Matthew 11:1-19 Part 2

Matthew 11:1-19 Part 2


It was the great George Whitefield who said that he “had rather have ten members wholly consecrated to God and filled with the Spirit, than five hundred that the devil laughs at in his sleeve.”  The world has an instinctive revulsion, or fear of the one who intensely believes all of the Words of God, and who has died to the world and is alive to God in every fiber of his being, and who has been energized in his whole being by the Holy Ghost!

John Wesly said, “give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and who desire God, and such alone will build up the Kingdom of Christ on earth.”

Regardless of what one feels about the quotes from these two great men, the Church that is filled with the outpouring of the third Person of the Trinity, The Holy Ghost - not only for its regeneration, but also for its sanctification, learning of Christ, living in Him and expanding His Kingdom - that’s a Church which is eager to know truth; that’s a Church that’s fervent in its devotion to Christ and His Kingdom; that’s a Church which is bold in its speaking of the Good News!

There is a tendency, while we’re learning from the apostle Matthew, to forget about the Holy Spirit and to concentrate just on the Father and the Son.  And, naturally, that’s because the Holy Spirit is not yet spoken of prominently in the text of Scripture!

Although He is quite active in the Covenantal process, His immanence among humanity occurs at the ascension of Jesus in the clouds of glory.  And, as you know, He is poured out as the Spirit of adoption upon the electing and re-creating purpose of God in creation.

This week I was again made aware that we must not overlook Him - even though we’re in a portion of the text where He is not explicitly included.  For the Church worships a Triune God.  Three Persons - One God.  And we must know Him - just as we know the Father, and the Son.  We must know His indwelling, and His comforting, and His praying, and His strict adherence to the Person of Christ, and His summons to us to know Christ and learn of Him.

And He is our Helper in doing that.

And as we approach the text of Jesus’ words here, we seek that help.  Because we want to know the fullness of our Lord’s work - and His Person - and His words.

In the first three verses we learned that John’s disciples relayed a message to Jesus from John.  And that message took form as a question - a question based on faith.  Faith in the Law and the Prophets being the Word of God - inerrant, infallible and eternal.  And what John had heard that the Christ was doing seemed different from what he knew the Psalmist said in Psalm forty.

In that Psalm, the Christ, The Messiah, was the suffering Servant of God Who, because the sacrifices of the people were detestable before God, was the One Coming to be the “perfect sacrifice.”  In that Psalm are the words, “Lo, I come!”

Jesus immediately knew what John’s intention was by referring to that Psalm, and He simply answers John with a quote from another prophet (equally God’s Word) which would expand John’s understanding of the Christ.  In effect, He says, “this is Me too.”  This also applies to Me!  But much more!

Jesus refers to two passages in the prophecy of Isaiah; chapters thirty-five and sixty-one.  Listen while I read Jesus’ words again as you look on in your text - verses four, five and six:  “…and Jesus answered and said to them, ‘when you leave carry word back to John the things you are hearing and seeing.  Blind are seeing again and lame are walking about, lepers are cleansed, and deaf are hearing; and dead are raised and poor have the Good News preached to them.  And blessed is whoever be not entrapped by Me.’”

Now, first, let me just make a couple of comments about less-than-critical items in theses verses.  And then we’ll come to the difficult ones.

You’ll notice I’m sure that Matthew didn’t begin verse four with “Jesus said…,” like he normally does when Jesus is speaking.  He says “Jesus answered and said….”  The verb “answered” is in what is called a participial mode, and it is heightened by contingency; so it lends importance to the issue being addressed.  It’s much like the term “lo” that Jesus used so often back in chapters eight and nine when He was signifying and figuring some majestic things which were happening.  I’ve referred to them several times - such things as the shaking of heaven and earth, the casting out of demons from an entire Gentile city, the termination of the Old Testament Priesthood - and so on.

And you might also remember that some of those things which He did - which signified and figured obviously more cosmic events, and to which came the attached term “lo” were some of the things which He mentions to John’s disciples here!  “Lo two blind men… Lo they brought to Him a man lame from birth… Lo a woman with an issue of blood… etc. etc. etc.”

And when we were in chapters eight and nine we were able to see the great significance of each of those events; so, now, Matthew emphasizes them again with reference to Jesus’ reply to John’s disciples.  And in doing so, he lets us know that these things Jesus is calling their attention to are very important things, and they are more important than just identifying Jesus to John, and they’re more important than just the miracles accomplished - as wonderful as they are!

So many miss the significance of these miracles.  You see, Jesus didn’t give John a direct answer to His question.  He could have said, “Yes, I am the One Coming.”  But He didn’t!  He gave a far better answer!  The response from Isaiah is far better confirmation of His sacrifice than a simple “Yes.”

Jesus tells John’s disciples to carry to John what they’re hearing and seeing!  They’re hearing the words of the Messiah and they’re seeing what He’s doing!  Now, we’re not to take that in the sense that seeing is confirmation of the hearing.  That’s not what Jesus means at all.  What Jesus means is simply this - that they are to hear Him preach the Scriptures and see Him do the Scriptures.  And, by that, they are to make the connection between Him and the One Whom the prophets said would come.  The majestic and cosmic things which Jesus was accomplishing were the things the prophets said would happen - and more!  And they all have far greater significance than just the obvious surface event!

Indeed, the prophet Isaiah had foretold of the One Coming that He would give light to the blind; and raise the dead; and cause the lame to walk; and give hearing to the deaf; and cleanse the lepers; and that He would preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the meek.  And what the prophets declared was now being accomplished!

The prophets showed that the treasures of the Grace of God in Christ would be exhibited to the world in Christ.  And the work of the Christ in the salvation of the world was being exhibited - or put on display - for all the world to see; not just to confirm that He was Divine, not just to let everybody know that He was the Christ, not just to confirm the Old Testament Scriptures, and not just so that a lame man could walk, or a blind man see, or a leper might be made clean!

Now, I would never denigrate the value to a lame man of being made whole again!  I would never lessen the value to a leper of being made clean!  And I would never say to a woman with a twelve year flow of blood - after she was made whole again - that her healing was of lesser importance in the scheme of things!

These are marvelous works of grace and mercy from One Who is the source of nature!  From One without Whom nothing was made that was made!  And by The One Who had been given all authority in heaven and earth!  The Old Testament prophets had prophesied that God’s Anointed One would come doing all these things.  And the poor and the afflicted did receive His mercy!

But the relief to the afflicted was not all that Jesus was exhibiting!  The relief to these poor lost sheep of the house of Israel, who had been shunned and scattered and bruised and scratched by the leaders of Israel, wasn’t the whole of the manifestation of the Savior of the world!  These are manifestations of His Divinity, and His Sonship, and His control over all of His Own creation - and much, much more!

And one better not be confused by that, because that’s being entrapped!  If one sees Jesus only as a great miracle-healer out there in the little hamlets in the middle of the desert showing mercy to the poor, he’s been confused and entrapped by the Son of God!  More about that in a minute.

But now we need to see if we can grasp some of the great significance of what John’s disciples were hearing and seeing!  And to avoid a purely “spiritual” interpretation of Jesus’ miracles, we’ve got to see, again, that they were both “concrete” and figurative!  When the disciples of John went back to tell him what they heard and saw, John was to understand that they were real miracles - real acts of mercy by the King of Kings - and they were cosignificative of a much higher purpose!  The lives of the scattered and bruised sheep of the house of Israel were personally affected by the Christ, and their reception of that mercy was a likeness, a representation, of the fullness of the atonement which Christ wrought for the world!  John was to hear his disciples and understand that Jesus’ work among the meek and afflicted was representative of the result of His sacrifice on the whole world.  His atonement affected all of it!

Blind are seeing!  Those who have lived in darkness have seen a great light!  Darkened eyes are flooded with the glory and majesty of Christ and His Kingdom!  From blackness so thick it can be sliced, the Lord Jesus brings clear daylight, demonstrating the total inability of men to see - from birth! - and representing the release, by way of His atonement, from total lack of understanding in which every man is born!

And, in addition to that, Jesus demonstrates that that is the nature of His Kingdom - that the world is set free from that blackness, and that His miracles of sight are representative of the fullness of that Kingdom, in that the powers of sin and death and disease and blindness are now overcome in the power and glory of the coming King!  And, because of His victory, there is an ever increasing opening of the eyes of the Gentile nations until the farthest reaches of the continents - and the islands in the sea - have been enlightened!  And blind men everywhere can see.

As we’ve often discussed - either one on one or in Sunday School - adopted sons of God ought to recognize the items and events in nature to the extent that they reflect and signify their Creator and His design!  And without a doubt there is a design and purpose of God that some men are blind!  And rather than pitying the one who has remained helpless, and heaping praise on the one who has used his other abilities to the fullest, Christians ought - first - give the honor and respect that is due to God!  That this one who is blind is there as a sign to the world that it is blind from birth, and that it needs the Savior to give it sight!

And the same thing is true about Jesus’ next statement to John’s disciples - “lame are walking about.”  Whenever we as Christians see others who are paralyzed and disfigured and unable to move about, we ought to be acutely aware that this is the condition of the world in its natural state!  And we are to give glory and honor to God!  Jesus’ healing of the lame signifies that He came in order that the world could now get up and run in the way of His Commandments and walk in the paths of righteousness and duty and perseverance!  The lame are a sign to the world of its inability to do that.

Then Jesus says, “lepers are cleansed.”  The natural state of mankind is rotting, and malignancy and putrefaction.  We are unclean - and unable to stem the disintegration and rotting which is ours due to sin!  And the signs of it are all around us and among us.  And when we as Christians see it and experience it, our first response ought to be the glory of God - for He sent His Own Son into the world to wash us clean!  The healing of the leper signified the cleansing of the world in His blood!

And next He says, “deaf hear.”  When we encounter those who are deaf, our first response is to give glory to God, for they are a sign to the world - an easily recognizable sign - that the whole world is in such a depraved state that they cannot hear!  But hearing comes by the Word of God.  And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!  And the word to John the Baptist was “hear and see - the deaf hear!”  The miracle of the deaf being made to hear rests in the fact that it has salvation significance for the entire cosmos, for the world can now hear the voice of the Son of God in the preaching of the Gospel!

And Jesus also said, “dead live.”  If there is one miracle of Christ - one sign of His Messianic work - which signifies and manifests the grace and mercy of God toward depraved mankind, it is this one.  All the others are signs of one or more aspects of our deadness/depravity, but this one covers it all.

We as adopted sons of God are faced with the indications of the state of mankind constantly.  It’s all around us.  We all are acquainted with the blind, the deaf, the afflicted, the desperately ill - those who are inflicted with the fruits of depravity.  But we are never so much reminded of it as when somebody dies - or we’re faced with our own deaths.  There is no super sign of the foul and venomous destructiveness of sin.  It’s a sure sign to the world.

And yet the first thing on the minds of people who witness the funeral of one who has died is to comfort the grieving and to praise the virtues of the deceased!  But that’s not what ought to be first on the minds of God’s people!  Christians ought - first - to give honor and respect to God, that this one who is dead is there as a sign to the world that it is dead from birth.  And that it must have the Savior to give it life!  Hear and see, John!  “Dead live!”  The raising of the dead by our Lord was the sign that the world lives!  The work of the Son of God was so powerful and so vast that the salvation of the whole world has been accomplished.  Sin and death are defeated.  The first resurrection is that in which one is made a new creation in Christ.  And the second resurrection is the raising up of the body to life everlasting.  “Report back to John what you hear and see.”

And then from Isaiah sixty-one Jesus says, “…poor have the Good news preached to them.”  Jesus says this last, because those who know they’re blind, and lame, and unclean, and deaf, and dead, are those who are meek and poor in spirit.  The one who knows himself - we’ve spoken of epistemological self-consciousness before - the one who knows himself, knows himself to be in desperate need of all things.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and “blessed are those who mourn….”  Those who know their condition hear the voice of Christ in the preaching of the Good News, and they flee to Him for the safety of His body.  And people, the preaching of the Good News to the meek is the source of the “greater things” that Christ promised to His disciples.

Lastly, as you see on your text, Jesus says, “and blessed is whoever be not entrapped by Me.”  Let me begin explaining this by saying that depraved men are, by nature, proud.  And hardly anything is much valued by men if it isn’t attended by a great degree of outward show.  And nothing can be further removed from greatness - outward greatness - than being “poor is spirit” or “meek” (mourning).

For this reason many are led to despise the Gospel (being entrapped by it) because it isn’t embraced and held by many of eminent rank!  The Gospel is despised by the great, or the wealthy or the content or the settled - who, puffed up with their own importance, see no benefit in the grace of God.  Hardly anyone avoids swelling up with confidence at his own person or gifts or position!  That’s the self esteem.

The poor, here in the text, are those whose condition is known to be wretched and despicable, and who aren’t seen to have any value.  They aren’t held in high esteem.  Jesus’ followers were the poor and despicable of society to whom the Scribes and Pharisees would give no time, because they weren’t great, and they couldn’t pay.  And they had been scattered and caused to suffer.  They had been beaten down and burdened.  The theologically and economically great had preyed upon them until they had no hope.  They were overwhelmed by that affliction!

And Jesus healed their blind, and their lame and their lepers and their deaf - signifying salvation to the depraved and the poor in spirit - the meek and mourning.

But what is it that causes proud men to be revolted by Him and His Gospel?  Well, not only did Jesus spend His time with the poor in spirit - the afflicted and the despicable, but He, Himself, appears with His cross - disfigured and despised and exposed fully to the reproaches of the whole world!  And, on top of that, He calls all men to share in His affliction and His shame and His persecutions!  Suffering comes with proclaiming His Name and His Commandments!

Christ is despised by the haughty and the arrogant because of these things, and His truth is totally at variance with their senses, and all of these things “offend” men.  And they cause men to “stumble.”  That’s why this word Skandalizo is translated in those ways in other versions.  And that isn’t too bad if we understand it.

But the word means to be caught in a trap and destroyed.  Jesus’ work among the poor in spirit and the despicable of society and the downtrodden - the ones who have been beaten down by the “great” - was for the purpose of signifying world-wide salvation for depraved, dead men.

And, by doing that, He traps proud men into being repelled by Him.  That doesn’t make Him a deceiver - Jesus is right up front and guileless about what He’s doing!  But the Jews fall into the pit and are trapped into temporal and eternal destruction.  They now have the eternal logo of “white-washed tombs” or rotted depravity inside, painted over with pride, arrogance and self-esteem.

Those who aren’t “trapped” are blessed, He tells John.  Don’t be entrapped by Me, John.  I Am the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.  And My work signifies the extent of My atonement.