This morning, in our continuing series, "Jesus Is Coming Again," we are going to look at a series of circumstances which were centered around John the Baptist after He had been put in prison.
Let's begin by looking at Matthew 11:1-19.
1. And it came about that when Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.
2. Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples,
3. and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?"
Now, consider carefully! Why would John ask such a question?
Is he asking this because he knows he won't be around much longer, and he wants his disciples to begin focusing upon Jesus?
Or, could it be that John is developing some real doubts?
Scholars through the ages have debated this issue, with many siding on either side; so don't feel badly if you couldn't come up with a complete answer.
This morning, however, I would like us to focus primarily upon the position that John did indeed have some doubts.
After all, he was the son of a priest; he would have grown up learning the Scriptures, and according to the then current belief, Messiah was coming as a conquering king who was going to free Israel.
Jesus wasn't like that.
He associated and ate with all kinds of common people: priests and scholars, sinners, and both the rich and the poor.
Jesus was a pacifist. He wouldn't even condemn sinners according to the Law, but forgave them, with the instruction to go forth and sin no more. He didn't even require a sacrifice.
This must have seemed very strange to John, for he saw the Humble Servant, and not the King; and we can well see how he could have doubted.
John was more than likely depressed, because of being in prison, and in that state of mind, he may have lost some of his hope that Messiah had indeed come.
God is always faithful to perform what He says he will do; but we, when things don't happen just the way we planned them in our own minds, have a tendency to lose some of our faith.
Listen to what we are told in Psalm 146:5-10.
5. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God;
6. Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
7. Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.
John may have been seeing only the physical prison, and looked for a physical release.
He may have lost sight of the spiritual release to come in heaven.
If God could make the heavens and the earth, how difficult would it be to release John from prison?
The answer is, it wouldn't be hard at all; but that wasn't what God desired to do.
And this may have been what John lost sight of, and thus lost part of the blessing of assurance.
8. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
9. The Lord protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow;
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
This wasn't happening to John, and he may have lost some of his assurance that Jesus was Messiah.
He may have become impatient, and not focused upon the timelessness of God.
Heís just showing every one of us that he is just an ordinary person, as we are.
He may not have understood that Jesus was fulfilling the Messianic promise by opening the eyes of the blind.
10. The Lord will reign forever,
Thy God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Johnís eyes were focused upon this eternal reign.
With these thoughts in mind, let's return to our passage in Matthew 11, beginning with verse 4.
4. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see:
5. the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Jesus is reminding John that the Scriptures speak of many other things that Messiah will do, besides being King.
He's trying to get him to refocus his spiritual vision.
6. "And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me."
People stumble over Jesus when they see only the man.
They stumble over Him because He doesn't do everything in the way they think He should.
They stumble over Him in their impatience.
Before continuing on here, lets listen to what James says in 5:7-11.
7. Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.
8. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
9. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
10. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
11. Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
When we become impatient, we are apt to jump at or into something, without fully reasoning everything out in the proper manner.
That's how people accept false Christs and listen to false prophets and get involved in cults.
The Scriptures have told us the truth.
We are to prayerfully search the Scriptures for our answers.
We are to be patient until they come to pass, and rely upon those things that have already taken place.
Thus, Jesus starts talking to His disciples (Matthew 11:7):
7. And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?
8. "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces.
9. "But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.
If you've ever wondered why I teach by asking so many questions, you just got one of your answers, for I have a good Teacher who does the same thing.
And it is through asking these questions that Jesus gets them to think about what a true prophet is really like.
10. "This is the one about whom it is written,
'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.'
11. "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
In other words, if you think John is so great, which he is, you too, can be even greater, and should be even greater.
12. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
13. "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.
14. "And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.
Not that John was physically Elijah, who had come back to earth, but that he came in the spirit of Elijah
15. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Do you have ears to hear?
Only you and God know for sure.
If you are unsure, or don't understand what is being said, then itís time to pray to God for some help, and offer up to Him your very body, soul, and spirit, that your life might be changed.
Then Jesus asks something else.
16. "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children,
17. and say, '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, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
What do we see and hear?
Are we listening to the prophets of God, or the words of the devil?
Do we have the Spirit of Jesus within us, or the spirit of the devil?
Do we see beyond the corruption of this world, and with full hope and assurance see the heaven to come in all its glory?
If we do, then we should have a very merry Christmas.
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