see him and ask them why they had done it if he wasn’t the prophet they thought he was. John was more than a prophet:
- (BSF) last OT and NT prophet
- (BSF) honour of introducing Messiah to Jewish nation
- (NET) he introduces the one (Jesus) who brings the new era
He reaffirms it by quoting Malachi 3:1
(read Matthew 11:11-15)
Jesus continues on to lift up John to the crowd, but He also tells them that even though he was the greatest on earth, he is still below the lowest in heaven. (NIB) As great as John was during Jesus’ day, his position as forerunner was inferior to that of the least person in the kingdom of heaven, because that person will have seen and understood the finished work of Christ on the Cross and through His resurrection—events that John would not live to see. (BSF) John was still not in the kingdom of heaven that he announced. Remember that he died before Jesus and therefore the sending of the Spirit. While he was a friend of the Bridge-groom, Jesus’ disciples would be part of the church and therefore His bride.
In verse 12, we hear Jesus talk about violence. There are different opinions on what this means exactly. (BSF) 2 interpretations: forcefully means either "as against physical opposition" or "a kind of force of concentration, referring to the opposition against the kingdom"
John MacArthur points out that from the time he began his preaching ministry, John the Baptist evoked a strong reaction. Matthew says, “the violent take it by force,”. (read Luke 16:16 - “everyone is pressing into it”). So the sense of this verse may be rendered this way: “The kingdom presses ahead relentlessly, and only the relentless press their way into it.” Thus again Christ is magnifying the difficulty of entering the kingdom
Going on to verse 13, we read that John was the last of the prophets; whose purpose was to tell about Jesus. Now that He had come, their mission is complete. Jesus encouraged John and exhorted the crowds by acknowledging John as "Elijah to come" (read Malachi 4:5-6). This would have also indirectly confirmed that the time of the Messiah had come.
- Do you recognise those sent by God to do or speak something into your life?
Jesus denounces the cities who did not repent - Matthew 11:16-24
(read Matthew 11:16-19)
Jesus next rebukes the people for not believing and reacting the way they were supposed to. (NET) “The children of this generation were making the complaint that others were not playing the game according to the way they played the music. John and Jesus did not follow “their tune.” Jesus’ complaint was that this generation wanted things their way, not God’s. The people were so out of tune with Jesus and John that John was condemned for not eating and drinking and Jesus was condemned for eating and drinking.
(read Matthew 11:20-24)
Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were all cities in which Jesus had ministered and performed miracles. As such, they were eyewitnesses to his power. BSF points out that unlike Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, these 3 cities had no excuse for not knowing the Christ as He had been amongst them. Their sin was hearing the message, witnessing the power and being brought into contact with God's messenger, but doing nothing about it. Our knowledge of sin from the whole of the Bible is a double edged sword, in that we know God's Word, so we know what to do, but because we know God's Word, we have no excuse for not doing it. We must repent before the day of judgement.
- What do you do with the knowledge that you get from the Bible?
- Do you repent of your sins?
Hades is a Greek word used to denote the state or place of the dead. To be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into Hades, are equivalent expressions. The word is usual rendered sheol in Hebrew.Jesus makes a direct judgment on Israel (v.20, 22) and also indicates that there will be degrees of punishment in hell for the ungodly (v.22, 24)
- Do you recognise Hell as a real place for unrepentant sinners?
Jesus promises to the people who are heavy laden - Matthew 11:25-30
(read Matthew 11:25-26 and Luke 10:17-20)
The Luke passage tells us that the 72 disciples return glorifying the name of Jesus; who in turn tells them that while it is a good thing that the spirits submit to them, it is even better that their names are written in heaven. Jesus prays for the success of their mission trip praising the innocence with which they went (thanks to the Father).
- Have you had an experience of going on a journey for God and finding “success”?
- Do approach God or His work with an innocent or humble heart?
- Do you thank God for using you or others in His kingdom work?
(read Matthew 11:27-30)
Jesus continues on by proclaiming a kingdom truth; that it is the Son, Jesus who chooses those who will follow Him.
- I never knowingly wanted to follow Christ. It was only through His power within me that led me to church and to read the Bible and ultimately to follow Him
- Do you submit to God’s calling upon you to follow Him?
- Do you recognise His power to do so?
John MacArthur points out that that the last section may be an open invitation to all who hear—but phrased in such a way that the only ones who will respond to the invitation are those who are burdened by their own spiritual bankruptcy and the weight of trying to save themselves by keeping the law. But the truth of divine election in v. 27 is not incompatible with the free offer to all in vv. 28–30.
The image of the yoke in verse 30 is a great illustration. A yoke is a wooden or iron frame for joining two oxen or other draft animals so they can pull a plow, cart, or other heavy load. As we put the full weight of that yoke on, we labour through such a heavy burden. This burden can be guilt, religiosity, the endless effort to save oneself from the “law” or “religion”. Jesus only requires us to believe in Him for eternal life. He will carry our burdens for us.
- Do you thank God for the things that He has done in the life of you or others?
- Do labour with the heavy burdens of religion or the world?
- Have you believed in Jesus and do you let Him carry your burdens?
We need to recognise Jesus as God and to repent of our sins and then, and only then, can we take comfort in His promise to carry all of our burdens.
- Closing prayer