Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, October 10, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 11, Mt 11

Today's reading is Mt 11. Tomorrow's is Lk 11.

This chapter is about people's expectations being shattered as opposition to Jesus begins to rise.

John is in prison and is concerned whether Jesus is truly the One as he originally thought. This is, most likely, because things were not going the way John thought they would. He may have been thinking, "Why would the Messiah's herald be put in prison? Shouldn't everyone be excited that He's here?" This causes him to second guess what he knows to be true. Jesus responds with a mild chastisement, in Mt 11:6 saying "Blessed is the one who is not offended".

Jesus reveals that John is the type of Elijah they are expecting, except they are expecting Elijah himself. This is a significant turning point. People are beginning to come to the harsh realization that Jesus and John the Baptist are not what they expected, at all. So, instead of adjusting their expectations, they begin to judge the two men and start turning against them.

The most incredible signs yet, including the raising of the dead, begin to occur just as people are beginning to turn against Jesus. At this point in the narrative, we see the profound reason for all the signs and wonders. The miracles are there to prove He is who He says He is, in spite of their rising reservations. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying to them, “I know you were expecting something else. So let these signs reassure you that what I say is true.” Of course, they should have accepted Him on faith merely by seeing the number of prophecies that were being fulfilled in Him. The crowd's demand for more signs, a demand that will follow Jesus throughout His ministry, never results in true belief, not for the multitudes. It always results in a demand for more signs. 

This is a good reminder to those who decry the lack of signs and wonders in the church. Shouldn’t the church already accept the fact that Jesus is Lord on faith? Does it need further proof? The people in first century Judea had all the signs and wonders anyone could ask for and were not convinced. It’s never the signs and wonders that prove Jesus’ presence. Neither does the lack of signs and wonders indicate His absence. What demonstrates His presence is transformed hearts and renewed lives. While we should appreciate when God moves in the miraculous, miracles should never be a measure of our faith, His presence or the power of the Spirit.

Regarding John the Baptist, his doubts are natural. He did not expect this level of opposition. Still, even though his expectations are crumbling, he does not hurl accusations as the crowd and the Pharisees do. He's still on board. He is asking questions in order to receive assurance. He's not demanding proof but he is in a very tight spot. He knows he may well be executed. So, he wants comfort and assurance that he's doing what he is supposed to do. Even at this, Jesus sends a mild rebuke to John reminding him that he has seen the proof. There should be some comfort in knowing that pillars of the Bible were, in may ways, just like us - normal, flawed human beings. John is totally forgiven. Jesus even says there was no one born of women that was greater (Mt 11:11.)

With the crowds, the demands for signs as proof are beginning to evolve into accusations. As long as Jesus dazzles them, they're pleased. As He continues to dash their expectations, the signs begin to fade into the background and the crowd's reaction begins to turn against Jesus. 

Keep this in mind as we see how the proof impacts Jesus and His ministry. We're seeing another pattern emerge here. It seems the more proof He offers, the more the unbelievers demand while, at the same time, becoming more and more convinced He is not the Messiah. All those who follow Him based solely on the evidence of the signs will eventually fall away. Those who truly follow Him, do it in faith, not on the evidence of the signs.

The type of proof the signs offer is to leave the unbelievers without excuse. This is made clear in Mt 11:20-24. Chorazin and Bethsaida are Jewish cities. Tyre and Sidon are Gentile cities. The Jewish cities will be judged harsher than the Gentile cities. Chorazin and Bethsaida were looking for the Messiah, had the proof and still rejected Jesus.

God is gracious in providing evidence regarding His Son. Those who reject Him have no excuse. Their demand for more evidence only serves to prove one thing -- they regard themselves as an authority over God, demanding that He meet their expectations.

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