Doubting Jesus | Matthew 11:2-24 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 11:2–11:24
Good Morning! We are continuing to preach through the book of Matthew, the gospel account of Jesus as the Savoir-King of God’s people. We are in Part 2 (Chapters 8-13) the Mission of the King. Jesus is the great savior and king of God’s people. Jesus is God in the flesh. We doubt God. We doubt the mission of Jesus, we doubt the message of the Gospel, we are prone to wander as we see circumstances in the world that don’t meet with our expectations. We doubt God is good, we doubt God’s ability to effect change in a broken world. Sometimes we doubt the world is that broken and believe we can or have fixed it. As Jesus continues His mission of preaching, teaching and healing we see even His most fervent supporter express doubt about Jesus identity and mission, how Jesus responds reinforcing his purpose, how and why we as flawed people doubt regardless of how God reveals Himself, and how Jesus points us to certainty.
Matthew 11:2-24 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of 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 arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one 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 suffered 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 accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 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, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
V 11:2-6 Jesus Answers John’s Doubt
Matthew calls Jesus the Christ to start this whole section. While John has his questions, Matthew wants us to have no doubt who Jesus is, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savoir-King of God’s people, the champion and General who will bring victory over evil, sin, and death. John was confident in the greatness of Jesus when hesitating to baptize Him, but now John languishing in one of Herod’s prisons (Jesus heard he was arrested in Matt 4:12) He is far removed from his early ministry in the wilderness, from the humbling experience of participating in Jesus baptism. He had been a bold preacher, calling Jews to repent, calling Pharisees a broad of vipers, and even speaking out about the governor/king Herod who had begun sleeping with his brother’s wife, had his brother killed and married her. All this boldness, faithfulness was reward with prison. John has been keeping up with Jesus ministry through his own disciples, and has been regularly point his people to follow Jesus. He believes Jesus is the Messiah, the one who will lead an ultimate victory over the evil in the world and bring in a new kingdom for God’s people with everlasting peace and prosperity. Now in prison, he hears Jesus is touching unclean people, his disciples are not fasting properly where John’s disciples are. All John hears about are sermons and healings? Where are the victories, where are the judgments for the wicked? Where is the great and awesome day of the Lord? I am in jail here, when do we win so I can get out? John is puzzled, John wants answers, John wants assurance. Jesus doesn’t tell them yes or no. He says read your Bible John, hear what I am saying and doing, believe. Blind see, lame, walk, lepers are made clean deaf hear, dead rare raised all fulfilling Isaiah 35:5-6
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me, to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
Jesus also says back to John “easy turbo” don’t be disappointed or offended when I don’t perfectly meet your expectations. There are always two reactions to the truth of Jesus when he doesn’t meet our expectations be offend or be changed in our perspective. John has to be asking did he say anything else? What about Justice and setting the captives free? We’ll hear more about that when we get to Matt 14.
When you have doubts we seek easy yes/no answers when God wants to reveal so much more about Himself to us, he tells us look at my work, hear my words. Where are you with your experience with following Jesus? Are you at that exciting point of new birth where everything is fresh? Praise God! Are you year and years in and you had different expectations for what this new life was going to look like? We all want ultimate victory, we are impatience. When God tells us “later” we hear it as “no” and we doubt.
V 11:7-15 Jesus Answers the Crowd’s Doubt
Doubt in God can easily creep in when we hear or see chinks in the armor of those who have lead us to truth and growth in the lord. Pastors change positions on doctrines, or practices in their ministry, we see a blog on “contradictions” in the Bible, and we go back and ask ourselves is what we believe the truth. John’s disciples leave to give him the report and Jesus begins to talk about John. People have just heard John has some doubts and questions. Wait, if John is doubting Jesus as the messiah maybe we shouldn’t be listening to this Jesus either, may we should reconsider everything. Jesus answers the crowd in two key ways.
First - He is reminding them who John is. He doesn’t want people to have an inaccurate picture of John. John is not some easily swayed reed that goes wherever the winds of culture and society dictate. He isn’t some soft elite who simply can’t handle adversity. (Soft clothes, meant effeminate) He isn’t an opportunist hope to position himself in the place that gives him the best advantage in changing times. As Jesus talks about kings in palaces, he is challenging Herod directly (even Herod had a reed on his money at one point) No, John is tough, firm, John lived a hard scrapple life well before prison. John’s life resembles that of an Old Testament prophet but he is more than merely a prophet. He is the fulfillment Malachi 3:1, the messenger who comes Malachi 4:5 says is Elijah before the great and awesome day of the Lord. John has been asked “Are you Elijah who is to come? And he says no. Jesus says, John is more than John thinks he is. We are not who we think we are we are who God says we are and what God know we are. We can doubt our calling, our very salvation but it is God who decides those things not us. In the same time John is questioning, doubting, Jesus. Jesus is calling John the greatest man in history. If John can doubt we can doubt. The question is what is the motivation of our doubt? (Tease this out a bit, but not too much.)
Second - If John is the messenger in the spirit of Elijah, that means Jesus IS the Lord who is to come. There is a new covenant. John is the last OT style prophet. Jesus is not putting John down he is lifting up what is to come. We are now in a new period of blessing and understanding because we have the luxury of standing on this side of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Prophet after prophet longed for the days and the revelation that we have received. Jesus is reinforcing His credentials as the Messiah and saying those of us who have seen and heard the works of the king, the messiah are blessed far beyond those who only waited. When they had doubt, they didn’t have the same assurance of looking at the person and work of Jesus. Even the “Least in the Kingdom” is still experiencing the kingdom. Mr Irrelevant in the NFL Draft. Get’s a party thrown for him in Newport, CA and the “Lowsman Trophy” Like a Heisman Trophy except the player is fumbling. Currently Lonnie Ballentine, S from Memphis drafted by Texans.
Jesus says “if you will accept it.” He who has hears to hear let him hear.” This is grand language, it’s not easy to accept. Jesus knows some will doubt and his answer is, “Trust me.” Place your doubts aside and trust what I have to say. John is in prison because he is desperate for the truth, He is suffering violence for the Kingdom because he was willing to speak out against the kings of the earth. Even in doubt, he wants to land in a place of trusting Jesus. He knows his only hope is Jesus, he is asking for wisdom and assurance.
It’s ok to doubt, doubt like John. Doubt where you want to know who the messiah is. Doubt because you know you without an answer you are hopeless and lost. Doubt because you are desperate for the truth and salvation or you can doubt because you are desperate to justify your sin. One will lead you to trust Jesus, the other will cause to you trust yourself. When you doubt you better want an actual answer, you better expect an answer and have faith there are actual answers to be had.
James 1:5-7 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
V 11:16-19 Jesus Answers Generations’ Doubt
Jesus is now comparing the doubt of John the Baptist this generation, really with any generation. Not specific to everyone in a generation but to the general tone/flavor of the main stream culture. Jesus says you are like children playing a game. A game you’ve made up where you are in charge and everyone is to respond to the framework you’ve set up in precisely the way you expect them to. When they don’t you’re disappointed, dissatisfied, and disillusioned. This is not faithful doubt this is faithless doubt. This is doubt enters the world because of sin. The serpent come into the garden and asks “did God really say?” Doubt is not sin. How we respond to is can be. Sin happened with the answer is not the truth of God and when we instead choose to believe a lie. We doubt because we don’t like be told the answer, we like “arriving” at our own answers. We don’t take preachers seriously, we don’t take God’s word seriously, We don’t take Jesus seriously. When confronted with truth we become casual about dismissing it or worse confrontational about rejecting how it doesn’t fit in our world view. Do not be comfortable in evading God’s urgent claim on our life. We manufacture reasons for doubting. Ex: chart of bible contradictions.
John comes and he lives a life of self-denial that looks radically different then what you are comfortable with. Because you don’t understand it and because you don’t want to make the radical changes in world view he is calling for you literally demonize him and his ministry. Repent?! That is unloving, that is not tolerant, that is evil. Then Jesus comes, engaging with people, celebrating new life, enjoying and abundant life with people who have repented and are now celebrating and you call me a glutton, drunkard, and friend of sinners. No way can God save/change those people; no way repenting from sin can actually lead to joy. No matter what the answer is they are not satisfied. They would not repent with John and they would not rejoice with Jesus. When we doubt it can lead to failure to do either of these things.
Jesus says I am the creator, I make the games, I make the rules and I am calling out to you to be my playmates in my kingdom. First you need to repent of your game, your rules. Chuck them aside and recognize I am the King and my kingdom looks a lot different than you expect and a lot better than you can imagine. Jesus points them back to who he is and what he’s done. He says I hear your doubts, Trust me.
V 11:20-24 Jesus Answers the Cities’ Doubt
Repentance is central to John’s preaching and Jesus preaching. Yes, Jesus is exceedingly compassionate for those who need his healing. But, all of Jesus miracles are to establish Jesus’ credential as the messiah as the king who calls people to repent and live new lives of rejoicing with Him in the works he has done, is doing and will do. Jesus wasn’t looking to wow crowds or develop fan clubs he wanted repentance. Jesus is more concerned with repentance than healing because he knows repentance IS healing.
Chorazin was a smaller town in Galilee, Bethsaida – “Home of fishing” Blue collar town of workers who produce. These are hardworking religious people. The failure of these cities is not in their morality or their religious practices or their politics, it is in their lack of repentance in the face of the amazing works of Jesus. Jesus contrast them with Tyre and Sidon. These are Pagan cities of legendary wealth (not producers but traders of goods others had produced.) Says if I had done there what I have done here they would have repented. They are ignorant. Isaiah 23, Ezek 26, Amos 1, all talks about judgment for these cities.
Romans 1:18-23 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
You Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, you have seen the mighty works of King Jesus, you have heard the call of repentance and have responded with rejection of Jesus. Your doubt has led to denial, repent or it will lead to your destruction. It will be worse for you then Sodom. Jesus is warning. That is compassion.
Jesus is even compassionate to these cities. Woe, yes it is bad but here it is with a heart of regret and compassion. They are being warned, the judgment hasn’t come yet, the great and terrible day of the lord hasn’t come yet. Jesus is calling, Jesus is warning, Jesus is commanding. The same way Jesus was healing people with the power of his words he calls us to repent. Rise, walking, live, repent, believe the gospel.
When you see the mighty power of God how do you respond? God want’s repentance, for your joy. He also wants it for your salvation. Jesus is clear, you doubt God, don’t doubt there is Judgment coming.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The high point of God’s revelation through Jesus ministry was in Capernaum, yet he was still rejected. They thought more highly of themselves then they ought. Don’t let your historical doubts keep you from Jesus, don’t think “well if I would have just met and seen Jesus and all he did I wouldn’t have any doubt and Being near Jesus or close to his work is no substitute for trusting in Jesus. Doubt cannot lead to denial of Jesus, who He is, what he has come to do. What he calls us to, repentance.
CROSS Jesus Answers All Doubt
Jesus faced greater adversity than any of us can imagine with perfect obedience and trust in God.
Luke 22:42-44 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus went to the cross knowing what lay ahead and did it anyway. Because Jesus trusted and obeyed the Lord perfectly even with things were the bleakest we can rest even in our doubt knowing our salvation is not dependent on the certainty of our faith but the object of it. Jesus died on the cross for when our doubt leads us to sin. Jesus died on the cross to suffer the judgment and punishment we deserve for sin of rejecting God. Jesus rose to remove all doubt on his identity, purpose, and power. Because of the certain work of Jesus on the cross dying in our place for our sins we don’t have to rest in the certainty or uncertainty of our faith. We rest in the certainty of what he has done. Jesus died for doubters, Jesus rose for doubters, Jesus brings new life to doubters, Jesus even commissions doubters for mission even after the resurrection (Matt 28:17) because doubters are all he has to work with! As we live our lives as we adversity, as we question our very salvation and God’s promises let our doubt lead us to Jesus where certainty can be found.
Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
All the promises of God are yes in Christ even when to us the answers look like no. Trust Jesus!
More in Mission of the King | Matthew Part II
September 14, 2014Rejecting Jesus | Matthew 13:53-58 (Mville)
September 7, 2014Parables of Kingdom Power and Price | Matthew 13 (Mville)
August 31, 2014Parables of the Kingdom | Matthew 13 (Mville)