Matthew 11

When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
‘We played wedding songs,
and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
and you didn’t mourn.’
For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.

Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.

And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!
My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Jesus & John the Baptist were cousins but their relationship is much more than familiar. A deep connection is once again illustrated (Matt 3:13-15) in this expression which seems to be a spontaneous pouring from Jesus’ heart in response to communication from John the Baptist. He reconfirms John’s purpose and real identity in the large picture of the establishment of God’s Kingdom.

Hearing about the works that Jesus was doing must have been some sort of signal in the timing of the events in God’s plan. We don’t know what John was going through in prison. We can make some educated guesses but we can’t really know what made him ask, “Are you the One?” It occurs to me that it could have been just one final check-point to clear in making sure John had finished his God-given task. Kind of a compulsory riddle that had only one answer. Getting the exact answer would release John and confirm that, “YES! I’ve done my job. I’m outa here!”

I’m not sure that I can agree that John was confused or doubting. I am convinced that Jesus (absolutely) and John (very likely) were the only people who really knew what was happening and the time table of the events. This marker in the time table indicated a fully engaged ministry for Jesus. But for John it was the Finish Line. Jesus’ words were the perfect answer to the question and came right out of the Manual – Isaiah 35:5, 42:7, 61:1, Psalm 22:26. If this interpretation is even close, then vs. 6 can’t mean, “You better watch out, John. You better not be doubting me.” It would have to be more like, “It’s OK, buddy. Go ahead, I’ll see you in a few days.” I can’t think of a swifter way to speed through the finish line tape than the way John did it. If you can get past the gore, you can see that he blasted off this planet like a rocket.

Jesus then seals this marker in time with a little re-cap speech honoring John. “He was real man, a real prophet and more. He’s the one, the messenger (Malachi 3:1).” A secret comes out, just pops to the surface. A little bonus. Vs. 14: “If you will accept it – John is Elijah, (Malachi 4:3).”

I know that God can do anything He wants, but you have to admit, that is a tough one to process! Then Jesus makes it sound like, if I’ve got ears, I should be able to hear that. Not only that, He unleashes an attack on the places that were on the deaf list. Whew! How hard of hearing are we? Just how spiritually blind and arrogant is this generation?

Jesus says (in my loose paraphrase), “It’s like we (John & I) were calling to you to come play and all you could do was find silly justifications for not playing with us. John isolated himself and followed the Law in Nazarite zeal and you said he was crazy. I went to your parties and feasts and you say I’m a drunk and a glutton who hangs out with the wrong crowd. But the proof’s in the puddin’; and the puddin’s gonna be pretty ugly for a place like Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. You saw the mighty works, the very heart of God poured out in behalf of your people but you did not repent! It will be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom on the day of judgment than for you! If they had seen what you’ve seen they would have repented long ago.

Jesus then looks into His Father’s eyes and thanks Him for taking pleasure in hiding these truths from the “wise and prudent” and revealing them to babies. He looks into our eyes and says, “Everything has been handed over to me from my Father. He is the only one who knows me, His Son, and no one knows Him but me and those I choose to reveal Him to. So come to Me, all you who are tired and overloaded, and I’ll give you rest. Accept my work as yours. Watch me and learn that my way is one of gentleness and humiliation and you will be deeply and permanently refreshed. Because the weight of my work is distributed perfectly, fitted perfectly, the task is easy.