February 3


Matthew 11-12

We are in the Christ Stream reading from the book of Matthew. We are reading from The Message translation this week. Last week, Jesus was healing and teaching on discipleship. What will our Savior teach today in Matthew 11 and 12?

Prayer

Thank you Jesus for being our Savior who welcomes us to your throne room, who satisfies and gives us rest, who welcomes us home.  Amen.

Commentary

This is the first mention or reference to John the Baptist since he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.  He had been locked up in prison by King Herod because John was calling him out for his immoral life that normally no one would outwardly indict a king over – and do so with severity.  Was John the Baptist in prison because he was wrong or because he was right?  He was in jail and executed (Matt. 14) because Herod was wrong and John was right about Herod’s wrongness.  Sometimes truth has a painful price tag – even and especially for the innocent.  At any rate, this is the back story behind today’s first story.  And in case someone might not know, John who wrote the 4th gospel is a different John from John the Baptist.

11 – John sent his disciples to traverse and go ask Jesus if He was The One or was someone – the Real One yet to come.  First off, John is sending his disciples.  What? John still has disciples?!  Jesus has been on the scene for well over a year now.  Once Jesus began his ministry, why did he not tell them to follow Jesus from now on?  And why is John asking a question that he likely knows the answer to?  He saw the dovelike Spirit alight upon Jesus.  He heard God’s statement about Jesus.  What does John/Baptist not know?  The miracles and the reports of them, including the raising of the dead, were the talk of the nation and neighboring nations!  John, what are you not able to “put together” here?  Amazingly, Jesus is complimentary to John/Baptist replying.  Jesus points out to remind the crowd, including Pharisees, that many walked many miles to take in John’s baptizing ministry of exhortation.  John was fascinating but he was only preparation for the greater – and the greater is here.  John had prepared the way and he needed to get out of the way.  “Yet some of you are still looking for someone else!” Jesus chides the listeners.   And John/Baptist is not helping the process of shifting all attention to Jesus.  Meanwhile some complained claiming John/Baptist didn’t party enough and that Jesus partied too much.  What’s the deal with nonstop malcontents?  Most of us know people who are always talking about how great it is “over there” – not like “here” where things are mediocre and people are slow.  But those same people, when they get “over there” they feign dissatisfaction and talk about how great things are “back over where I was”.  Stop it already. Moving on, Jesus cursed the cities that experienced numerous miracles and yet just sat there shrugging – “whatever Jesus…what do you want from me?”  Mind you, those cities are archaeological digs today, nothing more.  No one lives in these abandoned establishments.  Btw, Bethsaida, where Peter and Andrew hail from has recently unearthed a church built over their childhood home.  This place has a marvelous heritage but it was smug about Jesus.  That’s a dangerous attitude to have about the fact that your own people’s lives were touched by Christ, and you don’t care.  And for what it’s worth, even today attempts to rebuild the area, to put in houses or establishments, have encountered catastrophic disasters that halted construction – 100% of the attempts to rebuild have failed in Bethsaida and Korazin!  In the prior chapter, Jesus was being thorough when he told the disciples to go to the Hebrews only in this their first traveling crusade.  He wanted to make sure they were without excuse.  They are told the truth – and ironically pagan cities are going to be far more receptive in the future.  Jesus is overjoyed that the simple were receiving his message while the self-righteous didn’t.  Then the section closes with the best thing ever said when Jesus invites, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,  for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  What an invitation!

12 – The high point had been reached in Jesus’ ministry.  The “year” of popular favor was drawing to an abrupt close.  In chapter 12 we see Jesus taking aim at the Pharisees’ stark abuse of the Sabbath Laws that had become outright oppressive in the recent generations.  The Pharisees declare they are appalled at the Disciples’ plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus gives a reply that stupefies them.  Then he deliberately walks right into the next scenario of healing a hand on the Sabbath.  Jesus is asserting that the Sabbath laws were a grievous over reach.  And the “year of opposition” has begun.  They wanted Jesus dead.  Did they want Jesus dead out of a love for God or were they disturbed that their incomes may be jeopardized?  Jesus knew He was on the Pharisees’ hit list now.  So he withdrew and continued healing.  It doesn’t explain it in Matthew, but the crowds came/walked from a 100 miles radius.  [Mark and Luke describe this.]  Matthew simply says, “…many followed him, and he healed them all.”  It’s a marvel that not even one person left His presence in need of something else, a second opinion, six months of follow up therapy.  The Isaiah passage fulfilled is beauty-on-page.  It tells of Jesus’ persona as filled of God, just, gentle, proper.  He’s never brutal or gruff with anyone in need of God’s touch.  Truly, encountering Jesus is the greatest comfort.  We next see Jesus showing ultimate authority over evil spirits healing and delivering a man demonized and blind/mute because of evil spirits.  The ‘proof in the pudding’ phrase applies here in Jesus proving his power over evil.  And even today the lesson is that gaining power over and freedom from evil spirits requires Jesus’ involvement.  Pharisees are anxious and angry about the revelation and illicitly accuse Jesus as being in league with the Devil.  We really need to take note of this incident because it’s as relevant as today’s news.  Be careful about criticizing someone in ministry.  We hear people saying that someone else is a phony in ministry, a charlatan roadshow, that they have an evil spirit, etc.  Who can be sure that they are NOT doing their work in the Holy Spirit?  Watch the snide comments!  They are likely birthed out of jealousy just like the Pharisees’ comments!  If someone’s doing their work in the Holy Spirit and getting criticized, this is offends the Holy Spirit and will not be forgiven.  This needs to fill us with holy fear. Next the Pharisees request a miraculous sign from Jesus.  In reply he talks about Jonah and Sheba and dealing with evil spirits and it is a zinger!  Their request to see more is illicit in nature.  Today’s reading started with a question that becomes a request to seek someone else.  The Pharisees claim they need to see more from Jesus.  Why?  Would they follow Him then?  Those of us who have lived a bit realize that the cantankerous can never get enough appeasement.  So it’s best to not even try to start serving their nonexistent sense of satisfaction.   Jesus was raised in a family.  Families are Important and everyone needs to be raised in a loving family.  But the concept of family here on earth is not to be worshipped.  God’s family was paramount.  Obeying God was how to be in God’s family.  No one is born into God’s family.  The born again are the only ones in God’s family.  Well doesn’t that talk just frost the Pharisees!

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