As we continue in our sermon series in Matthew, I have decided to not preach from chapter 11, verses 1-15. Instead, I have posted a short commentary on these verses below. Blessings to you in Christ Jesus . . .
Baptists have had a long history of getting bad press. Not surprisingly there namesake, John the Baptist did not fair much better. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that John the Baptist was arrested for his message of repentance from sin and preparation for God's impending judgment (cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:6; Matthew 3:1-12; 4:12). John also preached that this judgment was going to be mediated by God's Messiah (Hebrew for "anointed one"), that is the Christ (Greek for "anointed one").
1) The Baptist oscillates:
A. The judgment deferred: In prison, however, he began to have his doubts about his cousin Jesus (Mt. 11:2). He had been told by God that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was to be God's Son, the Messiah (the one to bring judgment on the nations, cf. Psalm 2). But a few years into Jesus' ministry, John had not heard much about judgment. In fact, Jesus' ministry up to this point was still on the fringes of Israel, in a state of obscurity, filled with acts of love instead of judgment (healing, casting out demons, etc.). In order to confirm his earlier beliefs, John sent out some of his disciples to ask Jesus whether or not if he really was the long-awaited Christ (v. 3). Jesus' reply should have eased John's concerns. For Jesus explained that he was the one who was fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 35:4-6; 61:1), promises that would confirm to any Jew longing for the Messiah, that their Messiah had come (Mt. 11:4-5).
B. The judgment transferred: It's not surprising that John the Baptist had his doubts. It is true that with the Messiah, God was bringing down judgment. But the greatest judgment that came during the Messiah's ministry was not judgment on the people but judgment on the Messiah. For God took the sins and iniquities and condemnation of the wayward people and put them on His Son, the Messiah (see Isaiah 53:3-6). Jesus lived the life we should have and died the death we should have died (2 Cor. 5:21). Now everyone who believes in Christ as the Son of God has eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 1 John 5:11-13). Judgment on the disobedient and faithless awaits Jesus' second coming (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
2) The un-oscillating Baptist:
Despite all of John's doubts, Jesus remarks in Matthew 11:7-15 that John was the greatest prophet under the Old Covenant (v. 11). John was not an oscillating, power-hungry, conniving huckster televangelist (vv. 7-8). He was the prophet in the line of Elijah who would prepare for God's arrival (cf. Malachi 3:1, John prepared the way for the incarnated Son of God). Anyone during Jesus' time or now 2,000 years later willing to recognize rightly that John the Baptist was the forerunner of God in the flesh, will be blessed if they put their trust in Christ (vv. 6, 15).
1) Heed the warnings of John the Baptist and trust in Jesus as the Christ.
2) Though judgment fell on the Messiah in the 1st century, John's warnings of judgment on the enemies of God are still to come. Let that sobering truth lead you to repentance and then let the joy of repentance lead you to an obedience filled with gratitude for God's grace.
3) If you still remain in doubt, do not give way to apathy. Study the Bible and ask questions of those who are walking with Christ. The consequences for (possibly) being wrong are significant enough to encourage all people to at least consider the claims of John and Jesus.
The Bible says there is great woe for those who do not respond to God's messengers (Mt. 11:16-24) . . . and the curse is even worse for those who have been exposed to Jesus Christ's ministry and words and yet do not repent. I invite you to attend Cornerstone Church on Sunday January 16th to hear more about the justice of God as recorded in Matthew 11:16-30 against those who refuse to believe in His Messiah. If you miss it, the audio will be available at www.cornerstone-marion.org
See also, DA Carson's reflections on God's Judgment in vv. 20-24: http://solablogtura.blogspot.com/2011/01/judgment-of-god.html