John Doubts; Jesus Answers Mt. 11:1 - 6
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 11:1–11:6
1When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5the BLIND RECEIVE 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 who does not take offense at Me.”
diatassó didaskó kérussó
1When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.
This is a most interesting verse. It ties chapter 10 to chapter 11. In Ch. 10 Jesus is teaching His disciples, and indeed, all disciples about the level of commitment required of a true follower and learner of Jesus.
In chapter 11 and 12 we're going to see some different responses to who Jesus is and what He's doing. A wide gamut of responses beginning with John's. Matthew has spent 10 chapters defining who Jesus is. Now, how does the world respond.
But this verse that ties these 2 critical chapters together is interesting because in this short bit of story line, there are 3 words that describe 3 different levels of oral communication that Jesus employed.
Jesus uses words. From day one to the cross and beyond, He uses words to tell us His message from God. Jesus is a communicator.
Now this is of particular importance to me because it describes something that I never envisioned in my 62 years would matter to me. The ability, and the methods, of communication.
All of a sudden, I'm all ears, because crazy as it may be, here I am in this pulpit, and God has gifted me with the responsibility to communicate His truth to you. That's huge, and I'm scrambling to learn how to do this effectively. This isn't my natural gift.
We've done some communication exercises at work where people come and work with folks in this area. And one thing I've learned is that different people have thought processes that are very different than mine. You have these Type A, type B, type C, type D people and often what makes perfect orderly logical sense to my type brain is gibberish to yours. And vice versa.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. We think differently. And not just men and women, all these different types think differently than I do. I'm painfully aware of this phenomena.
I work many hours each week to craft these studies and I read through them and think to myself, there's some good stuff here. The Lord has been gracious and given me some good things to say. This will help folks. Folks will begin to understand more of the Bible than they did before. And so on.
But, after a year and a bit more, I'm grappling with the fact that only a small percentage of my rambling is being received. Not as many are being helped as I originally might have hoped for. The impact is small, or less.
So, here we have a verse where three different types and levels of communication are attributed to Jesus, and I'm all ears. What can I learn in order to be a more effective communicator. What can I do so you folks will be edified?
Look at vs. 1 again and let's define the 3 different types of communication and look briefly at each.
1When Jesus had finished giving instructions (diatassó) to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach (didaskó) and preach (kérussó) in their cities.
First is this word, diatosso which the translators have translated as giving instruction. But there's more to this word. We talked about it briefly before. The word is a military word and always used in reference to someone who has authority to give orders.
A military commander gives orders and his troops carry them out. A slave owner gives orders and his slaves obey by carrying them out.
diatasso is line by line instructions that describe what you must then do. Report to Fort Bragg, bldg. 700-128 at 0300 hours on 19Aug2015 And that's what you do. Without fail.
This is rare for me. I'm not comfortable enough in these shoes that God has given me. I'm sqeamish about authority. I don't give many orders around here. There's been a couple of cases, but it's sort of rare for me to diatasso. Give orders.
Jesus gave the 12 their orders, and sent them on their mission. In chapter 10 He was surrounded by them. In chapter 11, we find Him alone. They actually followed His orders. Imagine that.
Next it says; He departed from there to teach didasko.
This word means simply to teach. It's what Ted did all those years in a class room situation where you are imparting information previously not known to your hearers. You've got a blackboard and a stick to point with. And you break down the ideas into chewable chunks.
Ask any of my kids and they will tell you. Ted was a superb teacher. He realized he has all these type A B C D variety brains and when the kids would come to him later and tell him, I didn't understand a word you said, he would find other ways to explain. And he'd keep at it until he found the one that would help that kid.
Didasko is what I do most. That's what we're hammering out this morning. So far. Basic basic. Down to the word level.
I've shared this before and would love to remember where I read it, that the Bible on a scale of difficulty from 1 to 10, where 1, which is Dick and Jane walked to school, from your 1st grade reader, and 10 which is lawyer jargon that is purposely made to confuse other lawyers and is impossible to be understood, the Bible, the Word of God is at level 3.
God didn't make His book impossible. These concepts are not difficult. If you're having trouble, locate a 5th grader to help.
Jesus ventures out into the cities and towns and villages and He didasko's. He teaches. Just like this.
Then it says He kérussó's. Kerusso is to proclaim. It's louder and it has a certain authority. We translate this word 'preaching'. There is volume, and vigor, and a certain urgency included in preaching. A weightiness. Importance. Gravity.
Do we cross over from didasko to kerusso in this pulpit from time to time? Maybe. Maybe. It's something I'm aware of. I surround myself with the best preachers in the world, and hope a little rubs off.
I've been reading D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones classic book, Preaching and Preachers. He makes much of a certain "other" in real preaching. The old word is unction. There is power that doesn't necessarily originate from the preacher when there is good preaching. An annointing. A spiritual power in the room.
Preaching, with unction, if you've ever experienced it, is not something you wish would end. It's something that when you've experienced it, you can't get enough of. You're sad when the sermon is over. Not vice versa. When the Holy Spirit comes and joins with the preacher, and supplies the power, the response is that the people want more, not less.
Back to vs. 1. Do you realize that you are sitting this morning, for better or worse, give me some time, maybe I'll get better, but never-the-less, you are sitting in an unbroken line of preaching that began with Jesus.
Jesus taught the 12 how to preach. The 12 taught others, who taught others and on and on until you get to Tonopah, Nevada, and we still believe that it's necessary to have a man in the pulpit, preaching.
That unbroken lineage goes back, back, back all the way to this verse. Jesus went from village to village, and He taught, and He preached, and He ordered his disciples to go out and do the same thing, and they did, and here we are.
I am thrilled to be included in that line. I may be the smallest of the smallest, but, I'm here. It took God 43 years to consider me faithful, and He had to find a place small enough and out of the way enough for someone even like me, but here we are.
Notice one final thing. The Bible has hymns. There is mention of these folks singing together, but that word isn't here. Jesus didn't use singing or drama to teach doctrine. He used teaching, and preaching, and occasionally, direct orders. He was big on metaphor's. Words.
OK, John, the baptizer. What do you do when doubts creep in?
2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
John's story is full of pathos. I cringe to even think about the duress he was under. I fear I might go mad under similar circumstances.
John was wild and free. Sleeping under the stars every night. Eating locusts and wild honey. Faithful to his mission and completely fearless. A lion! A wildman, conrolled only by God whom he served.
Now he is locked up in a prison at machaerus. Machaerus is just east and south of the northermost point on the dead sea. Picture a prison in death valley. No comforts. Every day the solitude of oppressive heat. The misery must have been astonishing. We would go quite mad in 3 days time. Not John, he's been there a year.
And his disciples come to him and tell him, this guy isn't defeating Rome, he's joined forces with Rome. He feasts with tax collectors. Publicans. And sinners.
Note that the source of the question is that John heard about the works of Jesus. What's He doing? Well He certainly isn't doing what you said He was going to do. It's the works that gets John's doubt going.
John's doubt is the result of 4 things. We can find ourselves in any one of these 4 places and be susceptible to doubt just like even a giant like John
Difficult circumstances. Difficult times of trouble. Unexpected! You've been faithful. You've loved the Lord. Your life has honored Him, and overnight, you lose everything.
I was thinking about what a parallel Job is with John. Everything gets taken away. Slammed. In a 130 degree prison. If you don't slip into doubting, you're a better man than me. Almost anything would be less difficult for a man like John than to have been faithful and what does it get you. A prison cell below sea level.
Next is incomplete revelation. You're locked in prison and you don't know why. God didn't tell Job what was up, did He. Or John. You're slammed and there's no instruction book. God sees the end. You don't. Nobody's saying anything.
Add to that, a third problem.
Worldly influence. Job's friends pumped his head full of wrong information. They were suffering from the same incomplete revelation as Job was but they were making up the answers like mad. That doesn't help.
John's disciples were coming to him and giving accounts of bizarre, to their mind frame, behaviour.
And 4rth is unfulfilled expectations. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We'd be far worse off than John was with this one. We think God owes us a living. Our expectations are not based in reality. As soon as our happy stable life is upset, we begin to question God.
I think this was John's biggest problem. Classier in a way than how it would be for us, but still, unfulfilled expectations has mired John in confusion.
Follow me here. Let's look at 3 passages that explain where John's mindset was at. We'll get into his head, and you'll see why he's struggling to stay on the tracks.
The first is from John's lips. Recorded for us in Matthew 3:…11
"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
John was preaching imminent judgement. Fire is coming, and quickly. He's here to gather his wheat and then the chaff will burn up. Just like that.
John didn't see 2,000 years of wheat gathering. To him it was repent NOW or be burnt up tomorrow. That's still true because none of us knows when his final breath will be. It could be the one you just took. But John was preaching fire. Within days. Maybe weeks.
Where did he get that. Again, look with me at 2 passages in Malachi that talk about his very office that he was fulfilling. John knew these were about him. He was aware of His office and faithful to it.
Mal 3:1“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. 2“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3“He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. 4“Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
John WAS that messenger. And there's no grace in there. Jesus is coming with fire. Some will be refined like gold, some will be burnt up like chaff. Jerusalem and Judah will again be pleasing to the Lord. That's John's message. Right out of Malachi. That's what he was expecting. He's rotting in a 140 degree prison. You can understand his confusion. Are you the promised One?
Listen to Malachi 4
Mal 4:1“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” 2“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3“You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts.
Man, does that speak to our generation. The arrogant and the evil doers. Mercy! We've never seen anything like the generation we're witnessing as far as arrogance that goes along with the wickedness. Are we days away from this prophecy being fulfilled?
No grace here. Jesus comes and there is judgement, by fire. The righteous will tread the wicked, who are now reduced to ashes, under their feet. Literally. That's what John expected to see and hear.
vs. 5 of chapter 4 of Malachi says; 5"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. ."
Elijah comes and warns. Then the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Just like that. Nobody saw 2000 years of grace. All of these things combined have pushed a great prophet to question. Are you this person? Do we look for another?
I promised myself to turn these studies down a notch. Make them a little more hearer friendly. Try to achieve a depth where I don't lose 2/3 of you along the way. But then this stuff started jumping off the page at me. I was fascinated by this dilemma of someone as rock solid as John.
But how rock solid is John. The greatest man born of woman.
I want you to see something about John. I believe he has an achilles heal. Like the rest of us. John's father, Zacharias, is performing his duties as a priest when an angel comes and speaks to him about this very John in Luke chapter 1
In vs. 17 he says; “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
The spirit and power of Elijah. Just how much of that spirit did John get? How far does that similarity go. Well, next week we'll see that it's enough that Jesus says, if you care to accept it, he IS Elijah.
I thought it was interesting to do a parallel of Elijah and John.
The similarities are amazing. Both of them have these mountain highs of immense spiritual power. And then they both have a meltdown of sorts.
Elijah calls fire down from heaven and slays the prophets of Baal.
1Kings 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." 40Then Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape." So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
Then one woman says she'll see him dead by this time tomorrow and he sort of melts down. He runs to the wilderness and hides. He never really recovered.
John the baptist baptizes Jesus at the Jordan river. Heaven is opened and he hears God's voice. This is my beloved son . . . The spirit descends on him. John is the instrument that gets to witness all 3 of the trinity together. Amazing! And then it's sort of show over.
He baptizes at the Jordan but he decreases while Jesus increases. He challenges Herod for wickedly keeping his own brothers wife. Illicit sex. And he finds himself in prison.
Incredible highs. Then incredible lows. The parallels are telling. Both of them had the same magnificent spirit of immense spiritual power for the glory of God, followed by confusion and a time of distress.
The early church fathers were troubled by this. They couldn't have the fore-runner of the messiah melting down in prison. It messed with their theology, and some of them floated these stories of how John was fine, but his disciples were doubting, so he sends them with the question so they can get the answer. It's all about the disciples. John is fine.
I don't think so. I think John is just as human as the rest of us. And he's got the spirit and the power of Elijah. I think it fits perfect that he reacts very similarly to Elijah. Highs higher than we'll ever know. Depression in the pit deeper than we'll ever know. I hope.
John! The baptizer! Lonely, depressed, forgotten, in a stinking prison, once wild and free to glorify God at heights we can only dream of, now locked down.
Jesus isn't doing the things John said He was coming to do. Judgement on a wicked nation hasn't come.
But even though all of these elements have combined to crush John's spirit and reduce him to a puddle, he does the right thing. In his distress, who does he ask for clarity? Jesus. He goes to the source.
Doubt is one thing. Dis-belief is something else. God responds positively to us when we doubt and ask for His help. He responds in judgement when we dis-believe.
John, even in his hour of torment and stress, does not dis-believe. He doubts, but he goes right to the source with his doubts. And he will be helped. “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for another?”
Then Jesus gives an answer that is sort of cyptic in a way.
Name this tune. G G B G A A A (play on the piano from "It's a small world after all")
That's what Jesus does in this answer to John. He gives him 2 small portions of two sections of Isaiah and the entire tune is going to come alive in John's mind. Go look here; and here; John.
Since we're not as sharp in our old testament as John is, we'll go take a thorough look at both passages. BTW, we need to get sharp, so when we get locked up in jail, the pages we need will still be fresh in our minds. Like John.
4Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5the BLIND RECEIVE 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 who does not take offense at Me.”
Now I need you to stay with me. Keep your thinking hats on. Otherwise this answer of Jesus will remain cryptic.
Jesus answer to John is identical to what He told the folks in Nazareth in the synagogue right at the mark of the beginning of His public ministry. And in order to understand His answer to John, we've got to go there and look at what He said to those folks. He's saying the same thing to John. A little bit abreviated, but John will get it. Totally. Turn with me to Luke 4
16And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The part here that is cryptic, that requires some skill in your old testament is what He doesn't say.
The passage is from Isaiah 61, and Jesus purposely stopped mid sentence and closed the book. Very strange.
In Isaiah 61 it says; TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD AND THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD.”
Jesus is saying, The favor has come, the vengeance has been delayed. For a time.
That's what John needed to grasp. He has them both happening the same day. Jesus is telling John, the first part of Isaiah 61 is here. The vengeance is delayed.
The year of the Lord's favor has lasted 2000 years. The day of vengeance of our God is held in His sovereign pleasure to the very moment it begins.
And then Jesus adds; 6“And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Blessed is he who doesn't stumble over me.
I picture John's mind like a bear trap. That one small reference will take him to Isaiah chapter 8. Bam. He'll get there. This is fantastic. Here's what He just reminded John of in those few cryptic words;
13“It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
14“Then He shall become a sanctuary;
But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,
And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15“Many will stumble over them,
Then they will fall and be broken;
They will even be snared and caught.”
16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Jesus has just told John, I am the Him that you should eagerly look for in vs. 17 of Isaiah 8. Don't stumble over me, John. Make me your sanctuary.
Look at those words in verse 18 of Isaiah 8 and think of the timing of the sovereignty of God.
Jesus had just launched the 12 to go out and do miracles and broadcast the year of favor of our God.
Jesus sends John to Isaiah 8 and listen to the words. 18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Jesus was specific when He sent the disciples, the "children" out, wasn't he. Just before this event in chapter 10 He says “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He specifically told them not to go to the Samaritans or the gentiles. Why? Was it because of this prophecy in Isaiah 8 that he's going to send John to?
18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
That should make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
You can believe whatever you want. I choose to believe that Jesus, acting under the sovereignty of God, sent the disciples out on their first mission venture, with miracles at their command, specifically to Israel, in order that verse 18 of Isaiah 8 would be fulfilled when Jesus said these things to John.
How's that for God coming to your aid when you ask Him to help you with your doubts! Just knowing that and understanding the ramifications of it should quell any other doubt I would ever have. This is Sovereign God in control of prophecies written 740 years previous, to the day. Just for John!
John will understand. The Kingdom is launched. The disciples of Jesus are fulfilling the words of this 740 year old prophecy, as we speak. I did my part. It's happening! Just like Isaiah and Jesus said!
Dear ones. I hope you listened all the way through this morning. I want your faith to expand and grow. I want you to give yourselves, unreservedly, to THAT Jesus. He orders the universe and it obeys. He lives outside of time. He sees the end from the beginning. He responds to His saints when they're at the end of themselves and beginning to waver.
I'll end with Psalm 46:1,2
1God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2