Wednesday, January 28, 2015
By James Fire
The LORD Jesus Christ has just finished instructing His disciples on their mission for the Gospel, bringing the message of salvation to “the lost house of Israel” - but not yet the Gentiles . . . He also gave them warnings and admonitions regarding how they would be received by lost sinners and how they should respond to such dangers from those who are our persecutors. After having done all this, the LORD then proceeds to preach the Gospel and teach truth Himself among and throughout the cities of Israel. This is where we pick up in the beginning of Chapter 11:
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.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
“ . . . or do we look for another?” On the face of it, it might seem extraordinarily remarkable that no one less than John the Baptist, the bold and fiery preacher should say such a thing, questioning with some measure of doubt concerning the LORD Jesus Christ and His identity as the Messiah of Israel.
Yet consider the Baptists circumstances: he has been thrown into prison and not yet released by the Messiah King, Who surely would seek the liberation of His forerunner and staunchest supporter; the man Jesus was not readily and joyously received but rejected by Israel with increasing degree. And this One that was presumed to be the Messiah had yet to inaugurate His rightful claim to the throne of David and subsequently the commencement of His reign. We who have read the biblical account know well enough what's going on but for someone like the Baptist, who is taking these things day by day, he had no idea what was going on, or what would happen. All he knew was that he was incarcerated with no indication at all of his soon release! Let's see how the LORD answers John's disciples who were sent by him to ask Jesus about these things . . .
MATTHEW 11: 4-6
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
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.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Note what the LORD did NOT say: “I will come and release you from prison John and my Kingdom will commence soon and I will assume the throne.” What did the LORD say in regards to John's questions and doubts?
He pointed to the works that He Himself was accomplishing – the various healings upon the blind, the deaf, the lame and lepers, and even the dead were being raised up! And most especially, the Gospel was being preached to the poor (in spirit)! These were all signs of the Messiah's work, and only the Messiah would be able to accomplish all of them. We have covered before the different Messianic prophecies that would indicate who the true Messiah-King would be, and these are fulfilled in the works of Jesus Christ. He did not release John from prison however, and He did not commence His kingdom reign.
John's ministry was fulfilled as the heralder of the Messiah, and his time in this world was drawing to a close. There is coming a time when our own ministry for the LORD will near the end and finally be completed. There will be times in which such ministry will come to a (temporary) halt, if only for the LORD to give us rest, or perhaps to show us that even if we are bound to a bed of sickness, or know some other kind of restriction, His work marches on! We are not necessary for God's work to perpetuate: certainly He uses us for His glory and He is blessed to see us participate in His work – and such will of course find reward from His nail-pierced hand on the day of our judgment, but God does not depend on mere flesh and blood to accomplish His purposes (2 TIM. 2:9).
And no matter what the state of John the Baptist, or that of our own – even if we cannot continue in the ministry that we are accustomed to in our daily lives, there always remains one ministry that even the saints who are bed-ridden invalids, hospitalized patients, and imprisoned inmates can engage in, having effect in the kingdom of God both far and wide the globe over – that ministry of intercessory prayer!
The LORD ends his admonition by saying “blessed is he that is not offended in Me.” There will be those who are offended and turn back from following the LORD – as described in the pages of Scripture:
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
Stoniness, self-will and hard heartedness will always lead the way towards offense with the Holy will of God; thus the reason to be soft and pliable to the LORD as He seeks to conform and transform us into His own likeness of truth and grace; then a desire to fulfill His will over our own. Many people will claim to follow Jesus but with an agenda of their own, seeking His blessing upon their plans, wanting to conform His will to their own so that they may see their desires come to fruition. When they discover that the LORD will not comply to the whim and will of flesh and blood, they become offended and forsake the LORD, claiming that “I tried Christianity; it doesn't work!” See also MATT. 13:57; 15:12; 24:10; 26:31.
Obviously Judas Iscariot had designs for Jesus; even the other disciples were hoping that they would figure prominently in the Kingdom which they expected Jesus to commence in their life times. All of Israel's religious body, the Sanhedrin, were looking for a warrior Messiah like unto Joshua or David who would throw off the Roman yoke of bondage that they were living under. John the Baptist expected to get liberated from his confinement as well; these were all disappointed because God's will lay in a different direction (at the time of the LORD's earthly ministry) than what they purposed.
God's will invariably is intent upon a greater, more needful work, one that will bless others rather than gratify selfish desires or lusts. We know this to be true in our prayer lives as well:
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The LORD Jesus then addresses the crowd before Him concerning John the Baptist:
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?
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.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
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.
Though John expressed his doubts, even to the point of sending his disciples to the LORD Himself, asking Him these questions, the LORD patiently pointed to the fulfillment of ministry He was accomplishing, according to the Scriptures. We likewise may have a crisis of faith, but the LORD won't forsake us; rather He will point us to His Word of Truth and fulfill His Word in our lives, such is His holy integrity and faithfulness (2 TIM. 2:13).
By pointing out John the Baptist as “my messenger . . . which shall prepare thy way . . .” He was once again claiming to be the Messiah of Israel, for this messenger was the one who would precede Him Who is the LORD, Judge and the Son to Whom the Father has committed all judgment; all of these descriptives portray the Messiah of Israel (See MAL. 3:1-5 and JOHN 5:22). Each of us are in a sense a kind of 'John the Baptist' in that we desire and pray to lead sinners to the LORD Jesus Christ; we precede Him in their lives and then move aside once He enters their lives and confronts them with the Truth of the Gospel.
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.
This is an incredible statement! Particularly because the LORD states that among men, there were none greater than John the Baptist, yet here He declares that the least of the kingdom of heaven is greater than he! What could this possibly mean? John the Baptist was referred to before (by himself) as “the friend of the bridegroom” or as we might put it, the 'best man', a great honor for this man who would play such a role for the Messiah! Yet once the kingdom of heaven is inaugurated with the Messiah reigning over Israel, the subjects of that kingdom will enjoy an even higher honor than John the Baptist had during his earthly ministry! How the LORD will bless His people with such blessings as these!
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
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.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
There is much conjecture about what vs. 12 could mean; I believe what applies here is that there were those in religious authority (the Sanhedrin) who were reluctant to surrender such authority when the One Who holds all authority has arrived. The LORD alluded to such Himself in MATT. 21:33-43.
The term “law and the prophets” refers to the canon of what we call the Old Testament; here the LORD was stating that the canon and the covenant of the old, that is the Mosaic (conditional) covenant; (not the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants which are unconditional) is ended with the coming of John the Baptist. Its ending was not enacted until the new testament was sealed with the death of the testator (the LORD Jesus Christ Himself; see HEB. 9:16), but the LORD is revealing that a new dispensation was about to take place – John the Baptist is a type of Elijah who was prophesied to come before the coming of the Messiah to reign. And just as Elijah will in fact arrive and announce the new dispensation of the kingdom of heaven, John the Baptist as a type has come at the end of this dispensation in which the blood of bulls and goats will no longer be valid, but rather the blood of the LAMB by which the new testament is sealed.
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.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
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.
This represents the establishment's utter rejection of the LORD's great work, both in the ministry of the forerunner, John the Baptist as well as the Messiah Y'shua, the LORD Jesus Christ. They criticized John for his austere conduct, and the LORD's own because of His liberality. The religious will never accept the spiritual work of God's saints; they are offended by grace and much rather prefer to obligate their followers with religious burdens, subject to the keeping of laws, ordinances, rules and obligations which in some way benefit these leaders, who promise them salvation if they abide by their religion. Sadly, not much has changed in today's world. The legalists, the Judaizers, the religious pomp of the establishment's elite are by no means extinct!
The Gospel is a simple Gospel indeed:
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christwe shall be saved, even as they.
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
There are those who would want to turn the gift of God into hired pay, who would string along all sorts of requirements FOR salvation which is by grace through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ – and nothing else! Once a person is actually saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then they are enabled by that same saving grace to follow after the commands of Scripture – FROM their salvation experience! And the motive of such obedience isn't to gain favor, or benefits, or earn a greater place in heaven – though these will certainly be by-products for such; but the motive itself is simply a grateful love for the LORD, for all that He has done for us, demonstrating His love for us (1 JOHN 4:19).
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
In any city around the world, today just as much as in the days in which our LORD lived in the world, we find a far higher level of education, culture, sophistication and refinement than in the country side. In our LORD's day, Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum were such places that disdained the Gospel of the Kingdom, that refused to hear the LORD and His Word, who disregarded His miracles and would rather remain resolutely upon their talmudic interpretations of rigid religious requirements of their Mosaic Law. The LORD compared ancient cities such as Sidon and Tyre, of even Sodom as those kinds which, though their sin and rebellion were grievous, He attests to the fact that they would have repented. The greater responsibility of those places that the LORD visited was because that it was not some mere prophet like Elijah or Jonah that came to them, but God manifested in the flesh!
Insomuch as in today's world, we can still find Bibles in some hotel and motel rooms; we can still find Bibles is various kinds of stores; we can even download Bibles onto our apps for our smart phones. We have access to the complete revelation of God's holy Word today, but it's still for the most part ignored or even ridiculed! The weight of judgment upon such souls will be far heavier as a result of such negligence! May I encourage any who are reading this, if you have not believed the Gospel and looked into the Bible (for YOURSELF), then please do so! Our time in this world prior to the return of the LORD Jesus Christ is drawing to a close, and once He returns, any such opportunity for salvation will be gone! We have a clear message of The GOSPEL on this web site: follow the link provided and read, consider and prayerfully seek the LORD!
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
In Luke's Gospel it states that the LORD Jesus “rejoiced in spirit” in this prayer to the Father (LK. 10:21). “Rejoiced” here is from the Greek word agalliao (pronounced ag-al-lee-ah'-o) from agan (much) and 242; properly, to jump for joy, i.e. exult:--be (exceeding) glad, with exceeding joy, rejoice (greatly).
Can you picture our LORD so exuberant that He actually leaps for joy in what He is praying about to the Father? And what is it that has Him so excited with this exceedingly great joy?
It's the fact that the Father has hidden these deep spiritual truths from “the wise and prudent of this world” and rather has revealed them to “babes”. What could this possibly mean? Paul the apostle has the answer we are seeking here:
1 COR. 1:18-31
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
I believe it was Queen Victoria of England who once declared that she was saved by an 'M' because of verse 26 where is says, “ . . . not many noble, are called” but it doesn't say “ . . . not any noble . . .” and she no doubt was grateful that she herself as a nobility of England had been called of God, and redeemed.
The LORD delights in revealing the so-called wisdom of this world in the Light of His own wisdom for what it truly is – foolishness! And that such God-breathed wisdom should be manifested in – not the mighty or the noble (intellectually, physically, financially, socially, etc) but the base and despised and the weak and simple of this world are far more often humble enough to submit to the LORD and His Word, and by such a humbling, the LORD God in His gracious and tender kindness exalts them in the wisdom and knowledge of His Word by His Spirit (See also EPH. 1:8, 17; JAMES 4:10; 1 PET 5:6)!
And now we come to one of the most beloved passages of Scripture:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The sin-weary world is burdened by the corruption of the curse of sin that we have known longer than the time when the first child was ever born on this planet. We have lived under this curse and know it intimately in every struggle, every pain, every hardship and sorrow and we so often wonder why life can be so difficult (I often wondered this in my 'B.C.' days prior to my conversion.
The answer is of course, that apart from God and His life giving Spirit, there is every reason to expect such a burdensome curse. For with God there is peace, there is joy and love, there is order and justice, there is every blessing to be had when one is in harmony with the will of God. Conversely if one is opposed to the will of God, then the above mentioned hardships will be evidenced.
Does this mean that the child of God will never know trial and hardship and struggle? Those of us who've been Christians for a while know that this isn't true, that we do indeed know these things just as our fellow man who does not know the LORD, does.
The difference is that in the midst of such struggles, we have the Spirit of God with and in us, ministering His grace and peace so that we may bear up under such burdens, victoriously expressing inexplicable joy and peace through the LORD Jesus Christ!
And we who know the LORD have the promise from God's Word that one day, this curse of sin will be removed from this world, as well as from our natural bodies ((See ROM. 8:18-23) which still harbors the sin nature along side the nature born in us by the grace of God when we first believed the Gospel and received Jesus Christ as our LORD and Savior). The struggles in this world as well as in our own persons will one day be gone, and absolute and complete harmony with the will of God will be known; we saints shall “delight [ourselves] in the abundance of peace” PS. 37:11; see also 1 COR. 15:53-54.
Just as the LORD rested on the seventh day, after His work of creation, so also the LORD established the rest for us when He finished His work of redemption.
In the office of the high priest, when he was functioning in the temple, he could never find a chair in those holy quarters, for he was busily ministering of the things of the temple, offering prayers and sacrifices for the sins of the people. Yet the LORD Jesus Christ as the Holy and Exalted High Priest of the church, after the order of Melchizedek (HEB. 5:6), after His work of redemption was completed, “sat down on the right hand of the Father” (HEB. 1:3; 10:12). And the LORD Jesus Christ has become our Sabbath rest, for those of us who receive the salvation that He offers:
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
It is for this reason that the church recognizes Jesus Christ as our Sabbath rest, and we no longer have to labor miserably in this cursed world of sin, earning the wages thereof (ROM. 6:23) which is death (not merely physical death, but destruction and ruin to everything we possess in this life, because of the curse).
Only Jesus can give us this rest. Only Jesus can remove the heavy burdens that weigh us down so sorrowfully. Only Jesus can impart knowledge of Himself so that we may learn of Him, and find joy and contentment and satisfaction as a result of such Divinely imparted knowledge. Only Jesus can call us, once we receive Him and the salvation He offers, alongside of Himself and follow Him in service for the Kingdom of God – never knowing the heaviness of the yoke (symbolic of service) because we are yoked up together with our LORD and He bears the brunt of the load!
This is a delight and a joy, being in service with the KING and it is far, FAR more glorious than anything that this world has to offer! Our “meek and lowly” LORD Jesus provides the rest that our souls can be blessed with, from here to eternity!
Here ends this study of Chapter 11. In Chapter 12 we have a profoundly significant incident that correlates with a similar event that took place in MATT. 9:32-34. When the witness of the Messiah is rejected based on these specific miracles that He performed in these two chapters, it alters the LORD's ministry and relationship to Israel as a nation, which we shall see in the chapters following! Until then, may the LORD bless and keep you in the grace and knowledge of the LORD Jesus Christ!
Posted by James J. Fire at 12:49 PM