Sermon Notes • August 8

Let Me Ask You a Question Matthew 11:2-15

Matthew 11:3 records that the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with the question from John. Read that verse and read Jesus’ answer in verse 4. 

Background to that unusual question:  John was certainly a unique individual. His birth was special. Luke 1:6-23 records details of his birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth with Luke 1:6-7 noting that John’s parents were righteous and very old.

Luke went on telling his story. Read Luke 3:2-3 and Luke 3:21-22. John the Disciple gives some additional details on the baptism of Jesus. Those details are recorded in John 1. Read especially John 1:29. 

John the Baptist faithfully and fearlessly proclaimed the need of repentance and eventually that got him in trouble with King Herod. Read Matthew 14:1-12. John had declared that Herod was living in adultery, which was forbidden under Jewish law. That took courage and was costly, but it was the truth. The church in America could learn a lot from that.

It was while in prison that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. Our first response might be, “How could John not have known? In fact, hadn’t he declared as much when he baptized Jesus?” But John was in prison and certainly knew his death could come at any moment, and John began to have questions. John’s faith had been brought into question and he sought reassurance from Jesus.

Probably all of us have had occasions when we doubted the legitimacy of our faith? The circumstances vary but inevitably we all have found ourselves in a situation like John where we expected God to answer in a different way than He did. At those times Satan whispers, or perhaps shouts, “Your faith is meaningless” or perhaps, “Your faith is too small, and you cannot count on God to help you.” John would have been the last person I would have expected to doubt but like all of us, he did. 

John’s disciples went to Jesus as he asked and note Jesus’ response, or perhaps first note how Jesus did not respond. Every time we doubt and wonder where God is when we need Him, Satan whispers in our ear, “God is disappointed with you. You have offended Him by even asking where He is.” We would think Jesus must have been really upset with John. Read Jesus’ answer in Matthew 11:4-5.

A quick reading of that can leave us thinking that Jesus was simply saying to John’s disciples, “Tell him about all the miracles you have seen me do and he will know that I can only do them because I am the promised one.” We would not be wrong in seeing that as a part of the message Jesus wanted John’s disciples to take back to him. But there was something more here that John would have understood.

John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus answered by quoting the description of the promised Messiah as found in Isaiah. Read Isaiah 35:4-6 and Isaiah 61:1.  

Note the similarity between that which the promised Messiah would do and what Jesus told John’s disciples to tell him He was doing. We can point to the resurrection as a testimony to the legitimacy of Jesus but at the point when John needed reassurance that was not possible. Instead, Jesus answered John’s doubts with the declaration that He was fulfilling the things promised of God, promises John would have known very well.

Note one thing on the list of activities that Jesus had been doing that was omitted. Isaiah continually noted that when the Messiah came, He would “set the captives free.” Jesus made no mention of it in the list of things that John’s disciples were to report on. Perhaps being set free was the one promise John wanted most to hear and perhaps the failure of Jesus to perform it when John knew he needed it was not at the root of his doubts. Satan always comes to us with a question when God seemingly fails in a particular area where we want Him to act. We don’t get a job we wanted, and Satan puts doubts in our minds about God’s willingness to meet our needs without ever thinking about all the other ways He has provided for us. We ask for healing for a loved one and instead death comes, and Satan wants us to doubt God’s willingness to care for us without reminding us of His presence with our loved one and with us or the assurance of where that loved one is. The nature of doubt is that Satan brings into question a particular seeming failure as proof that God has totally failed. 

How did Jesus respond to John’s doubts besides sending assurance based on His activities that He was the Messiah? Read Matthew 11:7. Suppose in the weeks before his death Billy Graham expressed doubts about his future. What would that say to us? If the man who had preached salvation to millions doubted his faith at the last minute, was his faith real? Those who were aware of the issues John’s disciples brought to Jesus must have wondered the same thing. John was the Billy Graham of his day.

Jesus said to John’s disciples and all who were there, “Hold on, let me point out that while John’s faith was temporarily shaken, that does not take away from who he was or the ministry he has had. Don’t let a moment of doubt define him.” I think that is important for us to understand because I can assure you that at some point someone you have looked up to will fail. It will shake you and cause you to wonder about the legitimacy of that person’s faith. He or she is no different than John.

In Matthew 11:7-9 Jesus made three statements about John, each introduced with the question “What did you to see?” (See verses 7, 8, 9) 

The first thing Jesus said about John was that He was not “A reed swayed by the wind.” Jesus said that John did not compromise the truth just because some other idea was popular. He even held to the truth when he confronted Herod. How desperately we need the church to emulate that today instead of ignoring God’s Word in order to be acceptable to more people.

Second, he was not “A man who dressed in fine clothes.” Jesus is not opposed to proper dress. Jesus was referring to the desire of many in our culture to stand out as proper and with it stylish. Keeping up appearances at any cost is one of the characteristics of our generation. The “at any cost” can easily destroy one’s testimony. John, in his sackcloth, was anything but that. His concern was not how he looked but his faithfulness. He was not concerned with living the soft life but a genuine life.

Jesus went on to ask if the people went out to see a prophet. Jesus said John was “more than a prophet.” He was the promised forerunner that Malachi spoke of in Malachi 3:1. He was more than just a prophet, he was a special servant of God. You are always more to God than the world thinks of you. You are not just a Sunday school teacher; you are God’s representative to those kids. You are not just a witness; you are God’s servant proclaiming His love to a lost world. You don’t just clean the church building; you help maintain it so that the church has a place to meet.

Have you ever had moments of doubt or times when you wondered if there really was a God who cared about you and your needs? Don’t let Satan tell you on those occasions that you are a failure, and that God is upset with you. Like John the Baptist those moments of doubt or fear or uneasiness don’t define you. Just as Jesus understood John’s concerns and assured him that He was not only the promised Messiah, but He understood his doubts completely, so too Jesus would remind us of our worth to Him. Jesus loves us, period. He doesn’t just love us when we have great faith, He loves us when our faith seems to be smaller than a mustard seed. Yes, He wants us to be faithful and will help us to be that, but when we fail His love remains consistent. And that is a message Jesus sent to John and sends to us.