This week’s lesson takes us into the final unit of lessons for the summer quarter. Throughout this quarter we have been taking a look at people of valor through acts of courage and having courage while facing threats. In this unit of lessons we will be taking a look at having courage for Jesus. Our lesson this week is being taught from Matthew 11:1-15.
Are You the One
Our lesson opens with Jesus departing and going out to teach and preach (v. 1). This was at a time where Jesus had called His twelve apostles to Him and gave them power over unclean spirits, and the power to heal all kinds of sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1). So, Jesus had already begun His ministering by the time period of our lesson, and what we are seeing in the opening verse of our lesson is that He was continuing to do what He had already begun.
John the Baptist sends his disciples
So, while he was in prison, we are told that John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Jesus an interesting question on his behalf. They ask, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another (vss. 2-3)?” Now, I want you to understand that though these words are coming from the mouths of John’s disciples, this was a question that he was asking of Jesus.
This was an interesting question to come from John the Baptist. Not too long ago we had a lesson that focused on John’s ministering of Christ. During his ministering of Christ, John baptized in the Jordan and testified of the coming Christ. In fact, we know that John testified of Christ on a couple of different occasions when he saw Jesus in person (John 1:29-30). At one of the occasions, John sent two of his disciples at the time (Andrew and John) to be disciples of Jesus.
John certainly knew that Jesus was the Christ – we know this from prior occasions that we have seen in scripture. So, why was John now asking this question of Jesus? There are two possible answers I believe we could come up with if we think about it.
Reason behind John’s question
The first reason that I can think of would be more of a selfish reason from John. We know that John was in prison at that time; he was being held prisoner by Herod (John 14:3-4). So, if we view this from a selfish perspective for John, then John could have been hearing about the ministering of Jesus and was possibly wondering why Jesus had not yet done anything for him. Now, I don’t actually buy that being the case with John thinking selfishly. Yet, it is certainly possible that someone out there may be thinking that John wanted to be freed from prison.
The second reason I can think of is that John may have been expecting Jesus to move differently from the way in which He was moving. Jesus was going throughout the land teaching, preaching, and healing as we will see Jesus say later in this lesson. I think John may have been a bit thrown off by the things that Jesus was doing. Let us remember that When John preached about the coming of Christ, he preached the need of repentance because of the looming judgment of Christ.
Yet, Jesus wasn’t judging anybody at that time. As Jesus said it Himself, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).” Jesus’ first coming was not a coming of destruction but a coming to deliver salvation from destruction. Destruction would not come until after the second coming of Christ at the judgment of the world (Rev. 11:15-18). Something that is very interesting about the first coming of Jesus was how misunderstood it was not only by those who did not recognize Christ but also by those who did recognize Christ.
Now, I believe the second reason to be more likely than the first reason. I believe that John was ready for the heavenly kingdom to come through Jesus’ righteous judging of the world. Now, that day still has not yet come, but I do believe that day is fast approaching. So, the message of repentance that John the baptist preached, is a message that should still be preached today.
Jesus responds to John
So, to answer John’s question as to whether or not He was the Messiah, Jesus responds, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 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. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me (vss. 4-6).”
John may have been looking for the righteous judgment to come immediately at Jesus’ first coming, yet Jesus speaks of fulfilling prophecy of the Messiah which was prophesied by Old Testament prophets. We can cross reference this scripture with a passage of scripture found in the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing (Is. 35:4-6).” Jesus was indeed the Messiah, even though He may have not come as some thought He would and even though He didn’t do the things they thought He should do.
Jesus commends John the Baptist
As John’s disciples began to leave, we will see that Jesus begins to commend John’s prophesying of Christ.
Jesus first asks, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind (v. 7)?” Now, Jesus was not saying that John was the reed that was being shook by the wind, but that John was the wind that was shaking the reed! So, Jesus was speaking to how boldly John was when it came to preaching the kingdom of God.
Jesus then said, “what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses (v. 8).” Scripture makes it clear that John was the total opposite of a man that lived in the kings’ houses. We are told that John was clothed in camel’s hair and that his food was locust and wild honey.
Jesus’ commending of John did not stop there. He continued and said, “what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You (vss. 9-10).’ ” Jesus says that John was more than a prophet and quotes Malachi 3:1.
John has an interesting place in scripture. Scripture records him in the New Testament but John, unlike the apostles, did not preach of the things that Jesus taught, nor did John preach the death and resurrection of Christ. John is essentially an Old Testament prophet that went before Christ and prepared the way for Him, yet we don’t often think of him as an Old Testament prophet.
Jesus then said that there was none who were born that was greater than John and you will even see him say that John was Elijah (vss. 11-14). This was truly a high commendation for John the Baptist, especially when we begin to think about the prophets who we consider to be great. We consider Moses and Elijah to be great prophets, right? Then there are other prophets that we consider to be great like Isaiah and Jeremiah. In my opinion, all of those men were very bold prophets, especially in the days in which they lived.
Moses was very bold when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Elijah was very bold when he stood up against Ahab. As we have seen in a recent lesson, Jeremiah was very bold standing up against the wickedness in Judah. John was filled with courage to speak of the kingdom of God at a time when those in Jerusalem had not heard from the Lord in 400 years. He had to have courage to preach the coming kingdom when the religious leaders would stand to challenge what he was preaching. Yet their challenge nor what others may have thought of his dress or what he ate could hold John back from preaching the kingdom of God.
John, again, was so bold that Jesus described him as the wind shaking the reed. How bold and courageous are we when it comes to ministering the gospel of Christ? Are we like the wind shaking the reeds? Sadly, it seems not too many Christians are bold and courageous enough to shake the reeds? We cannot be shy or hesitant when it comes to preaching God’s gospel. We cannot minister the words that people want to hear but the words of truth that they need to hear. The truth can be hard and it can be stirring as well, but the truth is what must be preached.