You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?
Is there anything here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.
Welcome to More Than Ink. The Gospels all include John the Baptist as the beginning of the story of Jesus. What was that relationship? Right. And today, John the Baptist is back in the story, even though he's in prison and Jesus is going to tell everyone who he is. He says he's a prophet and more than a prophet. What does that mean?
Yeah, that's a curious phrase. Well, let's find out what more than a prophet is today on More Than Ink. Well, a wonderful good morning to you. I'm Jim.
And I'm Dorothy. And we're glad you could join with us. In the background today, you may hear some sounds of the summer, actually sounds of spring, I suppose. Well, it's summer. It's a warm morning and there's people out mowing their lawns and we can't escape that because we record in our own dining room.
That's right. And we got chickens nearby, so you might hear some clucking. So just a little bit of fun background sounds.
We did not add them. They're actually in the room. They're here. Right here, yeah. This is what we live with. So we are reading through Matthew.
We're glad you're joining us. And Jesus is very active here in Chapter 11, doing ministry in Upper Galilee, in the Galilee region. In fact, last time we got together, he finished in Chapter 10, sending off the apostles, the sent ones.
And got them all prepped and ready to go and in one chapter equipped them for what they needed to do. And what he told them was, don't be afraid of people. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of what they say.
I came to bring a sword. In other words, you're gonna find people divided over me. Or they're not gonna roll the red carpet out for you. That's right.
They may not. But the one who receives you receives me. Right, right. And so it's all about who is your message about. The message is about Jesus, not about them.
Yes. So that's how he equipped them to send them out. Their message will not be universally received.
So it's gonna be difficult in the same way that Jesus' message was not universally received. So he sent them out and we don't have anything about where they went after that. So as we pick up here in Chapter 11, we're following Jesus. And I don't know, presumably the apostles are out doing their stuff today. I don't know. They went. Someplace else.
Yeah. Because when we start off Chapter 11, it says when Jesus had finished instructing his 12 disciples, well, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. So that's where we are today. He sent them out and he continues to go out himself.
And he continues to go out. So if you're following with us, we're in Chapter 11 and right at the top. So we're reading out of the ESV version. So here we go. You wanna read for us? Sure. Let's do it.
Okay. When Jesus had finished instructing his 12 disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another? And Jesus answered them, go and tell John what you see and hear.
The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them and blessed is the one who is not offended by me. Should we stop there? Yeah, let's stop there. Because he's gonna go on to talk about John the Baptist some more, but here he's talking about himself.
Right, right, right, right, right. So John was in prison at this point, it says. I know.
And if you read the accounts, you see why he got in prison, but he's in prison. And he probably has a sense that he's not coming out. This is the end. Right. Yeah, right.
It's a one way trip. But also, you know, it could very well be that he's been somewhat insulated from the news of what Jesus has been doing. So Jesus has been very active and he's hearing what's going on because it says while he was in prison, he heard about the deeds. It's interesting, Matthew writes here, the deeds of the Messiah of the Christ.
So he's telling you, well, we know who this guy is. So possibly John didn't witness these miraculous works because remember, he had already early on at the baptism identified Jesus as the Son of God. And then shortly after that, he had said to some of his own disciples, there's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So he clearly knew that Jesus was the sent one. Yeah, there was some speculation that in this particular case here, because John did know who Jesus was, that he was sending these disciples for the disciples.
For their sake. I had that same thought. And so that's not a bad observation. But it's a great benefit to us because Jesus' answer is very instructive.
It is. Jesus doesn't just say, yeah, I'm the guy. He says, go back to what you know in the Old Testament. What is the Messiah going to be like? And that's just a great way to answer his.
Well, okay. So he quotes Isaiah extensively here. He makes reference to three or four different places. And the interesting thing to me is that Jesus quotes Isaiah more than any other book, it seems to me.
And it's possible that Deuteronomy is a close second or they are about the same. But Isaiah is full of very clear statements about what the sent one will do and what he'll be like. So I would encourage you listeners to look for your cross references on this passage where Jesus describes the work, the sent one, because you'll find yourself in Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 42 and Isaiah 61, Isaiah 28, you're going to find yourself all over the book of Isaiah.
But that's always a good response for us, too. Who is Jesus? Well, let me tell you what they were looking for in the Old Testament because God was clear about this one who had come. And so Jesus himself uses that same thing. Look at my credentials in the Old Testament and you tell me if they match what I'm doing. And so these are things that we've been reading just casually here and go, well, yeah, Jesus did those things. And so if that matches up to what we read in the Old Testament, you know, this might be the Messiah.
And indeed, he is. So it's interesting that he says, blessed is the one who's not offended by me or who doesn't stumble over me. One of my favorite words. Because that's, you know, Isaiah had laid out this idea of the stumbling stone, someone God had planted in the way of those who were proceeding to grab onto the kingdom by their own expectations. Yeah, so this word offense doesn't mean, oh, you said something that makes me feel bad.
It's not that at all. No, it's a stumbling over. It's a stumbling. It's an obstacle. When someone does something that deliberately gets in your way. Yes, stops your forward motion.
That's this word scandalizo. It means it's a stumbling block. It's an impediment. It gets in your way.
So he's saying, you know, if who I am, who I come to be is not getting in your way, you're blessed. Right. You've got it.
You've got it. In other words, it's not getting in your way. It's opening your way. Exactly.
Exactly. Because God said, I'm going to plant this stumbling stone and they're going to have to deal with it. You can't get past this rock of Christ. And yet we talked about last time that the apostles, when they went out, they were going to be resisted by people. And primarily because when they brought up the name of Jesus as being the Messiah, that would be their stumbling stone.
They'd say, wait, I can't get past that. You're claiming he's the Messiah. Sorry. That's an impediment in me following whatever you say from this point.
Okay. So we're going to see Jesus kind of unpack that in the coming chapter because he was continually doing things that they interpreted as breaking the law. And so this idea of the stumbling stone being an obstacle to getting into the kingdom the way you thought you could, which is by keeping law. So let me just make a note here of Romans 9, because Paul says that was the problem with the Jews, that they stumbled over the stumbling stone. This is Romans 9, 33. Just as it's written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed. But Paul goes on to say that the Jews, he bears them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge, because not understanding God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God, which comes by faith, by faith in Jesus. And so that's Jesus is saying, hey, if you are offended by me, it's the issue of believing that I am who I am, and you don't get into the kingdom by law keeping. And I might make a Captain Obvious observation right here, but when you trip over something, it's something that you don't anticipate being in your way, it kind of surprises you. So it's actually a very apt metaphor for what happens when people hear about Jesus' claims of being the Messiah, and it causes them to trip and say, well, I didn't see that coming, and they either fall or pick themselves up. So that's what he's talking about here. Well, and this whole chapter actually is talking about willful blindness, right, because willfully blind people misinterpret what's in front of them. Right, right. So as we push on, at this point, I think Jesus' explanation to these two disciples of John was very public with the people, because when we pick up verse seven, I think Jesus has to explain publicly who these guys were they were asking, and who they're asking on behalf of is John the Baptist, so he has to explain it to the crowd, so he explains it in verse seven.
Okay. So that's they, the disciples of John, are going back to John. Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John, what did you go into the wilderness to see?
A reed shaken by the wind? Well, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in king's houses.
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the he of whom it's written.
Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. Truly, I say to you, among those born among women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist, yet the one who's least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John, and if you're willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Nice thumbnail sketch on John the Baptist.
Really interesting stuff here. So people did go out in the wilderness to go check out what was going on. Did they go out to see a reed shaken?
Somebody making noise in the wind? Noise in the wind, yeah, kind of a train wreck personality out there flailing around, or did you expect to go out there and see a noble person dressed up in nice clothes? No, what you went out to see in here was a prophet, and more than a prophet.
That's an intriguing statement. So in what way was he more than a prophet? Yeah, he's more than a prophet because he's the last of the string of prophets, and he's the special prophet who is going to be the herald, we call it, someone who goes ahead of the king, and this particular last prophet who goes ahead of the king was predicted in Isaiah and Malachi, and that's what he quotes right here. And you'll find those references in your column if you have a Bible with cross references.
So check those out. All those little tiny print in the middle column. That's important. Yeah, because it'll flag Isaiah 40 verse 3, because that's the voice crying in the wilderness, and then the actual passage he quotes there, behold, I send my messenger. That's Malachi 3.1.
You'll see those words in that center column. So chase those babies down and see what they're talking about, and you'll see that this man, John the Baptist, had been predicted by these two other prophets as someone who had come right before the coming of the Messiah. So it's interesting that Jesus himself says, and he is the last prophet in the Old Testament pattern, right? Because he's the last one to come and say, Messiah's coming, repent, get ready, because Messiah's here. Well, yeah, because all the prophets before said, get ready, the Messiah's coming, Messiah's coming, Messiah's coming, and the last guy says, boop, here he is. That's the different prophet. Okay, so now we have to talk about this little puzzle when he says, until now, they've been taking the kingdom by force, and violent men take it by force. What do you make of that?
Yeah, that's an interesting one. Because it's characteristic also the times before John the Baptist, Isaiah and all those prophets were not well received, and they suffered violence. They suffered violence. But violence at the hands of whom? Of the religious people. Of the religious leadership who should have known better. That's important.
They tripped over the message that scandalidzo again, they tripped over that message. So I mean, that takes us back into that Romans 9 and 10 passage where Paul says, you know, with all of their zeal, they were perceiving that the kingdom could be grabbed onto by human effort. Right. Right.
It's not ceased that way. Which is fascinating, because let's say these prophets message is false, and they go against it by force. That's one thing. But what if the message is true, and you go against it by force? I mean, God's message is not going to be stopped by their violence. Right.
That's what he's saying. They're kind of taking the kingdom by force. No, the kingdom's going to come.
It's so interesting that the Jewish leadership in the time of Jesus, if you remember, even after he raised Lazarus, they said, oh, we got to do away with this guy, because the Romans are going to come and take away our place. Right. Right. So they're by the force of their violence, trying to hang on to their place in history.
Right. And Jesus told this parable in Luke 19 about the vine growers who said, hey, let's kill all these servants, and then the vine, the vineyard will be ours. And they understood that he was telling that parable against them.
Because they're taking out the inheritor, the son. That's right. So this idea of hanging on to your status quo by violence, Jesus is addressing that a bunch of different ways here. I might point out, too, the Elijah connection is very powerful, especially for Jews. And it's appropriate for Matthew, who's a very Jewish-oriented gospel, to point this out. Because today, when the Passover is celebrated in Jewish homes across the world, part of the Passover Seder, which is just the order of the program they do on the dining room table, they actually set a place for Elijah at the table. And one part of the Seder ceremony, since they know that Elijah will come before the Messiah, is they send the kids to the front door of the house, they fling open the door, and they wait to see if Elijah is coming today. It's a great ceremony. But it signals a very powerful mindset of Jews.
And they know this. Elijah is going to come before the Messiah comes. And so what Jesus is saying right here, as the Messiah, is, well, in a way, you could say Elijah is John the Baptist. However, you could also realize that Elijah did indeed come at the transfiguration.
So literally, he does come. And I'm moving into speculation land right here, but in Revelation 11, we talk about the two witnesses who can't be killed, and then they are killed. There's a lot of really great commentary says that one of those guys is Elijah come back, who comes back before the coming of the second coming of the Messiah. But you remember when they asked John the Baptist, are you Elijah? He said, no, I'm not. No, I'm not. I am not literally Elijah reincarnated. Exactly. I am John. But at the transfiguration, in several chapters, we'll get there in Matthew 17.
He's there. So I mean, in a real sense, and in a kind of a symbolic sense, it happens in a dualism. And you see that a lot in Scripture for prophecy. Well, you want to... Just one last thing. Okay. In verse 15, Jesus says, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Okay. What a great line. So that is a continuous refrain that he constantly says, right? You got ears in your head.
What goes in them? You're not listening. You penetrate what's inside you. And that actually also could be another veiled reference back into Isaiah. Isaiah 32, 3 says, Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen.
Yes. Right? You're a human being, you got eyes and ears. Let them do what they're designed to do, which is let the truth into your mind and your heart. It's such a great reinforcement of the fact too, that the gospel and our conversion process starts with our hearing, starts with our understanding something that's factual and tangible.
It's not just a fuzzy feeling. It's understanding something in a cognitive sense. And in fact, I like to go to Matthew 13, because Jesus says this again, he says, For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed. Which God had said in Isaiah.
Which he said in Isaiah. And then he goes on and says, Lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and here's where the traction happens, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them. But it starts with the process of hearing. And Paul says that too, you know, how would they believe if they don't hear?
So Christianity is not just a fuzzy feeling that comes upon us, it's a reaction, it's a response, it's a repentance to what we understand and see with our eyes and hear with our ears. And here Jesus is saying, look, if you got ears that work, you need to stop and let them listen and contemplate what's going on here. We kind of use this expression today when he said don't let this just go in one ear and out the other. Let it come into your ears and settle into your internal person.
Or the coach says to his team players, listen up, listen up, listen up, listen up. Oh, that takes me back to the Shema, hear oh Israel, listen. The great Shema, yeah, listen. God is a God who wants us to understand. He gives us eyes and ears and a brain and a heart. He wants us to understand. But that critical understanding comes in our heart. And that's where what we hear and God's Holy Spirit merges those together and then we respond.
So that's kind of the more spiritual side of it. Anyway, let's move on. Let's move on.
16? Okay. Is that where we are?
Yeah, okay. But to what shall I compare this generation? It's like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling you their playmates. We played the flute for you and you didn't dance. We sang a dirge and you didn't mourn. For John came neither eating nor drinking and they say he has a demon. 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. I just love this because 16 and 17 is meant to say that John the Baptist did not play by the rules.
Right. He didn't color within the lines at the time. I mean, when we said you're supposed to rejoice, he wasn't rejoicing. And when we were mourning, he wasn't mourning. He wasn't doing it right.
He was Jesus. Exactly. John the Baptist was not coloring inside the lines. That's what 16 and 17 says. And we just don't like that. He's a radical. Well, and we don't like it if you don't do what we expect or what we call for.
That's right. That's why John the Baptist was so attractive to a lot of people. It says this guy's not doing what anyone else is doing. Outside the norm. He is just not within the religious culture and he's doing something way outside of that.
And yet he was so misinterpreted, Jesus says in 18, you know, he came neither eating nor drinking. Okay. That sounds like a wonderful ascetic kind of thing.
So nope. He has a demon. What?
And then the son of man talking, Jesus talking about himself, came eating and drinking and they'll say, look at him. He's a glutton and a drunkard. So you can't satisfy him either way. It's a no win situation.
You either drink or you don't drink, you eat or you don't eat. And they're still going to misunderstand what's going on. But it's lovely that Jesus wraps that whole thing up by saying, yet wisdom is justified. Wisdom is shown to be right. Yes. Yes.
By the seeds. Yeah. Right. By the evidence.
Right. The active. What's the outcome? Active outcome. What's the outcome? And Jesus will say many times, don't listen to what they say, judge them by their fruits.
See what's the accomplishments. He's going to actually talk about that in the next couple of paragraphs. Yeah. So I just, I chuckle at this.
John the Baptist, man, he just wasn't playing by the rules. Well and again it goes back to what I said a little while ago that willful unbelief misinterprets what it sees. Yeah. Right. Well it sees what it wants to see. It sees its evidence because it's not what you expect or what you really want. Right.
And it causes you to stumble. It's a stumbling block. Right.
It's a scandalizo. You can't get past it. Okay. Okay. We better press to the end. Well let me read the last one.
Okay. Verse 20. So then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent. 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. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, well will you be exalted in heaven? You'll 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.
But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. He had said that before. Whoa. Whoa.
Back in chapter 10. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So here he is, very productive in northern Galilee, and he's hitting these places, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum.
And he's doing amazing. All these little places are very close together. Very close together, yeah. In fact, Chorazin is just up the hill from Capernaum at the Sea of Galilee. And we don't have any recordings of what he did in Chorazin. I mean, all of his miracles are documented in other places, so there's a lot we don't know. But all he's saying in very dramatic and forceful fashion is you've seen things that other people have never seen. And you will never have a reason to disregard the message, because you have had more benefit, more privilege in terms of seeing the Son of God up close than anybody else. And so then what he brings up as a contrast is two classic areas of condemnation from God, two classic regions, Tyre and Sidon, which is current day Lebanon coast. And it figures quite prominently in the Old Testament, because there's a spot. I had to go look it up, because I'd forgotten, in Ezekiel 26, 3, where God says, Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against you, O Tyre.
Well, that sounds pretty bad. And the same thing happens in Sodom and Gomorrah, too, because when we remember Abraham and his nephew Lot are sort of figuring out which land to pasture their flocks on, they look over the lands and they make their choice. And right at that very point, this is way before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God says, Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. So these are two classic regions of the judgment of God.
I mean, in real time now, forget about later. And here's Jesus saying, If they had seen what you all have seen, they would have turned. They would have turned. They would have repented, so why haven't you?
So why haven't you? So it's interesting to me that in these passages, these verses you just read, there are three repeated ideas. There's the mighty works gets repeated, repenting gets repeated, and judgment gets repeated. So you know, are you seeing the work of Jesus and is it causing you to turn? Because judgment is coming.
The clock is ticking. Yep, yep. And he's saying, he's saying to these little villages, you've seen enough, right? I mean, there's no way you're going to stand before judgment say, Well, I wasn't really sure. So how can you say show us a sign? Yeah, that's right.
That's right. So when Paul later on goes to Athens, and he's standing in front of the people in Athens, he says the time of ignorance has passed. You can't say I don't know anymore. And judgment is coming based on these facts.
It's really pretty fast. Even as far away as Athens, he's saying this to people. The time of that ignorance, you can't stand and say, I didn't know, I didn't know. And that's what he's saying to these folks here. So Jesus is doing mighty things that says, the cities where he did most of his mighty works, wow, had been done there, which surprises me. Why not just do his mighty works in a place like Jerusalem rather than in these little villages in the north? And he does do his mightiest work in Jerusalem later on at the crucifixion and the resurrection. Just prior to that, a mighty work in raising Lazarus, just a couple of miles away.
So he's going to spread the wealth around some of his mightiest works. But it's interesting up in Galilee being a highway for the Gentile world, right? The news would have spread all over the world. It was a traffic conjunction of lots of trails. So Gentiles, if you went anywhere from Asia down to Africa, you were usually coming through that area. Coming through Galilee.
So that was a big mixing pot for that. So it makes sense you'd do that. Well we are approaching the end of our time here. So where are we going next time? We're going to stay in Matthew 11. This sounds like a pretty downer way to close this section of this program about this. But he'll open up next time when we go into verse 25 into a wonderful section of hope and rest. Well yeah, because we're breaking it here in the middle. In the middle.
Of a single account. I know. So this seems pretty severe.
It seems severe. But no, he's going to go into a wonderful thing about hope, about rest, about the Sabbath, about the great wonderful things that God has planned for us. But it all hinges on your understanding and your embracing of the identity of who Jesus is. And that's what we'll look at next time. So if you're bummed out right now, hold on or read ahead. You can always read ahead. Read ahead. You don't have to wait for us.
We're going to come back in 25 and that's where things get extraordinarily hopeful. And probably one of the most well-known verses in the New Testament is quoted because it is such a great picture of hope for us, a promise for Jesus for rest. So I'm Jim. And I'm Dorothy. And we're so glad you're with us. Please read along with us and read ahead of us because then you'll be all prepped for you to sit down with us. Next time you hear lawnmowers in the background and cars going by as we look and we delight ourselves in God's Word here on More Than Ink. There are many more episodes of this broadcast to be found at our website, morethanink.org. And while you're there, take a moment to drop us a note. Remember, the Bible is God's love letter to you.
Pick it up and read it for yourself and you will discover that the words printed there are indeed more than ink. Cool. Such good stuff. Good stuff. This has been a production of Main Street Church of rhythm city.
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