This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
Many scholars have not been sure what this means. Was John, cut off in prison, unsure about Jesus, or was he in fact doing this primarily for the good of His disciples? I think it is probably the latter; though it might have been both, in part. The disciples may not have known as much as they should have, so John wanted them to go and see what Jesus was doing.
Greetings, friends around the world!
We are continuing this series through the book of Matthew, opening your mind to understanding of this powerful book that reveals so much of the truth of Christianity—perhaps as much as any other book in the New Testament. Matthew has been called a "miniature Bible" in a sense—and certainly it is. Indeed, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, reveals the basis of Christianity perhaps as much as any other single book.
We have come to Matthew 10. I urge you to follow with me in your own Bible. I challenge you to "check up" on me, to prove these things to yourself by following carefully in your own Bible. It will mean a lot more to you when you can see it there and know that I have said exactly what the Bible says. Remember where it is found in your Bible, and you will learn to put it into action a lot better.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples…
John the Baptist hears about Jesus Christ, and He sends a couple of His disciples to check up on Him.
…and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
Many scholars have not been sure what this means. Was John, cut off in prison, unsure about Jesus, or was he, in fact, doing this primarily for the good of His disciples? I think it is probably the latter; though it might have been both, in part. The disciples may not have known as much as they should have, so John wanted them to go and see what Jesus was doing.
Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; [Christ was performing miracles and God the Father performing miracles of healing and deliverance through Jesus Christ.] the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them."
In the world today, you will often find very successful middle class, upper-middle class and wealthy people in their churches, very proud of themselves. But in fact the true Christians have mostly been poor people; and if God calls a person of great success, God has to knock that person down and humble that individual to help him understand how much he needs God. Otherwise, he will not really repent. That is something we need to grasp.
"…the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? [Someone who is very unstable?] A man clothed in soft garments? [Some soft fellow, living in kings' houses or something?] Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger…'"
Actually, Christ was quoting from a statement He, Himself, made. Remember, Christ was the God of the Old Testament, speaking in the first person. He said in the book of Malachi, "Behold, I send My messenger," and it is worded there "before My face"—"before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You."
So Christ was going to send John the Baptist before His own face. John's ministry began six months before Christ's. John was born about six months before Christ, as Christ, working with God the Father, orchestrated.
"Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…"
Some people get this mixed up, and think that John the Baptist was greater than Abraham—who was called the "father of the faithful." They think John was greater than Isaac and Israel and Moses—and David, who was a man after God's own heart. But Jesus did not say that! He said there has not been one greater than John the Baptist. John the Baptist was just as great. They were all great. John the Baptist was not necessarily greater than Abraham; I doubt that he was. But there has not risen one greater. Abraham was not greater. John the Baptist did, within the time constraints he had and the attitude he had, the best that he could with what he had. And he was reckoned as great as any prophet.
"…he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
When you understand this, you can realize that when one is born again in the resurrection from the dead—truly born of God—any Christian will be greater than John the Baptist because that Christian will be filled with the Holy Spirit and made a spirit being in the very family of God. Most people don't understand this.
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."
The Kingdom was represented there and had been represented by the person of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. But the authorities took John the Baptist by force, and killed him! And before too long they were going to take Christ by force and crucify Him! Yes, they were crucifying the representatives of the coming Kingdom of God.
"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. [He did not mean they were done away, but that is all they had until John.] And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. [John the Baptist was a type of Elijah, who was prophesied to come at that time.] He who has ears to hear, let him hear! [We are to listen to what God says. And we are to realize that Elijah was pictured, of course, by John the Baptist in that sense, at that time.] "But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, [you see he was real strict] and they say, 'He has a demon.' [So they used that on him, because he was so strict and astir and straightforward in his life.] The Son of Man came eating and drinking…"
Jesus would eat big meals with the Pharisees; He drank wine with them. His first miracle was turning more than 100 gallons of water into wine. I know some of the Christian Temperance Union people don't understand that. They think it was grape juice. But if you read the account in the book of John, that idea is just ridiculous. Christ used a Greek word for wine— oinos—which is not used for grape juice. Oinos is a word meaning "fermented wine." Knowing this, you can understand why in the story the bridegroom was told, "You saved the best wine until now." One would not use that terminology about grape juice. You don't have good grape juice and bad grape juice and serve them differently. If you have bad grape juice, you should not serve it at all. There are different levels of refinement in wine. Some years are outstanding years. That was the concept being discussed—real wine. So Jesus came eating and drinking—and He certainly ate and drank in moderation. He was not afraid to drink wine in a right and balanced way, just as hundreds and millions of people over in Europe have been doing for centuries as a way of life. These are not people getting drunk; these are just families, perhaps out under the stars at night. Often the father will have some wine, and maybe the mother will have some other kind of wine. Maybe Grandpa will have beer and the children will have soft drinks, all sitting together. Not getting drunk, but enjoying it as a food and gentle relaxant.
"…and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' [Because He sat with the tax collectors and sinners and tried to help them. So they put that on Him.] But wisdom is justified by her children."
God used John the Baptist to set a very strict example. But John the Baptist put his imprimatur—his stamp of approval—on Jesus very powerfully. Then Jesus came along preaching a balanced life, and because He lived a more balanced life people accused Him. Jesus was saying in effect, "We can't win for losing with you folks. If we are strict, you are going to condemn us this way. If we are not strict, you are going to condemn us that way." God has used different types of personalities and approaches to help us understand the way of God.
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which 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 which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, [these ancient, pagan cities that we read about] they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
These Gentile cities would have just prostrated themselves. Sometimes these people were very emotional, and not as hard-headed as we Americans and Canadians and British. These people would have really turned to God wholeheartedly. Of course, the only city that ever did repent, as far as Bible history is concerned, was Nineveh. Ancient Nineveh, a pagan city, really repented when Jonah came. But the cities of Israel never did. We tend to be too hard-headed. We are hard to move; once we get there we will stay there, but we are hard to change in the first place. We have to consider that, and we must be more alert to the truth and willing to repent if we are really wrong.
"…they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you."
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and others talk about a day of judgment. We call it the day of the Great White Throne Judgement—a day when God will call and raise up, back to human life, every human being who has ever been born but never had a real chance and give them not a second, but a first genuine opportunity to know the Truth. Most of the people living in China, India, the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and all throughout Africa have never known the full Truth of God at any time! Frankly, most people in the Western world have not known the real truth of God, either. They are all going to be raised up and given a true genuine opportunity in the day of judgment.
"And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [In other words, even the homosexuals would repent, you know, in Sodom if they had an opportunity. But they did not have an opportunity back then.] But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."
So that is something to think about. We have a very powerful booklet on that, titled Is This the Only Day of Salvation?. Most people believe that this is the only day of salvation. Protestant evangelists will say, "You had better give your heart to the Lord tonight. And you had better receive Christ tonight. Christ is wooing you, God is calling you and this is your opportunity. Do it now…" as though this is the last chance. Is God is following us around trying to get us saved when He can? No, He is not! He is not in some battle with the Devil to get everybody saved all of a sudden. He is giving human beings an opportunity to write the lessons of human suffering in their lives and in their generations. Later, when they are resurrected in the Great White Throne Judgment, He will cause them to learn those lessons. In the meantime, He is calling several thousand or tens of thousands of human beings to know the full Truth and is giving them an opportunity, as the firstfruits of salvation, to prepare to be kings and priests in the coming Kingdom of God when Christ first returns to the earth. You may have that opportunity if you will act on the Truth.
So if you would like a FREE copy of that booklet, just contact us. Ask for our powerful booklet, Is This the Only Day of Salvation? It will open your mind to a great deal of understanding that most of the world knows nothing about. In fact, they know less than nothing, because they have a wrong concept.
At that time Jesus answered and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes." [Most people being called in this age are babes, in the sense they are humble people—willing to learn, willing to open their minds like a little child.] "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. [You see, He is the only one who really knows the Son and understands the Son. Very few people are ever able, of course, no one is able to really know the Son, unless God reveals Him in that way—opens your mind.] Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, [Christ knows the Father] and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
We have to know the Father as He was never known in the past by the average individual. But we can know the Father, since the Son, Jesus Christ, reveals the Father. Through Him, you can come to know—and know that you know—the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Become acquainted with Them and walk with Them and talk with Them, and They will become a living reality to you day by day—even hour by hour.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke yoke upon you…"
A yoke was a symbol of a master's teachings, and Christ's teachings were not too strict. If you learn to love God with all your heart, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to walk with God in an attitude of love, service, obedience, adoration and out-flowing concern, by keeping God's commandments in the letter and in the spirit, you are not going to suffer. Yes, you might be persecuted by outside persecution, but you will have inside you the peace of God which passes all understanding.
"…and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Yes, Christ's way is the best way to live. "My burden is light." In the short run, some people think it is harder to try to keep the Ten Commandments. It is very difficult for them to think, "I can't kill and I can't have hate either. I can't commit adultery or be lusting after other women. I can't steal and lie. And I have to love God and have no idols because you can't put God in a box. I can't take God's name in vain. I have to keep the Sabbath rest." To rest one day in seven—on God's Sabbath day—sounds really difficult to some people, so they make things difficult by the way they think about it. But Jesus said: "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." If you will surrender to let Jesus Christ live His life within you through the Holy Spirit, you will find that it is life, it is the way of peace, it is the way of genuine happiness and productivity—and it is the way to eternal life.
That's all for now. We will pick up again with Chapter 12 next time.
This is Roderick Meredith, speaking for the Living Church of God.