Memory Verse: Matthew 11:13
11:12-15 John The Baptist Represented A Monumental Shift
- 11:1-11 John the Baptist, who is in jail at this time, wanted some reassurance that Jesus was truly the One—the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to look at the evidence, those things which they do hear and see, which were miraculous wonders that pointed to Jesus as being the One. Jesus then questions the multitude about John the Baptist, explaining that John the Baptist is more than a prophet because He is also the fulfillment of prophecy to prepare the way for the Christ. Even as great as John the baptist was, He was part of the dispensation that didn’t have the full understanding and experience of Jesus—thus all believers, even the most humble of believers, is greater than John the Baptist because of the privileged position they are able to experience—to know and believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist—meaning since he started his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus, who is the Christ, until now—the time in the story that Jesus is addressing the multitude, the kingdom of heaven “suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This is a hard statement to understand but it probably means that the kingdom of heaven, from its preparation through it’s inaugurated by Jesus has struggled hard from opposition and rejection characterized by violence and persecution from many Jews and religious leaders.
- 11:13 John’s ministry pointed to a change in how things were going to work. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. God would communicate His will to His people through His prophets and the law. But they were both limited—“until John”. These two ways of revealing God’s will had a limited duration as God had a better way to reveal His will to us. Together, these two would equal the whole of the Old Testament, and indicate that it was given as precursory to Jesus coming, but their work of “prophesying” went up until John started His ministry and doesn’t go beyond that. This doesn’t mean that they were no longer significant, but all that they prophesied about is starting to be fulfilled and a new dispensation is going to take place that extends beyond their revelation. Since John’s ministry was preparatory work for the Messiah—who Jesus claims to be, then the focus of God’s revelation turns to Jesus.
- Dispensations are certain periods of time in which God works in certain ways in the world based on His own divine will and administration.
- Salvation has always been “by faith” but in the Old Testament they had “faith in God” and His promise but in the New Testament they had “faith in Jesus”.
Galatians 3:11; Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 4:3
- 11:14 This would have been hard for the multitude to hear. There would be many emotions and attitudes from those considering the words of Jesus. Jesus was trying to bring out a great truth about the role of John the Baptist and what his ministry meant: Everything is about to change, the Messiah is here. Jesus told the multitude that, “If ye will receive it”—meaning that if they would believe everything that Jesus said about John is true, then they could also believe the next statement about John the Baptist—“this is Elias, which was for to come.” This was a prophecy that Elijah (Elias) would return before “the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Jesus states that John is the fulfillment of this prophecy, not physically being Elijah (John denied that), but “in the spirit and power of Elias” accomplishing the work that it was prophesied for him to do.
Malachi 4:5, 6; Matthew 17:12-13; Luke 1:17; John 1:21
- 11:15 After saying this, Jesus commands the people—“he that hath ears to hear”—an expression used to refer to anyone—“let him hear”—not meaning that we are just to listen to what is said, but to pay close attention, understand and to respond in conformity. It is the responsibility of individuals to hear this message and heed to it through repentance and faith. For a Jew who was engulfed in his national identity and traditions, this was a hard message to accept. Today, you might have the same problem of giving up everything you thought you knew for something radically new to you. But would you rather guard your traditions or know the truth—the truth that can set you free. Their would have been peer pressure to not accept Jesus’ teachings. Many probably rejected the message for fear of those they were around. There is probably society or peer pressure for you to reject this message, but Jesus is calling you to receive it.
11:16-19 Jesus’ Comparison
- 11:16-17 Jesus knows what those around Him are thinking. So He thinks of a comparison to help explain their attitudes and actions. He said that they are like children sitting in the markets and calling unto their friends saying, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” The children tried to invoke a reaction from their friends, but they didn’t cooperate. So Jesus is saying that the people who he is teaching in the same manner are hearing and be invoked but they aren’t cooperating. They have no reaction. They wouldn’t be happy or sad. Jesus goes on to apply this in the next two verses.
- 11:18-19a Application: (1) John came neither eating nor drinking—meaning that he had a very strict diet that he followed and was not characterized be eating normally. Therefore, people said, “He hath a devil”—meaning they rejected his message, saying that he ate weird because he was of the devil and refused to conform to his message of repentance. (2) The Son of man (Jesus) came eating and drinking—meaning that he didn’t have a very strict diet that he followed and was characterized be eating normally. Therefore, people said, “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”—meaning they rejected his message, saying that him eating normal meant he was someone who was devoted to overeating, drinking and becoming drunk. Also, they said because He ate in the company of publicans and sinners that He was their friend or someone who approved of their sinful lifestyle. Thus, they refused to rejoice that Jesus, the Messiah, had come. No matter if it was John or Jesus, they refused to cooperate.
- 19b Jesus ends this comparison by pointing at that even though many have rejected the “wisdom” that has been given, it will be “justified” or be shown as right by “her children” or the lives and actions of those who accept it. This wasn’t something that was to be discussed and decided on but it was something to be believed and lived out, thus proven it to be true. Some will reject it, others will prove it to be true.
- What was prophesying “until John”?
- What are dispensations?
- “In the spirit and power of” who did John fulfill the prophecy?
- What did Jesus’ comparison point out?
- How is wisdom proven right?