Matthew 11: Online Bible lessons

Welcome everyone to the online breaking of bread. For this gathering today I would just like to consider some words and lessons from our Beloved Saviour Jesus Christ. Very fitting as he is one of the main reasons we are gathered here at present.

From vs 7-9 we read:

Matthew 11:7-9   7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.  9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

Jesus asks the crowd about John the Baptist. What kind of man did you see out there in the wilderness? Jesus is obviously asking this question too with the hindsight of the past few verses. In Mathew 11:1-7 it speaks of how earlier John had enquired from his prison cell as to whether Jesus was the ‘Christ’ that was spoken of. Which fairly promptly we see Jesus point to the miracles that were going on about him.

But anyway the point Jesus asked was probably in relation to this question posed by John himself earlier. Basically John is asking are you the Saviour? And Christ in befitting Christ likeness asks the people about John. Did you indeed go out to see a Man in the Wilderness that Swayed like a Reed? Someone who was tossed and turned by a mere breeze? Well the answer was quite obviously no. John had a very strong and unfaltering message. Well did the people then see John as a plushy dressed rich man waltzing around the desert? Jesus answers his own question in quite a cynical way. No, those who wear such clothes belong in Kings Palaces. And John certainly would never have been found there.

So Jesus then asks what did you go to see, was it a prophet? And quite rhetorically the answer being, ‘Yes’, even more than a prophet.  Then Jesus quotes the famous words of Malachi 3:1

I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'

So what do we make of these few verses? What do they mean for us? Well I think we can see Christ also asking the same question of us. For we are the ‘John the Baptists’ in our own time. We are to make plain the way for Christ’s Final return. So do we just flap in the breeze with any ill wind? Do we forget our role in this life and the message we must deliver? Do we also look forward to adorning ourselves or dressing up in the latest expensive fad instead of sewing the seed we should? Do we indeed go to the ugly desert places in our lives to spread the gospel, or do we only teach from our palaces or halls? I think these are things we need to consider.

Verses 11-15 read as such.

Matthew 11:11-15  11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.  13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.  15 He who has ears, let him hear.

I do believe these verses really put a lot of history into perspective. For even before the Law of Moses was brought into being there were still many prophets and teachers and Laws and Customs in relation to God’s faithful. However with the verses we just read we can see the point to all this.

Firstly though Christ tells us that there has been no greater than John come that has been born of a women. I guess apart from Adam and Eve who certainly were not all that great, this makes John quite special, if only for an instant. But then Christ tells us that someone who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven completely wipes John’s greatness out. Well in fairness to John the emphasis here is on the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, or on the ‘Kingdom from the Heavens’. In other words this is the origin of the Kingdom to be. So why is the smallest in this Kingdom greater than John? Well this new Kingdom is fashioned around Christ and his introduction of the aspect of ‘grace’. Believers such as ourselves who are reliant on ‘grace’ for salvation automatically become greater than John because grace is provided directly from God. Now this explanation may seem longwinded but the point Christ is making is not too belittle the Kingdom of Man that John was concluding, but to exonerate eternally the Kingdom of Heaven Christ was beginning to setup. Now with this perspective we see what Christ is getting at.

Christ as I mentioned earlier talks of how the kingdom of heaven has been ‘forcefully’ advancing. Or has been advancing under duress. In other words in order to have any hope to reach the kingdom, tasks and laws had to be followed. Whether it was the Law of Moses or earlier Laws and Customs, followers of God had to show their dedication by rigid Law Keeping. Not only that but men such as the ‘Pharisees’ who were suppose to lead by Law also used this Law as a weapon of contrition. Making no room for what is in a person’s heart. Then Christ tells us the point of all this history and Law Making, in regards to God’s followers, was meant to culminate with the Introduction of Jesus Christ himself. All the laws and prophesies were and are subservient to the Son of Man’s Testimony on Earth. This was what Christ was finally getting at. All roads beforetime now led to Christ and Christ alone. He was the fulfillment standing before them of all they had come to know.

In fact Christ in finishing that subject calls John the Elijah of his time. Elijah we know as one of the great prophets who is to fore-run Christ when he returns very soon for the final time.

Well the lessons in these passages might not be jumping out to bite us but they are there. To start with it really does put Christ’s mortal life into perspective. That all laws and customs aforetime were and are subservient to him. That we can also see that the Law of Moses and earlier Laws, humanly speaking, did not encourage people to look inwardly as they should. That we as humans will always naturally put ourselves first unless we can with contrite hearts follow Christ’s message. We can also look forward in the immediate future to the true Elijah’s return to lay the ‘red carpet’, so to speak, for our Lord Jesus Christ.

The best lesson of all for us in this passage I think of course is verse 15

“He who has ears, let him hear.”

Or better rendered those who have the mind for attentiveness let them listen and act. What better reminder to ourselves of the loving duty we have before us.

In verse 16-19 paints a picture of the fickleness and idleness of human nature.

Matthew 11:16-19  16 "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  17 "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'  18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'  19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." 'But wisdom is proved right by her actions."

We played the flute, you didn’t dance. We sang, you didn’t sing along. The people of Jesus time in regards to the Law and Customs were spoilt. They relied on their priests to provide their supplication and religiously could have any experience at the drop of the hat. They were lazy and used of getting their way or at the very least being instructed to the correct religious way to perform a custom. They wanted John and Christ therefore to join in their party and be part of their wishy-washy religious acts. Christ then points out their next illogical mistake. Because then when John and Christ certainly did not join in their hypocritical ways the people had the audacity to turn around and have a go at John and Christ, calling them mentally disturbed or a drunk reveler.

In other words the Pharisees and Zealots of the day became cantankerous when John and Jesus didn’t tow the religious line. They were willingly flippant with Johns desert preaching and scolding of Christ’s non-adherence to their religious Laws. They didn’t care to understand anything that might change or undermine the power they had as religious leaders.

Then Christ finishes these statements with another gem. “That wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Or as the strict definition has it. ‘wisdom is rendered righteous by her offspring’. In other words what is born from the words and teachings made by both John and Jesus would prove them right. The conceptions made from these wise words they both spoke would have wonderful consequences. So much more than the people of their time could imagine.

What great lessons for us too my friends. Should we be worried when we aren’t invited to the latest riotous office party? Should we be concerned even if we ostracized by a church with wrong doctrine? Then if these same types of people in their ignorance and fear make up viscous rumours about us, should we be downtrodden? If one minute they call us crazy and then next time a drunk, should we take this to heart? Should we want to retaliate?

I guess humanly speaking maybe we should. But we are now born to a higher plan which does not entail revenge. If the Christ of all human kind could restrain his hand so we should. In fact Christ goes on with his teachings as you know and tells us to forgive and pray for these lost people. Not with pride of place but with a contrite heart knowing the grace we are saved by. As our beloved brother Paul reminds us, let us not be conformed to this world but transformed into Christ’s World.

In verse 20-24 we will look at briefly. Christ here is scathing towards many of the cities that heard his messages and even witnessed many miracles. These cites would be so cursed and downtrodden Christ remarks that extremely wicked and famous places like Tyre, Sidon and Sodom would have had a better chance for salvation than these.

Christ is pulling no punches here. We often only equate our Saviour to a quiet humble man of God. But we have quite a few instances when his righteous wrath comes down heavily upon those who have mocked or flaunted the chance they had for redemption.

We too are a very blessed people my friends. Even more so in western culture with our material needs mostly catered for. But never, ever, let us take for granted what God has blessed us with and to the wonderful calling we have. To have even known our Heavenly Father for a day is worth more than having lived a thousand years not knowing him. The fact that he deeply desires us to be his family and heir is more than words could express.

Verses 25 to 27 I think are really extraordinary.

Matthew 11:25-27  At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.  27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. 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.

These verses stick out to me as some of the most original in the whole of scripture. Here Christ is publicly praying in open prayer to his heavenly father. Not only is he showing us his unique relationship with the father but he shows a wonderful humility in doing so. This is the great Jesus Christ publicly praising and adoring his father.

Christ here praises his father openly for hiding these teachings from the proud leaders but making them plain to the servants and vagrants. Christ loves the way his father works just as we love the way Christ works. It shows here that Christ did not know all at this time and his amazement about his father expresses this. What amazing minds we have to yearn after.

Verse 26 also tells us it was the Fathers good pleasure to reveal these things like this.

In fact the definitive translation of this is ‘…it became a delight in front of God’ !

In other words these events unfolding to help the needy and shun the proud were becoming delightful to our Great Heavenly Father. God is living in the moment of these wonderful ‘teachings and reactions’ and he’s loving every minute of it. What’s more Christ knowing his Father’s thrilling observation is excited himself about it. So if these words of scriptural inspiration are delighting and exciting both to our Christ and Heavenly Father, what should they be doing for us??

Christ in the next section tells us of course how that truly it is only him that really knows the father and the father that really knows him. And the word ‘know’ here means to be ‘thoroughly acquainted’. In other words to know ultimately and intimately. Here Christ is spelling out his direct relationship for Pharisee or Servant to see.

But then of course Christ puts the bonus on the end….’those to whom the son chooses to reveal him’. In other words to those Christ’s teachings when it hits their ears it is taken into their heart. These words of course must go through the humility filter before they get a chance to begin to reveal God. Here we are reminded of Christ’s mediatory role. That if his words can penetrate our hearts and lives, he will reveal not only his relationship to God but his Heavenly Father himself. Well I know my hands are up for that opportunity my friends.

Of course we have in our concluding verses one of the most famous sayings of Christ in regards to ‘cuddles’. I call it cuddles because that is what his words seem to do. Cuddle you with love, care and contrition.

Matthew 11:28-30  28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

With a slightly closer definition I will attempt to paraphrase Christ’s beckoning.

‘Come near me all that are tired with great stress, I will renew your strength. Pickup my burden instead, for I am gentle and not full of my own self-importance, with me you can finally catch your breath. For my stresses are pleasant and light.’

This is about the closest definition I can get without beginning to take license.

I think it’s interesting how Christ’s point for ease of our burden is really to renew our strength. It is not to just lay back and relax and think there is nothing to do. Indeed the point is that he wants us to continue our work but he loves us and wants to take care of us and give us those breaks. Then of course Christ tells us why he is able to do this. What makes Christ so great and amazing to fix all our stress?  Well it’s because he is gentle and humble. This makes him great. Of course by worldly standards we see this as a trait of pure insignificance. But by Christ’s standards it is the mandatory prerequisite for taking others burdens. Why is Christ wanting us to take his burden and him take ours? Well he makes everyone’s burdens light by his teaching. Whatever he touches becomes light and easy.

We need to practice this ourselves my friends. Christ has made our stresses easier and lighter and by the same teachings that made Christ’s burdens lighter we can lighten other’s loads too. Remember though Christ wants us to rest to renew our strength, for there is much wonderful work to do.

So what thoughts now can we take to the emblems and beyond.

  • We should not be unmotivated or flap around aimlessly in life. We need to set God Goals. We need to shun materialism as a goal and remember that nothing can be taken into the grave or the kingdom but ourselves.
  • We are ‘great’ in the Kingdom of Heaven right now. We are not great because of anything we have achieved but the grace shown us through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • Christ’s new Covenant is one of love and as such our heart must be full of this for others. Whether they be a Pharisee to us or a Willing Servant.
  • We are the Elijah’s of our day. We are the John the Baptists. We are to fore-run our Christ to show everyone the hope we live for.
  • Let us always have a mind of attentiveness for God’s words and let us act upon these concepts.
  • Let us not be bothered about gossip and offense. Christ and John had to deal with such as great as they were. Let God make the call on our revenge if indeed there should be. Remember if we preach wise words the outcome shall always be good. Let Wisdom bare her offspring.
  • Our heavenly father grants us blessings everyday and helps us with many obstacles. Let us never take this for granted. For God’s indignation can be great to those who continually receive the blessings but buck the responsibilities.
  • Let us be amazed at Christ’s reciprocal relationship with his heavenly father. Let us be excited as both Christ and our Heavenly Father get excited by hearing their words taught. Let us be astounded that they want us to be part of their unique family. To share the excitement and the wonder.
  • Lastly but not least let us remember to help others with their burdens and stresses in life as Christ helps us. Whatever Godly words touch our burdens they are instantly made light. Let us show others how to do this.

With our final thoughts focused on the emblems of the future let us remember the man Christ Jesus who forgot. What did Christ forget? The most important thing to forget. How to be human and selfish! He forgot how to be a human because he yearned for his Father. Let us yearn for our Heavenly Father now. As we take these emblems we can get excited as he does. We can get delighted at how the next person will take on Christ and the next and the next. For soon we will take up our heir-ship in the family of our lord to see over truly the most exciting time there will ever be.