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# 46: 1-29-19 1

Matthew 11:1-6

Jesus has been instructing His disciples regarding the opposition that they will come to experience in their
ministry. This pertains to disciples of every age, including believing Jews during the Tribulation.

Satan and his world system are antagonistic to God and His plans for men, and will resist efforts to
reconcile men through the cross. This enmity will become fierce in the last days.

Yet Jesus indicated there would be those people who are receptive to the disciples and their message. And
in response to the hospitable treatment of the disciples, the Lord would reward such people with an
intimate, comprehensive hearing of His words of Life - right in their own homes.

As Matthew goes on with his account, he now writes of Jesus as He continues His own ministry - and of
some who come to Jesus with a question.

11:1 So we read that Jesus departed from there - from the place where He was instructing His twelve
disciples - and Jesus then resumed His ministry.

Matthew mentions teaching and preaching. What do we always read that Jesus did, as He shared the Word
of God? He did the works of God; healing the sick, and casting out demons from those who were
possessed (Mt 4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35). These were the miraculous signs that authenticated the words of
Jesus being of God.

Where was Jesus ministering? We’ve seen previously that He was ministering in Galilee, and when we get
to the last half of this chapter, we will find that Jesus is continuing to minister there. So He is still in
Galilee; Matthew indicates, in the cities, but in this case the word means the villages and towns, that
covered the countryside.

And what about the disciples? Jesus departed from them, at this time. They would now go out, in the
power of Jesus, to preach the gospel of the kingdom among the Jews in Galilee - just as their Master was
doing. Here was their practice for their future ministry of reconciliation, after Jesus returned to heaven.

Matthew gives us no details concerning their ministry at this time. We simply know that Jesus sent them
out, as Matthew indicated back in chapter 10 verse 5, and if we look down in chapter 12 verse 1, we see the
disciples are back with Jesus by then.

We know that the disciples went out in pairs (Mk 6:7); and that they did do the works of Jesus, and they
preached (Mk 6:12-13); but we don’t know the response of the people to their preaching, at this time. Also,
there must have been arrangements made to meet up again, but we don’t know where or when that

What Matthew was inspired to write of instead was an encounter that Jesus had while He was ministering -
with two disciples of John the Baptist.

v. 2-6 We read in verse 2 that John - John the Baptist - was in prison. Matthew has already provided this
detail back in chapter 4; let’s look back at that, a moment.
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[Matthew 4:12-17] You may remember that John had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, one of the sons
of Herod the Great. John had rebuked Herod for unlawfully marrying his living brother’s wife (Lk 3:19).
So Herod had John arrested. When that happened, Jesus left that region for Galilee, where He established
Himself in Capernaum to begin His public ministry.

[Return to Matthew 11]

Now by this time, Jesus has been ministering for about two years. This means that John has been in prison
for just short of that - two years. Herod had confined John in Machaerus, his fortified palace on the eastern
side of the Dead Sea, in Perea (Josephus). This Herod had been given rule over that region as well as
Galilee by the Romans.

From prison, John had heard about the works of Jesus - the Messiah, as Matthew indicates here - Christ.
We can safely assume that John heard this from his disciples, who would have been ministering to John’s
needs, in prison. They would have kept him posted on what they had heard, about Jesus - remember, Jesus
is up in Galilee, and John and his disciples are down in Perea, south of Galilee and Samaria - about a
hundred miles away (see map).

John of course would have been carefully following any news, concerning Jesus. After all, John’s whole
life revolved around the Messiah. I want to refresh your memories concerning John, and the ministry that
he was appointed to - by heaven above.

Turn to Luke chapter 1. The birth of John was foretold by an angel to his father Zacharias, as he was
ministering in the temple, as priest. The angel announced that Zacharias, and his barren wife Elizabeth, who
were both well advanced in years, were to have a son, and name him John. John means “Jehovah is a
gracious giver”. This is what the angel told Zacharias about John.

[Luke 1:15-17]

v. 15 The idea of being great in the sight of the Lord is to be mightily empowered, by Him. That John
would drink neither wine nor strong drink suggests that the Lord was appointing him as a Nazarite, from
the womb - one whose life was consecrated to the Lord, for His purposes.

In that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb is to say that he would believe in the Lord
from the earliest possible moment, of life. This may have gone back even before his birth, as John leapt in
the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, when Mary arrived to see her, bearing Jesus in her womb (Lk 1:39-41).

The angel continued.

v. 16 This will be part of the ministry of John - his preaching will cause many in Israel to repent of their
sins. John’s water baptism was a symbolic baptism of repentance, to show that a man knew he was a sinner
in need of cleansing.

v. 17 This shows the other part of John’s ministry. In the context of the OT prophecy from which this is
taken, it means the John will go before the LORD - Jehovah, the God of Israel - doing so in the spirit and
power of Elijah, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD - when the LORD will come, to
judge the earth.
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John would be the forerunner of Israel’s Messiah, preaching like Elijah - that fiery OT prophet. When John
was born, Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, declared to the baby John, “you will go before the face of
the Lord to prepare His ways, to give a knowledge of salvation to His people, by the remission of their
sins” (Lk 1:76-77).

John would convict the people of their sins, and then point them to the One who would deliver them - the
Messiah of Israel. But first, the Messiah of Israel had to be pointed out to John.

After their respective births, Jesus and John grew up - Jesus, in Nazareth of Galilee; John, most likely in
Judea, perhaps going into the wilderness as a young man (Lk 1:80).

Would you say that both Jesus and John would have been instructed by their parents? Of course. Besides
being taught the OT Scriptures, the boys would have learned of the prophecies concerning themselves, and
the events that surrounded their births.

Did Jesus and John know of each other, as they were growing up? They would definitely have known of
each other, since Mary and Elizabeth were kinfolk, and they had shared with each other what the Lord had
revealed to them.

But based on a statement made in John’s gospel, John did actually know Jesus - John said, “I did not know
Him” (Jn 1:31). The sense is John never met Jesus, in person. Not until Jesus came to John, at about thirty
years of age, to be baptized in the wilderness.

God had revealed to John - through the Holy Spirit in John - that the Messiah would be marked out by a
special sign. And what’s more, the Spirit must have identified Jesus to John just before that, for Matthew
made it plain that as Jesus approached John, John already understood this was Jesus, and He was Israel’s
Messiah (Mat 3:13-15).

We’re going to take a look at John’s gospel, to see some comments that John made, during his ministry.
Turn to John chapter 1. We’ll begin in verse 14.

[John 1:14-15]

v. 14 The apostle John has written of ho logos, the Word, his inspired name for Jesus before He came to the
earth. The Word reveals the mind of the Father; Jesus would reveal His Father God to men.

In this verse the apostle John makes his only mention of the birth of Jesus: the Word became flesh. The
Greek wording indicates that He remained the Word, God, but that He also began to be human, as well -
never ceasing to be God.

The Word took on a body of flesh, and dwelt - tabernacled - among men - His body like a tent, in which
God dwelt in our midst, sharing our human form - our temporary tents. He was the only begotten of the
Father - the One and only - completely unique - one of a kind - and glorious.

v. 15 So the apostle John here records the witness of John the Baptist, to Jesus. What did it mean? John
was saying, Jesus was born after Him, but Jesus is the greater, because He was before John - in the Greek,
it’s “was and always was” before him. John the Baptist was saying that as the Word, Messiah is an eternal
being - that He is God.
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The apostle John then writes of the testimony of John the Baptist to the religious establishment - we’ll
probably look at that next week. The next day, John saw Jesus approaching. Skip down to verse 29.

[John 1:29-37]

v. 29-30 What we see here is that John is now bearing witness to others that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel -
the One who is preferred before John, because He was before - and always before - John. The Messiah is
God; and Jesus is the Messiah.

But more - John knows Him to be the Lamb of God - who takes away the sin of the world. John understood
that Jesus would be the sacrifice for sin; the substitute for men; their Sin-Bearer. This is the Savior of the

Now John goes on to indicate how he knew Jesus to be the Messiah. John recounts his baptism of Jesus,
which had occurred previously.

v. 31-34 John knew this, because it was revealed to John by God. And God confirmed that Jesus was the
Messiah through that special sign - the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove, and remained on
Him. This occurred when John baptized Jesus.

Here was the Spirit’s anointing of Jesus for His ministry - to redeem mankind. And the Father voiced His
approval from heaven - signaling His acceptance of His beloved Son (Mat 3:17) to be the sacrifice - the
Sin-Bearer. All of this was seen and heard by John.

v. 35-37 There was John - perfectly fulfilling his ministry. These two disciples had learned well from
John, their teacher - they followed Jesus.

Now let’s go back to Matthew’s account and read John the Baptist’s question again.

[Matthew 11]

v. 2-3 Thinking back on all that we have just considered about John, do you find it almost
incomprehensible that he would ask this question, of Jesus? I’m sure you do.

Think of God’s appointment of him, before birth; how he fulfilled OT prophecies; his fiery and effective
ministry; how God made revelations to him; his personal interactions with Jesus; and his powerful
testimony, to Him - the Messiah; the Lamb of God; the Son of God; the eternal One.

Is there any question in your mind, that John genuinely believed into Jesus? There shouldn’t be any; an
angel even pronounced that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, from his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15).

So what are we to make of John’s inquiry? “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” The
Coming One is unquestionably a reference to Israel’s Messiah; since the Jews were foretold of Messiah in
their Scriptures, they came to refer to Him as the One who is to come, or the Coming One. Messiah and the
Coming One are one in the same.

There really is no other way to view the words of John. John believed Jesus is the Messiah. Now John was
questioning Jesus; was He really the Messiah - or is Messiah still to come?
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How can John believe, and ask that question? The answer to that is - John was human - just like you. Was
there ever a time you had doubts, about what you believed? Probably there was. Well at this time, John
had some doubt.

John has been languishing in prison now for about two years. Two years, since he had that incredible
ministry, to which the Lord had appointed him - not very far from where he was imprisoned, at this time.

John had the fire of an OT prophet. Multitudes - multitudes! - came out to hear him, in the wilderness:
“Repent! The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The King was here, and looking for subjects for His

John’s preaching prepared the hearts of the Jews to receive their Messiah; many were convicted of their
sins, and they got baptized by John in the water, to show they knew they needed to be cleansed of their sins.
John had gotten them ready, for the Messiah; and when Jesus came to him, John declared Him, and bore
witness to Him, before all Israel.

We might think that John’s question came out of a sense of disillusionment, based on his current
circumstances. But John understood that his ministry would be short term - and that it would give way to
the ministry of Jesus.

Turn to John chapter 3. After Jesus was baptized by John there was a time when they were preaching
concurrently, in Judea. John continued to administer his baptism of repentance; and the disciples of Jesus
were also baptizing.

Some of John’s disciples viewed this as improper; as if Jesus was trying to steal their master John’s
ministry! They came to John and complained. But John set them straight.

[John 3:26-30]

v. 26 These men were disciples of John the Baptist. John was their rabbi; their teacher. They were devoted
to John - to the extent that they had lost their heavenly perspective.

“He who was with John beyond the Jordan” is Jesus - the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Savior of
the world - to whom John bore witness. If all are repenting and coming to Jesus, that’s just as it should be.

But these disciples didn’t see that. They saw Jesus cutting into their master’s ministry. So John had to
repeat a lesson that he no doubt had taught them before.

v. 27 Simply put, John was saying, “this is God’s will” - that men are turning to Jesus. It was right; it was

v. 28 John was saying, “My part was to announce the Messiah’s arrival; I’m not Him”.

v. 29 John gives his disciples an analogy. Who would the bridegroom represent? That would be Jesus.

Now think carefully; who would John’s Jewish disciples know the bride to be? To whom is a king
married? To the subjects of His kingdom. So the Jewish disciples would see the bride as being the sons of
the kingdom, whom they would assume to be the Jews; Israel. The church was still a mystery.
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Now it is the bridegroom who has the bride; the King, His kingdom. John was saying, the kingdom is not
my possession; it belongs to Messiah.

Who is John, in the analogy? The friend of the bridegroom. This refers to a very specific individual who
acted as a representative of the prospective bridegroom and his father. He acted on their behalf in
negotiations for securing the bride, offering the bride price that would be paid.

What a perfect analogy for John the Baptist, who presented Jesus to Israel as the Lamb of God, who would
secure His bride with His own blood - the bride price.

John used this analogy to show his disciples that once the friend of the bridegroom had fulfilled his
purpose, his work is done. But how he rejoices at the fruit of his efforts - to see the bridegroom who has
now come to receive his bride.

This leads to John’s final teaching point, to his disciples.

v. 30 Why must John decrease? Because otherwise, he would be a distraction from the bridegroom. The
whole purpose of John’s ministry was to point to Jesus, so that people would turn to Him. But if John kept
preaching and baptizing, people would tend to keep following him - much as these disciples of John, were

John absolutely knew that his ministry would be fulfilled, with the coming of Jesus into His ministry. And
looking at the way John personalized this - He must increase, but I must decrease - it would seem John had
the sense that he himself would somehow fade off the scene - although he probably didn’t know exactly
how. Yet clearly, John was at peace with that, knowing he had fulfilled his God-given role.

[Return to Matthew 11]

So John’s current question did not come out of a sense of disillusionment or disappointment, with his
ministry coming to an end. Nor was it likely that the rugged John, well acquainted with an ascetic lifestyle,
had succumbed to despair in the prison environment.

But, for two years, John had been keeping track of the ministry of Jesus. And what did John hear that Jesus
was doing, during that time? He was preaching, and teaching, healing and casting out demons - and
continued to do only that.

John had proclaimed the message of repentance, and by now it would have been heard throughout Israel.
And for two more years, Jesus had preached the same message, inviting the Jews to come into the kingdom,
through Him.

Why wasn’t Jesus by this time claiming His kingdom - as countless OT prophecies showed that Messiah
would do? Why wasn’t Jesus overthrowing Israel’s enemies, with a baptism of fire? Why wasn’t Jesus
lifting up Israel to be the head nation? And why was Jesus lingering in Galilee, so far from Jerusalem - the
city of the King?

John’s upbringing would have ensured that he knew the OT Scriptures - and above all, every single
prophecy that pertained to the Messiah. What John was doing was using his human knowledge like a
yardstick to measure the ministry of Jesus - and from what John could see, Jesus fell short.
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Prophecy after prophecy remained unfulfilled, and with no prospect of fulfillment - that John could see.
John was allowing his human perception and human expectations to cast a cloud of doubt over his faith, in

With characteristic bluntness, John has his disciples inquire of Jesus - Is He the Messiah - or should they be
looking for someone else? We read of the response of Jesus, beginning in verse 4.

v. 4-5 Would you say that Jesus was offended, by John’s inquiry? Not at all. Instead, Jesus gives John’s
disciples a ready answer.

Previously, these disciples of John had heard about the works of Jesus (v. 2). Luke’s gospel brings out that
they now saw these things for themselves, as Jesus miraculously cured people of infirmities, afflictions, and
cast out evil spirits, while those disciples were in His presence (Lk 7:21). They saw the works, with their
own eyes.

That became part of Jesus’ answer, to John. Jesus did not rebuke John, for his doubt; instead, Jesus gave
John the light he needed to dispel the doubt.

And what was the light? It was the eyewitness account that John’s disciples would give him, of the works
of Jesus they saw - healing, cleansing, and raising the dead. But their witness to John would also include
the words they heard Jesus speak - preaching the gospel to the poor - that is, the poor in spirit; those who
recognized their need of a Savior.

The things that Jesus says to report to John are actually a fulfillment of some prophecies of Isaiah. We’re
going to take a quick look at several of these. Turn first to Isaiah chapter 35. I’m going to read the part of
the prophecy that Jesus fulfilled, by His works. Look down in verse 5.

[Isaiah 35:5-6] Jesus pointed out His healing of the blind, the deaf and the lame. But if we look at the
context of this prophecy, by reading to the end of the chapter, what we find is that this is speaking of Jesus’
Second Coming - to set up His Kingdom on the earth.

Now let’s go to Isaiah chapter 26. Look down in verse 19.

[Isaiah 26:19] Remember that Jesus had pointed out to John’s disciples that He had raised the dead. And
what is this prophecy talking about? Raising the dead; resurrection. But in context, it is speaking of the
resurrection of Life. That will occur when Jesus returns to the earth - at His Second Coming.

Now let’s look at Isaiah chapter 61. I’ll read from verse 1.

[Isaiah 61:1-3]

v. 1-2a This anointing of Jesus occurred when He was baptized, by John, as He was about to begin His
ministry. The prophecy goes on to speak of Messiah preaching good tidings; that is, good news - the gospel.
Those who receive the good news will be healed from sin-sickness, and set free from death.

And Jesus preached that good news, as the disciples of John had heard; proclaiming the acceptable year of
the LORD - that the King had come to receive His people.

But as this prophecy continues, it advances far in the future.

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v. 2b-3 The day of vengeance is the day of the LORD. This prophecy has gone beyond the end of the church
age, with the Tribulation and the return of Christ - in His Second Coming.

[Return to Matthew 11]

What Jesus was presenting to John was the evidence that He is indeed the Messiah - showing Him at this
time to be the fulfillment of these OT prophecies - a near-fulfillment of them; and only in part. They
confirmed who Jesus was - the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel.

Do you think that Jesus would have understood the nature of John’s confusion, and doubt? - For John,
along with all Israel, did not know that Messiah would come twice; first as the suffering Servant, and then
as the Conquering King. Of course Jesus would have completely understood John’s confusion.

So couldn’t Jesus have simply told John about His Second Coming - to clear up John’s confusion? No.
That was something that the Father would reveal, in His good time - and now was not the time (see Acts

Israel was now being given the opportunity to receive her Messiah. Only when Israel as a nation refused
would a second assembly be called out of the world, to bear witness to Christ - the church. And only when
the church had completed her witness would judgment come to the earth - followed by the Second Coming
of Jesus.

But what Jesus did do for John was to give him the same evidence He gave all of Israel - to believe the
words Jesus spoke, and the works Jesus did, which showed Him to be the Messiah. And then, John had to
keep trusting Jesus, for what he could not yet see.

There is no admonishment of John, by Jesus - instead, there is that final encouragement to him, in verse 6.
Let’s read that again.

v. 6 The word for “offended” means “to cause to stumble”, as over a stumbling stone.

John must choose not to be offended because of Jesus; he must not stumble over Him, like a stumbling
stone - by letting doubt obscure his faith in the reality of Jesus, as Messiah. Instead, John must choose to
build himself up on his most holy faith (Jude 20) - on Jesus as the Stone of Israel - John’s Rock - which
would enable John to keep pressing on, to his blessed end.

Reading: Matthew 11:1-19; Malachi 3:1-7; 4:1-6; Prov 9:1-6