|Matthew 10 (NKJV™)|
|32||"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.|
|33||"But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.|
|34||"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.|
|35||"For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law';|
|36||"and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'|
|37||"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.|
|38||"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.|
|39||"He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.|
|40||"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.|
|41||"He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.|
|42||"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."|
|Matthew 11 (NKJV™)|
|1||Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.|
|2||And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples|
|3||and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"|
|4||Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:|
|5||"The blind see 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 is not offended because of Me."|
|7||As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?|
|8||"But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.|
|9||"But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.|
|10||"For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'|
|11||"Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.|
|12||"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.|
|13||"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.|
|14||"And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.|
|15||"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!|
|16||"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,|
|17||"and saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.'|
|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, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
In His second major discourse of Matthew, Jesus equips and instructs His apostles about going into the world and reaping the spiritual harvest. In this passage, Jesus expounds on the courage needed to complete the mission and warns His followers of certain persecution. He reminds us that while not all who hear will believe, God's wisdom is powerfully demonstrated in changed lives.
From its opening genealogy through its careful record of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, Matthew's gospel forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In this in-depth study by Pastor Skip Heitzig we'll consider Jesus' ancestry, birth, public ministry, death, and resurrection, and we'll gain a clearer understanding of Jesus as both Messiah and King.
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Greek Terms: Κύριος Καίσαρας; kurios Kaisaros: Caesar is Lord; μαθητὴς; mathētēs: disciple
Figures Referenced: Tertullian
Publications Referenced: "Pledge My Head to Heaven," by Keith Green
Cross References: Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 6:1; Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 3:3; Matthew 9:37; Matthew 9:38; Matthew 10:16; Matthew 16:28-17:13; Luke 1:15; Luke 1:17; Luke 2:14; Luke 16:16; John 3:30; John 6:15; John 18:36; Philippians 3:7-9; Philippians 4:22; Hebrews 11:25; James 1:8; Revelation 11
Keywords: persecution; kingdom; division, peace
Let's pray. Father as we open the word that is the written word, we're mindful that the very core of the Bible is the living word, Jesus himself. Foretold by the prophets, came in to our time and space continuum, changed lives 2000 years ago, made promises, and is still changing lives 2000 years later, ours included and has promised to return one day.
All of these truths we have touched on, we're reading about as we go through the gospel of Matthew then it's our prayer that you will deal with the questions that we've been pondering, the issues we have been wondering about.
And I pray Lord, more than learning information. We would experience transformation that your word would be to us, the joy and the rejoicing of my heart. As Jeremiah once said, "Your words were found and I ate them, and they were to me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart."
I pray that our attitudes would change, our actions would change and the result would be great joy as it was for Jeremiah, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Imagine what it would have been like to have been a Christian about 2000 years ago or less in the Roman Empire. Back then of the 120 million or so people that populated the Roman Empire, almost half of that were slaves. Something interesting began to happen. Many of the slaves started coming to know Jesus. The gospel was especially attracted to the downtrodden and the poor and those involved as being owned by slave owners. They came to Christ. Their lives began to change. They started treating their masters with dignity and respect. There was a new joy in that household.
And then something even more interesting began to happen as time went on not just slaves but slave owners started coming to Christ even royalty, royal slave owners. Paul alludes to those in the household of Caesar himself who had come to know the Lord.
As now you have slaves and slave owners coming to Jesus Christ discovering mutuality among themselves, not treating themselves as slave owner versus slave but as brothers and brothers and sisters together under one master even Christ. It began to alter the socio economic status of the Roman Empire. The Romans started becoming suspicious of the Christian community. They would be sending spies and to check this out. And as they did, filled with suspicion, they started leveling accusation after accusation against the early Christians.
One accusation is that the Christians were cannibals because they alluded to the sacred supper, the Lord's feast, the Lord's supper and partaking of the body and blood of Christ, the symbolic elements the brought them into fellowship with him. So the accusation, they're cannibals. They're eating the flesh of this one, they call Jesus. It's actually written about and much of the literature in ancient times.
Not only that but they were considered radicals, revolutionaries because they wouldn't worship Caesar as lord. They kept saying Jesus is Lord. And when once a year, the Roman population had to give a pinch of incense before the bust of Caesar and say, "Kurios Caesar, Caesar is Lord," they wouldn't do it.
They would stand there and say, "Jesus is Lord." And they spoke of Jesus, our King who is coming again to rule and reign so they thought, "Here's a group waiting for their ruler to come and take over the world, take over Rome, they're revolutionaries." Now all of these were accusations, they were not true but they were accusations nonetheless.
Another accusation leveled against the Christians by Rome oddly was that Christians were immoral. Now, I say oddly because for any pagan Roman to say any Christian was immoral is laughable. They were so filled with lewdness in Rome and so immoral in their outlook in world view and practice that to say Christians were immoral is so laughable.
The reasons they called Christians immoral is because they had the thing before communion called the love feast, the agape feast and so the false accusations by Roman spies is that, "Well, these are nothing more than drunken orgies, so they're immoral."
That kind of persecution, that kind of accusation was the very things Jesus predicted would come upon those who would believe in Him and He warns His disciples as we saw last time in chapter 10, around Verse 16 and we covered through that section. We're going to really begin in Verse 32. But for background's sake, Jesus tells them, "I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. And here's what you can expect. You can expect to be hassled in religious circles. They're going to take you before the synagogues and beat you. You can be hassled by not only religious circles but the secular courts so you'll be brought before the court. You have to give a testimony. And in personal circles, you're going to be hated by your own family for my name's sake. So, expect that."
So, Jesus has been giving in chapter 10 and 11 the second major sermon or discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. The first was the Sermon on the Mount. This is the sermon on the mission of the disciples. He gives to them their calling in verses 5 through 15. He tells them what the consequence of that calling will be as I mentioned persecution. And then He tells them the courage that is needed to maintain their calling, to not shrink back, to not fall back but to be bold, to be courageous, to be strong.
So, Jesus sees the problem and He comes up with a solution. The problem that He has seen and we saw last week in Chapter 9 is that the harvest, metaphorically speaking, the harvest is great, the workers are few. So He tells them to do three things to solve the problem.
Look at it, number one. Number two, pray for it. And number three, go for it. Look at it. Jesus looked and he saw people and he saw with compassion. We've got to see them the same way. Pray for it. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send out laborers into the harvest.
And then in the very next chapter, chapter 10 where we are, Jesus commissioned the twelve that he told to pray for it to now go for it saying, "Boys, God has answered your prayer. It's you who are going." and so he sends them out. "So, many people saw much need and so I send you." And that was the outline. That's the following that we saw last week.
Now I want to back up before we dive in to Verse 32. The first 10 chapters has been a revelation of the kingdom. The King, Jesus is revealed He reveals his kingdom. How is the kingdom revealed? First of all, in the genealogical records, His person is revealed. That would have been very important to a Jew especially when it comes to somebody who claims to be the king is to be able to trace the royal lineage back to king David.
And since all of the genealogical records of the Jews were lost when Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD, the only surviving genealogy we have from that era is that of Christ and He can be traced all the way back royally to king so he is verified in his person by that genealogical record.
Then Matthew also reveals the King not only by the person of Jesus but by the prophet of Jesus, John the Baptist. John the Baptist, the forerunner pointing his way toward Christ, the one, the voice crying in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.
Furthermore, John reveals the King by the preaching of Jesus. Matthew 5, 6, and 7 the Sermon on the Mount, the sermon about the Kingdom of God, Matthew then reveals the Messiah, the King by the power of Jesus. Ten miracles we mentioned, one after another where Jesus proves just like the Old Testament predicted that this is the King. This is the Messiah, this is the one God promised.
And then finally, the King is revealed, the Messiah is revealed, the Kingdom is revealed by the people of Jesus, the twelve disciples turned into apostles that He sends out to represent Him and to represent the kingdom around Galilee.
So we have in Chapters 1 through 10 the revelation of the king. Now when we get to Chapter 11 and into Chapter 12, I'm saying that so we have it as we approach now Chapter 11, we have the reaction against the King. We've had the revelation of the King in Chapter 11 and 12 the reaction against the King. As different groups, different cities will have their own ideas about Jesus. They'll react against Him including John the Baptist who will have doubt as to whether this really is the Messiah or not; the cities of Capernaum and Chorazin and Bethsaida who were in different toward Him, the Pharisees who will be hostile toward Him. And His own family who will be concerned that perhaps he's crazy because he's not eating. He's just been working so hard in ministry.
Then in Chapter 13 we'll have the retirement of the King as the King withdraws from public life, administers to His disciples and gives them kingdom parables, stories about the Kingdom of God. That will be followed by the rejection of the King that will be followed by the resurrection of the King. So, I just sort of plotted for you and laid out where we're going in Matthew of course, not all of that tonight, just barely some of that.
Verse 32 of Chapter 10, "Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." Outward confession is merely inward reflection. What you believe inwardly will eventually be demonstrated outwardly by what you say about Christ.
There is no such thing as secret discipleship because eventually, discipleship will cancel out and destroy any secrecy. If you truly follow Christ, following Christ births within you a desire to see others follow Christ and to tell others how to comment to that relationship with God through His Son. So if you're truly a disciple, a learner, a mathetes, a follower, in following Jesus, you want others to follow Him and you confess because the inward reflection brings an outward confession.
Verse 34, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's enemies will be of his own household." That's a shocking statement. I was shocked the first time I read it. I read it and I thought, "I can't be reading this correctly." Let me read that again. "Don't think that I've come to bring on Earth." I'm going, "What? Wait a minute."
And I said, "Wait a minute. Aren't you called in scripture the Prince of Peace? Didn't the angels announce at your birth there would be peace on earth, goodwill toward men?" And here Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to bring on Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
As much as I was shocked when I first read that, I imagined the disciples were utterly shocked when they heard Jesus say that. Why? Because their idea of the Messiah was that the Messiah will come and unify families and unify the lost sheep of the house of Israel and set up Jerusalem, Israel, the Jewish people as paramount and rule the world from Jerusalem, overthrowing the enemies of Israel. That's what the Messiah according to the scripture will do. And here Jesus says this; this is now what they expected to hear.
Now, it's not that Jesus is saying, "My aim and my goal and my motive is to deliberately divide people." He is simply stating honestly the effect of Jesus in a family, the effect of the gospel in a culture. It will divide. That's the effect of it.
Ultimately, the Messiah will bring peace. Intermediately, the Messiah and the Gospel will bring division. One day He will bring peace. He'll bring peace inwardly if you receive Him. He'll bring peace ultimately when He rules and reigns over the world. In their intermediate time however, there is division. And in quoting the scripture, "I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's enemies will be those of his own household."
So of the hardest people that you will ever have to share the gospel with to witness to is your own family members. Have you discovered that? And that's because you grew up with them. They know you. And when you tell them, "I'm saved. I'm going to heaven," it implies to them, "Well, they're not saved and they're not going to heaven" and they're immediately thinking, "What do you think? You're better than I am? Who do you think you are? I know you." And if they're older than you, I was the youngest of four, they said, "We helped change your diapers, kid. You're not better than we are."
When I first was saved, in the summer right after I graduated from high school, it was so exciting. I still remember the feeling of being so free that summer and so high spiritually. I was living up in Northern California up in the San Francisco Bay area. I decided to go back down home to Southern California because I heard of a church down in that area that I wanted to get involved in because I thought this probably, I don't know any Christians. I didn't really know many people up there. This probably isn't the best place to be nurtured spiritually.
I went back down south. I wanted to get in touched with my family, share with them what happened, where with my friends and as exciting as it was to come to Christ to integrate, to reintegrate with my family now that I'm a Christian wasn't that exciting. It was very difficult. I expected them to understand and share excitement they did not.
Suddenly I discovered we don't have a lot in common anymore. And I remember the afternoon when my father said, "You can't read your Bible anymore in this home and you can't go to that crazy church down the street." I went into my room and I wept. I'm thinking, "I've given my life to Christ. I'm under the kingship of King Jesus. Why is this so difficult?"
I had started to read the Gospel of Matthew and it was that day that I came across this section. And as shocked as I was, I was comforted because I understood this is the effect of what has happened to me in my family. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
I've always appreciated the honesty of Jesus. He doesn't try to pull one over. He didn't try to pull the wall over your eyes or sell something really cool and really big and this is the greatest. It is the greatest. It is really cool. It is really big but He wants you to know the whole scoop. This isn't the gospel of the hot sale or the irresistible deal. It's the gospel, the good news. With the good news comes bad news because not everybody buys into the good news. You love Jesus. He changes your life and saves you. That's good news. Not everybody does. That's bad news and they'll make it bad news for you.
Not long after that early period, I was dating a girl who had the same early religious background that I had. Her name is Linda. I was privileged to lead her to Christ. I worked in a local hospital in Southern California. She prayed to receive Christ. We were going to church together and I bought her a Bible almost exactly like this one, a brown Scofield Reference Bible and I gave it to her.
One evening after church, I was driving her home. I walked her to her door. Her father opened the door. He was waiting for her looked at me and said, "Young man come inside." I said, "Yes, sir." I came inside and he asked his daughter to go up to her room and he looked at me in the eyes and he said, "How dare you divide and destroy my family." I said, "Excuse me sir, what do you mean by that?" And then he answered. He said, "You have placed a Protestant Bible in our home. You gave my daughter this Bible, did you not?" "Yes I did. I am guilty of that." And he said, "We have our own Bible. We have our own faith and she has been acting so crazy lately and so giddy lately and so happy lately we don't quite understand. But I think it started ever since you gave her that brown Bible." And I said, "Sir, you're absolutely right. I shouldn't have given her that bible. You should have been the one to give her that Bible. You as her father should have led her into the truth which she has found in Jesus Christ."
And I quoted the scripture, Jesus said, "I didn't come to bring peace on earth, but a sword." I'm sorry for the difficulty you're facing in your family. It just happens to be the inevitable result and consequence of a person who has come to the true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It didn't go over that well. He escorted me to the door and I left. But Verse 37, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
Now listen, God is a jealous God. He loves the family. You know who invented the family? Yeah, he did. It was God's idea for this reason, "A man will leave his father and mother, be joined in to his wife. The two will become one flesh." It was his idea but the family was never to be the number one on the list of personal priorities in your life.
Now I do thank God for the focus and the emphasis that has been on the family in the Christian church and the many resources that are available for fathers to love their children and for husbands to love their wives and wives to their husbands, et cetera, the training, the parenting classes, the marriage courses, all of that is essential. And as important as that is, we can never place our family above God. And sometimes people think, "Well, that's my number one priority is my family." That sounds noble but that's not true. If you're a Christian, your number one priority must be obedience to the Christ who is obedient enough to go to the cross for you and I. That's number one.
Years ago, a man that used to play at our church who has gone to heaven since Keith Green wrote some great songs.
He wrote a song called I Pledge My Head to Heaven for the Gospel. He had several verses I -- in other words, "I pledge myself to heaven. I pledge my wife to heaven. I pledge my son to heaven for the Gospel."
But in the verse where he said, "I pledged my wife to heaven for the Gospel," he says, "As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead than to love her more than the one who saved my soul." In other words, "When we've got married, I told her my priorities to love Jesus more than I love you. And in loving Jesus more than I love you, He will provide me enough love to nurture you, to be committed to you and we'll both draw it closer to the lord himself if we keep that in view."
Verse 38, "And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." Now, we find here in that verse the very first mentioned in the New Testament of the word "cross." So I always like to bring up the rule of first mention. The first mention of the cross in the entire New Testament is in this verse. Jesus mentions it.
The question is what does He mean by "taking up your cross and following Jesus"? And I asked the question because some I've heard an implied interpretation as they'll say, "Well, this is just my cross to bear." Have you ever heard that? In other words, "The trial and the hardship that I face, that's my cross that I have to carry." That is not what Jesus is referring to.
When somebody says, "Well you know we all have our cross to bear. I have my cross to bear." I often say, "Well, what's your cross to bear?" They might say, "My husband." That's not what Jesus meant by that. It doesn't mean trial or hardship because Jesus faces many trials and many hardships before his own cross.
To anybody in the audience who heard Jesus speak these words, they would have known exactly what he meant by the "cross". That was the method of Roman torture and execution, something that Jesus will literally face in His lifetime, it will be the cause of His death. He'll be crucified on a Roman cross.
It was in those days as we have mentioned in our series on Sundays, on the weekend, the prisoner had to carry either his own cross or a part, the upper patibulum, the part of the cross to the place of execution. You're the chariot.
So, when Jesus said, "If you're going to follow me, you have to carry your cross," Jesus knowing that he is going to go to the cross as an active obedience that he's going to die the death as an act of obedience to His Father. He's simply saying, "If you're going to follow me, you need to die to your own ambition and perhaps even your own comfort. It's a death to your own agenda." To go to the cross means to live a life of obedience just like Jesus lived a life of obedience that caused him to die on the cross.
And I say that we know it's interpreted that way and it doesn't just mean trial or hardship because notice, Jesus said, "He who does not take up his cross and follow after me." "To take up your cross," the other part of that is to follow after Him and that implies obedience.
"He who finds his life will lose it. He who loses his life for my sake will find it." This is the paradox of the Christian life. You want to find your life? Then lose your life. You want to have the best? Then be willing to give up everything you have. Lose your life and you'll find life. That's the paradox of the Christian life.
Paul the Apostle will state it this way. "Those things were gained unto me I have counted loss for Christ that I might know Him and be found in Him not having my known righteousness which is of the law but the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ. Those things that I though was so important, I've counted as refuse loss, trash that I might gain something important."
Life, the Christian life is made up of choices. Moses had to make a choice and the book of Hebrews tells us that Moses willingly wanted to experience the persecution and the hardship rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Why was Moses willing to give up all of the treasures of Egypt and suffer with the people of God? Because here's the principle, the very worst that God would ever give to you and a lot to you in life is better than the very best the world would give to you.
Now some people, some people who are Christians, they complain. "Man, I hate my life. It's horrible. How come God didn't do this? God didn't do that?" And they were complaining. And essentially they're saying, "God, you don't treat your servants very well."
But think of the alternative. What if your life was easy and you were perfectly wealthy and you had surplus cash and you never had a problem and you died and went to hell? How would you like that? Jesus said, "What is the prophet of man if he gained the whole world but lose his own soul?" So the very worst that God would ever allot to you is better than the very best that the world would give to you. Just play out those alternatives to the very end and you'd be able to think clearly. So, that's the paradox.
Verse 40, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives the prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward." To be a prophet is to be a spokesman for another person. The prophets in the Old Testament were spokesman for God that the Apostles were spokesmen for Christ. He sent them out and gave them a message, "This is the preparatory message for that mission," and so they were to represent Christ, "Whoever receives you receives me; whoever receives me, receives the father who sent me."
So, in the midst of the bad news, here's a hint of good news. Not everybody is going to reject you or your message. Some people are going to go, "I get it. I want it. I receive it." And whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of the disciple, "Assuredly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."
Even the darkest days of persecution in the Roman Empire provided that some of the greatest days for revival during those dark days of persecution. In Ancient Rome, the gospel spread. There's an old saying that was coined even back then that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church that wherever a martyr's blood was shed, more people and more people and more people came to faith in Christ.
If you look in more modern times at china, when there was a great persecution after the government cracked down years ago upon them, that's when the church had its greatest growth. And the result of that, the repercussions of that are still felt today.
So, that's why I'm so excited about the days in which we live because I've been thinking you know. And we as Christians, every time the election season comes along, I watch Christians get really nervous about who's going to occupy the seat of the kingdom as if everything is determined by that. I'm not saying it's not important and I'm not saying don't get involved but Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world."
And in the book of Isaiah, he said, "In the year that King Uzziah, a good king died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne high and lifted up in the train of His robe, filled the temple." In other words, when a good leader was lost and bad leaders filled their place and I'm freaking out and so as everybody else, that's the year I've got a vision that God is on the throne. He is still in charge. He is still sovereign.
So, I'm excited as the days get darker and darker. I'm excited for what might happen with the gospel. And as persecution has already come and will come harder to Christians in this country, I'm glad for a couple of reasons.
Number one, it's going to separate the chaff from the weed, all the hangarounders(ph), all the superficial ones. They won't be able to stand up to it. They will not want to be named among Christians and name the name of Christ. So they're going to fall by the wayside, meaning all the true believers who are going to be left and the church is going to be stronger. And the darker it gets, the brighter the light will become.
They used to say in World War II in Europe, when all the lights went out in Europe that you could somebody light a cigarette, a match from a cigarette miles away because it was so dark. And the darker it gets morally -- the darker it gets spiritually, the more our light is able to shine. So, the best days are yet to come.
Now Chapter 11, "Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities." So, Jesus has just give to His disciples a message sending them out as apostles. He sends them on a mission. He tells them the call to the mission. He tells them the consequences to the call. He tells them to be courageous in the midst of the consequences and now we have the confrontation because of the call.
There are different reactions to Jesus himself and to the Kingdom of God as Jesus has come to give it. And when John -- he's number one, John the Baptist. "And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another one?'"
Now it says John was in prison. Why was he in prison? Because he was gutsy man, this guy was unreal. This guy didn't back down for no one or for nothing. It's almost like here's a chance to get in Herod's face and I'm going to take it. He was just this edgy, unafraid prophetic voice.
So, the Tetrarch of Galilee was Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas wasn't happy with his wife so dumped his wife but he took a liking to his brother, Herod Philip's wife named Herodias persuaded her to leave him. And Herodias and Herod Antipas got married.
John the Baptist felt even though Herod was a non-believer that he needed to say something and publicly rebuke Herod because he's brining defilement upon the Jewish homeland. So, he rebukes Herod and Herod has him put in prison. According to the records, he's put in a prison called Macarius. Macarius is in present day Jordan, five miles east of the Dead Sea, nine-mile south of the Dead Sea in the middle of nowhere.
As John is there in prison, he's no doubt thinking, he's processing. As he's thinking and processing about Jesus the Messiah, after all, it was John the Baptist who said to his disciples, his own disciples. When Jesus came he said, "He must increase. I must decrease." In other words, "He's the one. Follow him. I need to step out of the way. I'm not even worthy to tie his shoes. He's the dude. He's the guy. Follow him."
But being in prison, he begins to doubt. "Is this really the Messiah?" After all, the prophets especially Isaiah, the one that John the Baptist took most of his cues(ph) from, Isaiah the prophet said he's going to open up the prison doors and set the captives free. "I'm still in prison. He hasn't helped me at all. One of the signs is he's going to do that."
Now I'm -- I'm speaking as John the Baptist. I pointed to him as the Messiah. I'm expecting him to have some kind of kingdom, authoritative stands. So because he's rotting there in prison, he's wondering, "Is this really the one?" So he sends two of his disciples to ask Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
This brings up an issue. It's an issue that surprises many Christians. Some of the greatest spiritual leaders of all times have suffered deep moments of depression, doubt and discouragement.
It's not what a lot of people expect, "Hey, you're the leader man. You're the pastor you're always supposed to go all the time smile. 'Hey'. Because you read the Bible all the time so it's always great. You probably never go through trials or hardships or people in your family that die or things like, that's just for everybody else." Now I exaggerate but there is an expectation.
But as I read the Bible and I read stories of guys like Moses who didn't even want to take the children of Israel and he's always, "I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it," but he did it anyway. To Elijah who wanted to die, "Lord, just kill me, just take my life," because a woman hastled them. Here he is able to standup all the false prophets of Baal, Jezebel chases him and he goes, "Somebody kill me, she is tough."
To Jeremiah who didn't want to preach the message anymore to the people of Israel and he wanted to quit, he wanted to give up, "I will not speak in your name anymore" he said. Jeremiah was a prophet. Elijah was a prophet. Suddenly, they wanted to become a non-prophet. They want to quit. It's not that unusual and that is because all believers, all of God's people but especially those who are leaders become targets. If we can make Jeremiah and Elijah depressed, it's suicidal and get them out of the way, all the better. It will stumble other people so John the Baptist fits that category.
Now, we look at this in just incase you are going, "What's the deal with John the Baptist? He actually met Jesus, why would he be so depressed?" Keep in mind you and I have a different perspective. We are able today to look backward and put all the scriptures together and connect all of the dots and know that Jesus was to come one time go back to heaven and then come again the second time and rule and reign. John the Baptist didn't have that perspective. He just knew the ruling and reigning part. He is still learning the whole -- be hold the Lamb of God part. He is wrestling with it.
He didn't have the same perspective that as we New Testament believers have. So Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John that things what you hear and see," I like that. I could preach a whole message on just that little phrase, what you hear and see. That is basically a witness, that's what you're called to do, that's what I'm called to do.
"Just tell people what you've heard and what you've seen. "I don't know every much." But you've heard enough and you've seen enough to tell anyone the essentials of that, that's your testimony. You've heard enough truth and you've seen enough change lives if you have a message. Just tell him that. Just begin with what you've heard and seen enough what you've and Jesus elucidates. The blind see. The lame walked. The lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Now that's the language John the Baptist or John the Baptizer could understand. Because John reading the prophet Isaiah and reading passages like Isaiah, Chapter 35 which speaks up the kingdom of the messiah and all of these things that Jesus says he has done are mentioned in it. "Go tell John that and blessed is he who is not offended or scandalized because of me."
As they departed Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, "Why did you go out to wilderness to see a reed shaken by the wind? Or why did you go out to see a man clothed in soft garments indeed," those who were soft clothing are in king's houses. He said, "Did you go and see -- want to see a reed in the wilderness?" Now a reed, John the Baptist baptized down in the Jordan River and at the Jordan River like many rivers there are reeds that tall grass that is very bendable, very flexible. It moves with the wind in any direction, it is not very strong.
"Did you go down to the Jordan to see John like on of those reeds blowing in the wind? So when the Pharisees would come, he would just sort of blow in their direction and when the people thought something else, he would blow in their direction?" That's not John. That's hardly John. John was pretty unbendable, right? Inflexible. This is truth, this is black, this is white, this is heaven, and this is hell. He is hardly a reed. He is hardly some bendable, pliable, moldable person, he is obedient.
James said, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." Now it's hardly John the Baptist. Jesus continues in Verse 8, "Did you go out to see a man clothed in soft garments?" Now, what John the Baptizer wears? Well yeah, camels hair and not like a camel hair coat like we have today like, "Oh, that's so nice and soft" no, no, this was like camel hide with fur really rough. Eating bugs, he didn't live in posh surroundings but it was a life of self-denial. "But why do you go out and see, a prophet?" "Yes. I say to you and more than a prophet for this is He of whom it is written, 'Behold I'll send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way before me'."
Now he is quoting Malachi, Chapter 3. Not only was John a prophet, John was a prophet who is fulfilling a prophecy made about that prophet. He is more than a prophet. He is one who has fulfilling prophecy. "Assuredly I say to you, among those born of women there is not reason one greater than John the Baptist. But he was least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Boy, that's a quite a statement, isn't it?
Basically, of all the people who've ever lived nobody is greater than John the Baptizer. There have been a lot of great people who've been around, who have made great achievements, scientific achievement, monetary achievement, political achievement, spiritual achievement. And this guy is greater than anyone ever born. How could that be? Because if greatness were measured by wordily standards here. Wealth, education, prominence, John wouldn't fit in any of those categories and by that standard, neither with Jesus. No formal education, no monetary wealth, John didn't invent any really cool thing out there by the Jordan River. Why is he great?
Well, a number of reasons. Number one, John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. Nobody else has those credentials. That's what the angel told his dad Zechariah, "He is going to be filled with the Holy Spirit from his womb." Number two, he was faithful to preach the truth and he was unbendable. He was down at that Jordan River called in the wilderness making straight the way of the Lord. Third, he was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Fourth he won many. He turned many toward repentance. All of these things make him great. Also, he was the last of the Old Testament prophet as I will show you in a minute.
So wait a minute, we are dealing with the New Testament? You are right. But the new covenant hasn't been established yet. Christ is not gone into the cross and been resurrected and started his church under which the new covenant is assumed making John the Baptist actually the last Old Testament prophet.
Verse 12, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent, take it by force for all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." There you have it. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come, who he has ears, let them hear.
We have some interesting language here. And they'll bring up some interesting questions so I want to cover them in case you are thinking, "I'd better text him a question because he didn't answer that." So I try to anticipate this. Jesus said, "John the Baptist is greater than anyone ever born." But then he says, "But who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater that he," but what does that mean?
Well certainly, it doesn't mean that those in the kingdom of heaven the least in the kingdom is greater than John the Baptist in character because of the reasons I've just mention. But when it comes to position, then even the least is greater than John. Why?
Because John anticipated the kingdom, predicted the kingdom, pointed toward the kingdom but he never was able to enjoy the kingdom. The new covenant wasn't established, John the Baptist died before the death burial resurrection and inauguration of the church empower in Jerusalem. So he looked forward to it. Of course, he is in glory now but even the least in the kingdom is greater in position than John because John pointed to and anticipated but never was able to enjoy the fruits of that what he anticipated.
Verse 12, "And from the days for John the Baptist until now," and that's short period, that's only 18 months there about, about a year and a half. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.
John the Baptist announced the kingdom, the kingdom of God. Repent for the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is at hand. And when John preached, he evoked strong reactions in people, verbal abuse by the spiritual leaders, physical abuse by Herod Antipas and his wife, Herodias. John the Baptist was attacked because of that controversial voice speaking about the kingdom.
Now Jesus says, "The violent take it by force." If you recall in Jesus ministries recorded in John when Jesus was in Galilee, they tried to take him by force and make him a king. They wanted to force this whole messianic kingdom with Jesus as the head upon Rome and overthrow the government. They want it to make it a forceful political movement. That could be what Jesus when he says, "The violent take it by force."
Another way to look at it because Luke's rendition it says, "That people press into it." So, it could mean that up until now the kingdom of God is this irresistible moving force. It just keeps on moving and keeps on going, keeps on penetrating. And those who are tenacious and are willing to stand for the truth, they are the ones that will be found in it. There's a couple of different takes on it, not everybody has agreed onto its exact meaning so I'm throwing out a couple of different meanings.
But look at Verse 14, "And if you are willing to receive it, he John the Baptist, is Elijah who is to come, he who has ears to hear, let them hear it." Now, what on earth does that mean? In fact, we read them and then we go, "Now hold up here." I'm very confused because Malachi does say that Elijah will come, Malachi Chapter 4, before that great and dreadful day of the Lord to turn the heart of the fathers toward the children and the children toward the fathers, unless I come and smite the earth with the curse.
So the very last book of the Old Testament in our Testament, the very last two verses predict that coming of Elijah. But if we were to turn to John Chapter 1, which we've already read in our weekend messages couple years ago. "When John the Baptist is down at the Jordan River people come to him and they say, "Who are you?" And he says, "I am not the Christ." And then they ask them, "Well, are you Elijah?" And he says, "Nope, I'm not Elijah." "Are you that prophet?" "Nope, I'm just a voice crying in the wilderness" saying, 'Get right with God make straight pathy for him.'"
So the Old Testament predicts Elijah, the Jews anticipated Elijah they asks John, "Are you Elijah?" John says, "Nope, I'm not Elijah." And now Jesus said, "That's Elijah. If you can receive that this is Elijah who is to come." Well how we can reconcile this? Well, if you remember when John's dad Zecharias was in the temple worshiping. And an angel came to him one day and he said, "Hey, I've good news for you Zech. Your wife Elizabeth is going to have a baby. And you guys are going to be so happy and he is coming," listen, "in the spirit and the power of Elijah to turn people's hearts back to God and to reconcile with each other, the spirit and the power of Elijah.
Okay now, you can keep a marker here, your finger and just turn a couple of pages to the right. Turn to Chapter 17 of Matthew. I know we are going to get to this but the Lord may come before then, so just in case, I want to tie it together tonight before you get to heaven.
Look at Verse 1, "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John, his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves and he was transfigured before them. His face shown like the sun and his clothes became as white as light. Now you should know that Verse 28 of Chapter 16 really should be a part of that. If you go back and look at that verse, "Assuredly I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death until they see the son of man coming in his kingdom." When did that ever happen? It happened in the very next chapter, when they see this vision of the kingdom essentially the king with two kingdom players, I'll show you why in a moment.
Verse 3 of Chapter 17, "And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them talking with him." And peter answered and said, "Lord, it's good for us to be here if you wish let us make three tabernacles, one for you one for Moses and one of Elijah."
Okay, let's move on. Go down to Verse 9, "Now, as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them saying, 'Tell the vision to no man until the son of man has risen from the dead.'" And his disciples asked them saying, "Why then they describe say that Elijah must first come?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed Elijah is coming first," that's future. It's going to happen. Just like Malachi predicted, it's going to happen. In the future, he is coming first and will restore all things.
But I say to you that Elijah has already come and they did not know him but they did to him whatever they wish likewise the sone of man is about to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist.
So, Malachi predicts Elijah, John says, "I'm not Elijah," Jesus says, "It's Elijah." Then he appears with Moses and Elijah and the disciple said, "What's the deal about Elijah?" And Jesus said, "He is going to come." "But he has already come and that's John the Baptist. How do you reconcile? Simple, John the Baptist came as an Elijah like forerunner. He came, listen to what the angel said, in the spirit and in the power of Elijah. Not in the person of Elijah but in the spirit and power of Elijah.
And he is a preview of coming attractions. He is a preview of the real Elijah who will come in the end times. You go, "Really, like he is really going to come?" "Uh-huh." Like really? And you know why? He never died. Remember your Bible, he was taken in the world and went to heaven. He never experienced death. He was taken into heaven. God preserving him for a future ministry, there's something else you should know.
It's interesting that Moses who is mentioned in Matthew 17 though he died it says, "Satan and the archangel argued and wrestled over the body of Moses." Why? Why would God care about the body of Moses? He wouldn't care unless God has some future plan for the body of Moses and I believe he does.
Just as Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah in this glorious kingdom like revelation to the disciples that Jesus promised would see the taste of the kingdom, that in the future, in Chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation it says that, "Two witnesses come on the scene before the dreadful day of the Lord," the consummation of the great tribulation period, and it's interesting that they are able to do the same wonders and works that Moses did turning the waters into blood and that Elijah did shutting the rain off from heaven for a period of three and a half years, just like Elijah.
So I believe the two witnesses in Revelation are seen in Chapter 17 of Matthew, they are Moses and Elijah and they will literally come. It won't be John the Baptist but they themselves will come. You could have no better witness to the Jewish nation than the law giver himself Moses and the greatest prophet in their estimation, Elijah. But Jesus says, "If you can handle it, if you can receive it this is Elijah who is to come." He is a preview of those coming attractions. He came into the spirit in the power of Elijah.
He who hears or hasn't here to hear let them hear but to what will I like in this generations? Like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to their companion and saying, "We played the flute for you and you did not dance, we mourn for you and you did not lament, for John came neither eating nor drinking" and they say he has a demon. The son of man came eating and drinking and they say, "Look, (01:01:09), a wine bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners but wisdom is justified by her children," in other words, God's wisdom demonstrated by changed lives.
The people of Israel were basically according to Jesus like little kids, like little brats. The problem wasn't the message. The problem wasn't the messenger it was the little brats. The Pharisees and scribes look at John the Baptist and say, "He is too harsh. He denounced us." With Jesus they said, "He is too much of a libertine. He is too much liberty. He is a friend of tax collectors, wine bibbers and sinners. He eats with people like Matthew."
So, they were saying, "Jesus, you don't dance to our tune." It's interesting that back then and I know we need to bring this to a close, so I will. Back then there were two games that the kids played in the marketplace. One was the game wedding and the other game was funeral. Because those were the two biggest public feast that they saw in their villages. It is said that behind the funeral marches the kids would be behind mocking the people who are in the funeral. You know how kids they mimic their parents and they often mock what adults do. So when people are more the professional mourners were mourning, the kids will go -- behind the crowd.
When it was a wedding and there was dancing and flute playing the kids will go, and they would play around like we're playing wedding and playing funeral. So you'd have kids out they're going, "Let's play wedding" and the kid go, "I don't want to play wedding." Well let's play funeral, "I don't want to play funeral." So, what Jesus is saying is, "You're like a little bunch of spoiled brats in the marketplace." You are not happy with John the Baptist, his lifestyle, his message, you are not happy with the Messiah that he pointed to, his message, his lifestyle. The problem then isn't with the messenger or the message, it's with you people, the spoiled brats who are saying, "You don't dance to our tune."
You know what I have found a pattern that people who are critical -- and a lot of times, people are critical with God and it's simply because they themselves aren't submitted to God and so it's always Christians' fault or it's always the preachers' fault. "Oh, he speaks too long or not long enough," I've never been accused to that.
He is too loud or he is too quiet. He is too intellectual or he is too dumb. Too many illustrations not enough illustration when the problem could be spiritual bratiness. The problem is with the heart not receiving God at all. But wisdom, God's wisdom is justified by her children. The fruit of my ministry, the lives that are change and will be changed is proof that this is John and myself, this legacy of simple preaching, this is the wisdom of God.
And Father, we close thanking you for the wisdom we received in the word as we ponder it, verse by verse, line upon line. And we consider the truth that you have laid out for us. Lord, I'm so thankful for a group of hungry, thirsty, men and women of God those who are matured, those who are becoming mature all of us, children of God.
You told us to become like children but not to remain childish, to be child like without being childish. I pray that we would be in child like faith dependent upon you totally but never childish in treating the things of God or treating the people of God. But as mature men and women of God treating others with love, recognizing others too or children of the living God, once for whom you died, in Jesus' name, Amen.