About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 11 1:19      ch. 11:20-24    ch. 11:25-30

Jesus And John The Baptist (ch. 11:1 - 19)


After Jesus told the Twelve about the trip they were to take Matthew tells us that He went and preached in the towns of Galilee .  It thus appears that after the Twelve went on their way, Jesus went on His way to the towns and villages in Galilee .


In verse 2 we note that John the Baptist was in prison.  He was in prison because he challenged Herod about having his brother Philip’s wife.


John, while in prison heard all about Jesus.  John obviously had visitors while he was in the dungeon of prison.  They told him about Jesus.  Now John saw the Spirit come upon Jesus at His baptism.  At that point John knew that Jesus was the Messiah.  Yet for some reason it appears he might have some doubt while he was in prison. So John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the Messiah or not. John was human.  Jesus speaks well of John in the verses to come, yet still John  needed some extra confirmation. 


The exact question that the disciples of John asks is,  “are you the one that was to come, or should we expect someone else”? 


This question is interesting to me.  They didn’t ask “are you the one that is to come’, as in present or future tense.  The question was, “are you the one who was to come” – was as in past tense.  To me just by asking the question in the past tense suggests that John really does believe, but just needs a little extra confirmation.


In verse 4 Jesus tells John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him what you see and hear.  What these people see and hear should be the proof of who He is.  And what they saw is found in the following verses.  They saw blind people see, lepers healed, lame walk, the deaf hear, and the dead raised. Jesus goes on to say that the good news is preached to the poor. 


I tend to think that the word “poor” means financially poor.  Some might think it’s “poor in spirit”, and that might well be, but the words “in spirit is not in the text. 


Jesus goes on to say that “blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me”.  The word “fall away” in the Greek means to “be trapped”.   Some have fallen away on account of Jesus in times of persecution.  They feel trapped between Jesus and those whom they are being persecuted by and they give into their persecutors.


In verse 7 we see that John’s disciples are leaving and as they leave Jesus begins to speak to the crowd.  Once again we see the presence of the crowd that is always following Jesus.  Even when asked a personal question as John’s disciples did, the crowd was listening in to see what Jesus was saying, and now Jesus continues the conversation with this crowd about John.


In verses 7 and 8 Jesus asked this crowd why they went out into the desert to see John.  What were they expecting to see?  Were they expecting to see a reed blown in the wind or a man dressed in fine clothes.


We learn lots from what Jesus says of John here.  Reeds grew along the shores of the Jordon River and they would blow in the wind that would bend them over, but as the winds of persecution and accusations blew against John he did not bend over.  He stood up straight and took the opposition.


Concerning fine clothes, we know that John did not dress as someone well off and famous. Did the crowds expect to see someone well off like the Pharisees and rulers of Israel ?  If they did they would have been greatly disappointed. 


In the last half of verse 8 Jesus said that those who dress in fine clothes live in king’s palaces.  Jesus is making a statement about John here but it’s a statement with farther reaching implications.  Jesus Himself did not live in a king’s palace as we know, so this tells us how He dressed.  Dressing in the best of clothes as those in king’s palaces means very little to Jesus, which is something for the modern church to think about. 


What Jesus is saying here is that there is more to the stature of a man than his appearance.  The fact that John did not get bent over in the wind was more important than the clothes he was dressed in.


In verse 9 Jesus asked the crowd again who they expected to see in the desert.  Did they expect to see a prophet?  “Yes”, Jesus said, a prophet John was, yet he was more than a prophet. 


Jesus quotes from Mal. 3:1 that says, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you”.  Yes John was considered a prophet as Jesus thought him to be.  Yet beyond his prophetic ministry John had a ministry that no one else in history has had and that is the one spoken of in the prophets of the Old Testament who would prepare the way for the Messiah.  This is the one that would come in the spirit of Elijah as all Jews believed.


In verse 11 Jesus plainly states that there has never been anyone among men greater than John the Baptist.  His greatness came through his association with Jesus.  John was Jesus’ cousin, but being His cousin didn’t make him great.  Preparing the way for Jesus made him great. 


In the last half of verse 11 Jesus says that “he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John”.  Jesus speaks of such things many times.  He says the first will be last and the last first.  He says that we are not to lord it over others but to be servants.  The point to what Jesus is saying here is that the one who serves as Jesus served is greater than John.  A servant is usually considered as least among men, but not in the eyes of Jesus.  Jesus Himself said that He came to serve, not to be served. 


If we serve as Jesus served, in one sense of the word we are greater than John.  Jesus Himself is greater than John because in another sense of the word He is the least in the Kingdom because  He served us more than anyone. 


I don’t think Jesus is contradicting Himself here by saying John is the greatest but we can be greater.  John is the greatest in one respect while others can be great in another respect.


Verse 12 has two major interpretations depending on how you translate the Greek into English.  The NIV reads as, “from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it”.   The words “from the days of John the Baptist” mean from the day John started his ministry. 


The rest of the verse is the hard part to understand.  As the NIV puts it, it would appear that the Kingdom of  God has been forcefully moving ahead and gong gang busters since John began his ministry.  Then beyond the Kingdom advancing, men have been pushing down the walls of the Kingdom so to speak and forcing their way in.  The emphasis is on force.  The Kingdom has forced its way ahead, and men have forced their way into the Kingdom.


The KJV translates this slightly different that gives it a different meaning.  It reads, “…the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”.  This is the other major way of interpreting this verse.  The KJV seems to say that the Kingdom of God itself is suffering violence, that is to say, it’s under attack from the enemy, and the enemy is trying to take it by force, or to destroy it forcefully. 


Both of the above translations are possible.  That is to say, it is hard to translate this verse into English and there are two possible ways of dong so, which can be seen in the NIV and the KJV.  These two translations are very different, and I doubt if both can be right.  The question thus arises, “how do we know which way of thinking Jesus intended”?


You look at both of these interpretations and in light of the rest of Scripture and you ask yourself which one seems to fit best in respect to all of what the Bible says on this subject. 


We need to ask, “during the time period that Jesus is speaking of, what happened”?  Did the Kingdom of God suffer great persecution or did it advance forcefully?  Well first of all, Jesus never used forced, and force isn’t something normally associated with the Kingdom of God.  Second of all, there was great opposition to the Kingdom, that’s one reason why John himself was in prison.  Although there was those opposed to Jesus and the Kingdom, many did accept the gospel as they understood it at that time even though many fell away at a later date because Jesus’ words were too hard to follow.  Yet until then many followed Jesus around the country-side.  This does not mean they accepted the gospel He preached.  Many  did stop following Him later because His words were too hard to keep.  Did these followers force there way into the Kingdom?  Well, you might say some did, especially those who wanted to be healed of their sicknesses.


It’s my personal opinion that Jesus was saying that God’s Kingdom was being forcefully attacked, and not that people were forcing their way into it.  Many of those of the Pentecostal persuasion and the hyper-faith movement tend to like the idea that God’s Kingdom is forcefully advancing.  Many of these teachers who promote this thinking are the macho-man type of person who allow their personalities to influence interpret this verse, something that is bad hermeneutics. One mistake that many of us make in interpreting the Bible is to interpret based on our personality type.  The quiet person emphasizes Jesus meekness while the more forceful person emphasizes Jesus over turning the money changers tables.    We should try our best not to allow outside things interpret what the Bible says.


Verse 13 reads, “for all the Law and the Prophets prophesied until John”.   These words tend to suggest that at the time of John’s appearing the Law and Prophets were in effect prophesying, but once John came things changed.  John himself prophesied of Jesus and the time of Law and prophets ended.  We do know that the Law was nailed to the cross with Jesus and that the Prophets prophesied about Jesus, so it only makes sense that the days of John were transitional.  He was the link from the past into the future, the link from the Old Testament into the New Testament.  John was the last great Old Testament prophet.  New Testament prophets take on somewhat of a different roll in the Kingdom of God .  One might even say that apostles in New Testament times are equivalent to prophets in Old Testament times.  


In verse 14 Jesus says that if those listening “were willing to accept it John was the Elijah who was to come”.  As stated earlier, the Jews understood from the Prophets that someone would come in the spirit of Elijah, that is, someone like Elijah would come and prepare the way for the Messiah.  Jesus was saying that John was this man, implying that He Himself was the Messiah. 


Jesus says “if you can accept it”.  He knew well that many would have a hard time accepting that John was the one who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah, especially because he was now in prison.  It would have been hard for some to accept this because if they did, they’d have to accept that Jesus was the Messiah because that was John’s message.   


Verse 15 says that “he that has ears let him hear”.  We see this phrase a lot in the New Testament, especially in the book of Revelation.  The phrase simply points out that if you have ears, which most of us do, then pay attention and understand what your ears hear. Our problem is that we hear God’s word with our ears, but we really don’t hear with our minds and with our hearts.  There’s two ways of hearing.  We need to hear in both ways.


In verses 16 and 17 Jesus is comparing the generation of Jews to whom He has come to with a piper and a singer.  It was the custom of children in those days to play two particular games that mimicked  adults.  Pipers would play their instruments at parties and people would rejoice because of the music.  Also professional mourners would mourn at funerals along with those at the funeral. 


Jesus is saying that like litter children who play the part of a piper and the mourner, they expect those they are playing with to respond to the piping and the mourning, but they didn’t.  Jesus is like these children in that he has brought forth something to the nation of Israel but they are not responding.


Verse 18 begins with the word “for” which means this verse will help explain what Jesus just said.  This verse says that John didn’t come eating and drinking. We know the things that John ate didn’t amount to much.  He was the one singing the dirge, or as in the kids game, he was the one mourning.  Though he mourned, he was seen as one who had a demon.


In verse 19 Jesus says that the Son of Man came both eating and drinking and He’s called a glutton and a drunkard.  Obviously what Jesus was drinking was alcoholic in nature or else He would not have been called a drunkard who ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors.  The word sinners refers to immoral people like prostitutes.  Jesus was the piper as in the children’s game.  So John mourned and Jesus piped, but few responded to them. 


The last part of verse 19 says that “wisdom is proved right by her actions”.  One who is wise can be seen as wise by the result of what he does.  As the modern saying puts it, “the proof is in the pudding”.  Jesus association with tax collectors and sinners was seen as bad, yet the proof that is was actually good is in the results when these people’s lives were turned around by His presence. 


Woe Unto Unrepentant Cities  ()ch. 11:20 – 24)


In verse 20 we note that Jesus “denounced” the cities in which He did many miracles because they did not repent, even though all these miracles took place in front of their very eyes.


In verse 21 Jesus points out two particular cities, Korazin and Bethsaida.  He compares these two cites with Tyre and Sidon.  If the latter two cities had seen the miracles of Jesus they would have repented long ago Jesus says.


One thing we should understand here is that the purpose of Jesus’ miracles was not just to intrigue people and make them better, but to lead them to repentance.  This shows us the importance of miracles, and if repentance isn’t in the mind of the one wanting a miracle, there might not be a miracle for him.


Jesus uses the word “woe” to begin His warning against these two cities.  This word is often used in the Book of Revelation concerning the enemies of God who will receive the punishment and the wrath of God.  When Jesus uses the word “woe’, serious things will happen and they will not be pleasant.


In verse 22 Jesus says that it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon than for Korazin and Bethsaida on the Day of Judgment.  Once again this tells us that God’s punishment will be handed out in degrees.  Some will be punished more than others.  To me this is only the just way of doing things, and God is just.


In verse 23 and 24 Jesus points to the city of Capernaum , the city in which He used as His home base.  He asks, “will you be lifted to the skies”?  He answers by saying no. Capernaum will go to the depth because they too refused to repent.  Jesus says that Sodom would still be in existence when He spoke if the miracles that He did in Capernaum were done in Sodom.  Once again Jesus is saying that Sodom will be judged less severe than Capernaum because they did not see the miracles or have the Son of God in its midst. 


From this we learn that these cites will be judged more harshly than the Old Testament cities.  There is thus degrees in judgment between those of the Old Testament and those of the New Testament.  To the extent that people have had the opportunity to hear and see the gospel of Jesus will determine the outcome of their judgment and it is clear that New Testament people will be judged much more severely than Old Testament people.


Rest For The Weary (ch. 11:25 - 30)


In verses 25 and 26 Jesus praises His Father who He also calls Lord for “hiding these things from the wise and learned and revealing them to little children”.   He goes on to say that it was God’s “good pleasure to do so”, meaning it was God’s plan and desire to hide His truth from the learned and reveal it to the unlearned.


The words “these things” refers back to the miracles that Jesus spoke about in the last section. Even though the wise and learned men of Israel saw these miracles, they attributed them to the devil and not to God.  But it appears that God had actually blinded their understanding so they could not see where these things were really coming from. 


We thus note then anything done by our Lord can only be understood by revelation.  And God did reveal the meaning to these miracles to the “little children” which I believe in context means unlearned men.


You might wonder why God would hide this understanding from the Jewish leadership.  Well, they persistently refused to hear the prophets of old and God was simply tired of this.  It’s similar to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in Old Testament times.  Pharaoh had already chosen to harden his own heart.  God just hardened it a bit more.  So in reality it was Pharaoh’s choice to have a hard heart, and the same with the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day.


In verse 27 Jesus says something important.  He says that “all things have been committed” to Him by His Father.  This means that God the Father has placed all things under the authority of Jesus.  We see this again in the Great Commission when Jesus says, “all authority has been given unto me…” (Matt. 28:16 - 20)  If you read 1 Cor. 15 you’ll note that when all things are put under Jesus’ feet then He’ll hand all things back over to the Father, but until then, Jesus is the centre of all there is and it’s by the Father’s choice.  I believe this to be important because Christians often speak of God to the exclusion of Jesus.  But here we learn that God has put Jesus in charge of everything.  If this is so, we should be speaking of Him more than we do.


Jesus continues in verse 27 to say that no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.  This is simple common sense.  No one can know Father and Son as well as Father and Son knows each other. 


It is also important to understand as Jesus says here that no one can know the Father unless He, Jesus, reveals the Father to him.  Knowing Father or Son comes only through special revelation by Jesus and His Spirit.  Beyond such revelation, it is impossible to know God.    


In verse 28 we see the comforting words of Jesus when He says, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.  I’m sure many of the ordinary people were weary and burdened about many things, about work, about living, about Roman domination, and about all sorts of things. The rest that Jesus is speaking of here is inner rest, or inner peace.  As we’ve seen in the last chapter, Jesus doesn’t guarantee outward peace, not even in our own family, but He does guarantee an inner peace and rest that comes through trusting Him. That is really what the Sabbath command in the Old Testament is all about.  A careful study of Heb. 4 tells us as we come to Jesus in faith we enter our Sabbath rest.


In verse 29 Jesus says “take my “yoke” upon you”.  The word yoke refers to the word “burden” in the last verse.  The yoke was placed on the oxen to carry something that we call a burden.  Jesus says that we do have a burden to carry that is from Him.  We aren’t burdenless after coming to Him. He has something for us to do. In verse 30 Jesus says that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light”.  So although He does give us a burden, it’s nothing like the burden we receive from the world.


Also in verse 29 Jesus says to take His yoke and learn from Him because He is gentle and humble.  If we come to Jesus He will be gentle and humble towards us, but if we don’t come to Him but reject Him we will see another side of Jesus that is not so gentle and that side is clearly seen in the Book of Revelation.


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