Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 28-
Galilee
(20) Jesus Allayas John’s Doubts
(Malachi 3:1) Matthew 11:2-19, Luke 7:18-35

 

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

“Behold,”-A word that was used to call special attention to the significant truths that follow.  The question had been asked, “Where is the God of judgment?”  “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17)  The unbelief of the Jewish people would not prevent our Heavenly Father from keeping His covenant, and bringing about those things that they believed would never come to pass.

“I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come,”-The Father sends the Son and the Son comes.  “My messenger” is John the Baptist, and “the messenger of the covenant” is Christ.  John’s calling was to prepare the way for Christ to come and present Himself as Messiah.

“the LORD”-God is the spokesman, and He designates “the Lord,” the “messenger of the covenant.”  He said, “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me,” making the Lord and God one and the same; in that way confirming Christ’s divinity and oneness with the Father.  The temple is referred to as “His temple”, marking His divine lordship over it. 

 

-Matthew-

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, (Matthew 11:2)

“Now when John had heard in the prison”- John the Baptist is the person that is spoken about.  At this point in time, he was in the prison of Machaerus, because Herod had him under arrest for speaking out against him taking Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  While he was there, this account pertaining to Christ was brought to him by his disciples.

“the works of Christ,”-Meaning the miracles He had done, such as healing the centurions servant, raising the Widow of Nain’s son from the dead, and so on.

“he sent two of his disciples,”-John’s disciples could have been biased against Christ, because of His mounting popularity, and the lessening of their master’s.  They may not have been convinced that He was the Massiah, despite all they had heard and seen, and what they had been told by John.  Most likely, two were sent, so that they would be more credible witnesses: and it was for the disciple’s sake, not for John’s.

 

And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (Matthew 11:3)

“And said unto him,”-The disciples informed to him, of the response Christ had given to the question that John had told them to ask.

“Art thou he that should come,”-That was just another way of asking if He was the Massiah.  He had been called many things by the prophets of the Old Testament; Shiloh, the Redeemer, the Prophet and the King.  John wanted the question asked, but he could not have been unaware of who He was, because He had seen the heavens open and heard the voice of God speak, and he had pointed Him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God.  It was for the benefit of his disciples that he asked, so that they could hear it from His own lips, and would join themselves to Him.  John was close to the end of his life, and had done God’s will as the predecessor of Christ.

“or do we look for another?”-John and the Jews were looking for a deliverer.  It may have been that the question came from his impatience from being in prison, and he expected the Messiah to liberate him and deliver the nation, so the question was “are you the Massiah, or should we look for another?”

 

Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: (Matthew 11:4)

“Jesus answered and said unto them,”-John had been asked the same question, and he had answered emphatically, “NO!”  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.  And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.” (John 1:20-21)  He may have expected the same type of answer from Jesus. 
“Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:”-Our Lord wanted them to go back to John and let him know what they had seen and heard, because there were those on all sides who Jesus had healed, and he had healed some in their very presence. 

 

5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Matthew 11:5)

“The blind receive their sight,”-Jesus had fulfilled several prophesies, which should have persuaded them that He was the One to come; the Messiah.  Those prophesies, concerned physical healing, preaching the Gospel, and liberating men from the burden of sin.  “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:6)  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1)

The miracles were not done all at once, but there were many that could recount the incidents to the disciples.   They were aware that He restored sight to the blind, because it was reported, “And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.” (Matthew 9:30)

 

And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Matthew 11:6)

Those who received His message were blessed in (by) Him; since they received faith and eternal life.  However, there are many things about Christ, that offended those who were ignorant and unthinking, and as a result they rejected the Gospel.  There was the mediocrity of His appearance, His lack of education, His poverty, the despicableness of his followers, the insults which the great men harassed Him with, the strictness of His doctrine, the opposition it gives to flesh and blood desires of men, the sufferings that came to those who professed His name.  Many in Israel would fall, because they would not believe in Him, but later, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they would rise again in faith and believe in Him unto salvation.  “And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;” (Luke 2:34).  He would be a stumbling block, and many would be insulted at the words that He spoke, “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:8)

 

And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (Matthew 11:7)

“And as they departed,”-This was said after they had left, “And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Luke 7:24)

“Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John,”-Jesus did not speak the praise that follows in the company of John’s disciples.  It was best that John should not hear it.  We should also look forward to future commendations from our Lord, because we will not see the heavens open and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:21)  The child of God will be rewarded on that day when he stands before the Bema Seat of Christ.  That is when we will receive rewards for the good works done in His name.

“What went ye out into the wilderness to see?”-John had spoke with great confidence regarding the work and character of Christ, but the question that he sent messengers to ask, betrayed a mind that had some doubts, and a faith that was wavering.  For that reason, after the messengers depart, he cleared up the character of John from any unwarranted suspicion.

“A reed shaken with the wind?”-Was John an indecisive man?  Was he blown about by winds of public opinion?  The allusion here is to the tall reeds, some of which exceed twelve feet, which bow to the earth when acted upon by the passing breeze.  John was no reed, he was more like huge cedar tree; strong and firm in his opinions.

 

But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. (Matthew 11:8)

“But what went ye out for to see?”-Of course, they had not come to see a reed blown about in the wind or a man that was just like them.

“A man clothed in soft raiment?”-That is, clothing made of fine wool, cotton or silk.  Anyone dressed in such fine clothing drew the attention of people to him, but such a person is not likely to be found in the wilderness.  If the Jews went to see such a person, they were greatly disappointed, because John wore clothing made from camel’s hair, and he ate only locusts and wild honey.

“behold, they that wear soft clothing”- That is to say, those that are beautifully attired.

“are in kings’ houses.”-Kings live in palaces; not in the desert, where John lived and preached.  He was not a lighthearted sort, who flattered others as those that made up the king’s court.  He was decent and faithful, and because he had reprimand Herod the king, he was now in prison.

 

But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. (Matthew 11:9)

“But what went ye out for to see?”-The question is, “Since it was nothing as insignificant as a shaking reed, or as magnificent as a man dressed in gay clothing, what was it you went out to see?”

“A prophet?”-They had come expecting to see a prophet, because they believed that John was one.  That is why Herod was afraid to put him to death and the Pharisees to speak against his baptism.  The people who believed him to be a prophet, paid him a great tribute, nevertheless he was more than a prophet and the greatest among the prophets, because to him fell the honor of being the herald of Christ.

“yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.”-When they saw John, they saw a man that was not only a prophet, but a man that was greater and more outstanding than any of the prophets that went before him.  They spoke of the Messiah at a distance and in words that were not as clear and easy to understand.  But John was able to point to Him with a finger and say publicly that He was the One.  John saw Him, and showed Him to others; he saw the Spirit of God descending on Him; and he personally baptized Him.  His function as the forerunner of Christ, and the one who baptized Him, placed him higher than all the other prophets.

 

For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (Matthew 11:10)

“For this is he, of whom it is written,”-The person that was written about is John the Baptist; the prophesy was given in Malachi 3:1.

“Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”-John was a messenger, sent by God, who came before the one who was the Messiah.  He was born six months before Him, and he prepared the way for Him by preaching the doctrine of repentance.  He baptized Him, pointed at Him, and exhorted others to believe in Him.  In that way, he proved to be what Christ said he was; that he was “more than a prophet”.

 

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

“Verily I say unto you,”-What would follow, was a vast assertion of the value and worth of John the Baptist, and given that it was spoken by Our Lord, and He hardly ever complemented men, because the righteousness of men is like “filthy rags”, it is without a doubt, a remarkable statement.

“Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:”-Christ prefers John before all who went before him; before all that were born of women by normal childbirth; that would be all men.  John had more revelations from heaven than any of them had; for he saw the heavens open and the Holy Ghost descend.  He also had great success in his ministry, because almost the whole nation flocked to him, and they believed him to be a prophet, and his standing was such that some even thought he was the Messiah.  No one ever had such a great duty, as John did.  There were many born in the world, which were greatly respected, but Christ preferred John above them all.  Those who are great in the sight of the Lord, as John was, cannot be measured by outward appearances or by worldly accomplishments, but there is a surprising limitation to their greatness.

“notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”-John was a great and good man, but he was still a sinner and imperfect, and fell short of the glorified spirits of just men, made perfect by the righteousness of Christ.  The least saint in heaven is greater, and knows more, and loves more, and praises God more, and receives more from God, than the greatest saint in this world.  The saints in this world are excellent, “But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” (Psalms 16:3)  However, those in heaven are much more excellent; the best in this world are lower than angels, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalms 8:5)  John did not do any miracles that would be evidence of his greatness, but he was great because of his mission and his devotion to it.  The greatest commendation of John was that God owned his ministry, and made it wonderfully successful.

 


And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now”-That was a period of about three years.

“the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,”-Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a besieged city, which is surrounded by enemies who try to force their way inside.

“and the violent take it by force.”-Men tried to enter prematurely, not by gates which God would open when Simon Peter used the keys, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)  But they tried to enter the kingdom by breaches they sought to make in the walls, through good works and keeping the Law.  These people had preconceived ideas, with regard to the kingdom, and they were impatient and tried to hasten the enjoyment of its pleasures.

 

13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (Matthew 11:13)

To learn the meaning, we must look to Luke 16:16, where the same words occur, with the addition of, “since that time the kingdom of God is preached”.   “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” (Luke 16:16)  The Old Testament was the work of a long line of prophets, but those spoke about the coming of the kingdom, while John was able to announce that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; then point to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  John being the last of the Old Testament prophets, closed the dispensation of the Law and opened the dispensation of grace, but also at this time there began the attacks of violence upon that kingdom.

 

And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. (Matthew 11:14)

Malichi predicted that Elijah would come to prepare the way for the Lord.  Christ explains that this was fulfilled in John, who was not the literal, but the spiritual Elijah.  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:” (Malachi 4:5)  Some of the people knew the prophesy, and they thought of John as a prophet, so they asked, “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. (John 1:21)

 

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:15)

This was a phrase that Christ used to bring attention to a pronouncement of particular importance.

 

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, (Matthew 11:16)

“But whereunto shall I liken this generation?”-He is talking about the Jewish nation, who He says are as changeable as children.

“It is like unto children sitting in the markets,”-The oriental market place was a place of commerce, but it was also a place where men conducted business, and where children played.

“and calling unto their fellows,”-Jesus speaks of two different groups of children; one of which wants to play and the other which is sullen and obstinate.  The gleeful group first plays a wedding game; they play music and dance, but the gloomy group is indifferent.  The mirthful group is not discouraged by failure, so they try once again, and hope for better luck by playing funeral.  But this also fails, causing them to cry out in perplexed remorse.

 

And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. (Matthew 11:17)

It was God, through His messengers, His prophets, and His Son, who came to set the world right.  It was these messengers who took the initiative and who demanded the changes.  It was the Jewish people who sulked and refused to comply with the divine proposals.  The whole sense of Christ’s teaching, characterizes the Jews as being invited, and refusing the invitation.  It was John and Jesus who preached repentance, but there was no instance where any called upon them to repent.  Jerusalem never wept over an obstinate Jesus, but Jesus wept over the people of Jerusalem, because they would not repent.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

 

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. (Matthew 11:18)

“For John came neither eating nor drinking”-He did not attend feasts; he lived by a code of abstinence and sobriety.  John pleaded for the people to seek the kingdom of God, but they said he was too strict.

“and they say, He hath a devil.”-They accused him of being under the control of a demon; of being an oddball, or extremist.  By this, they tried to give a reason for refusing God’s council.

 

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (Matthew 11:19)

“The Son of man came eating”-Like other men.  He was at the wedding feast in Cana (see John2:1-11), and at Mathews feast (see Matthew 9:10).

“and a winebibber”-There was nothing extraordinary about His social habits.  Like all the people, He drank the light, harmless wine of Palestine, which was either free from, or had a very small amount of alcohol.  Our modern wines are very different.

“a friend of publicans and sinners.”-They said that Jesus was too lenient and even criminal.  This was slander, because the lives and works of both John and Jesus were directed by the wisdom of God

“But wisdom is justified of her children.”-Those that are wise will approve of the lifestyle of both John and Jesus.

 

-Luke-

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. (Luke 7:18)

At this point in time, John was in prison, where he could not know all that was going on outside the walls.  His disciples, who cared deeply for him, visited him and told him how God’s work was going on, even though he was prevented from participating in it.  Without a doubt, much of what they had to say concerned the preaching and miracles of Jesus.

 

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? (Luke 7:19-20)

It was an amazing thing that they were to ask Christ, whether He was the Messiah, who would redeem the world, or should they look for another.  It is obvious that they knew God had promised to send an anointed Savior, and they were prepared to cheerfully receive Him, but their faith, and that of John needed to be well-established.  However, Jesus had not yet affirmed Himself to be the Christ, and He had instructed His own disciples not to make it known, until after it could be supported by His resurrection.  So far, the great men of the Jewish church had not acknowledged Him, and He had not done anything to cause the people to want to set Him on the throne of David.  They were looking for a Messiah surrounded by power and majesty; therefore it is not strange that they would inquire of Him, if He was the Messiah, because He was poor and unassuming in appearance.  Christ left it to His works to commend Him, and to give evidence of what He was, and to prove it.  The messengers were with Him just a short time, but He did many amazing works, while they were there.

 

And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. (Luke 7:21)

While John’s disciples were there with Him, He increased His great works, so that there would be no basis to suspect deception.  It could be that Jesus, instead of answering their question, went on doing these miracles and works of grace, because reporting what they saw would be more effectual, than if they just told John what He told them.  Jesus never did miracles just to satisfy the curiosity of cynics, but He did them, as He did here, to build up wavering faith.

 

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. (Luke 7:22)

He told them to go and tell John what they had seen Him do and heard Him say.  With that information, John and his disciples could argue, as the common people did, “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (John 7:31)  The miracles were proof of who He was.  The Messiah must come to mend a diseased world and to give light and sight to those who set in darkness, and to restrain and defeat evil spirits.  This would be the argument, “You see that He has come to do these things to the bodies of people, so He must also be the one who has come to heal the souls of these people, and you don’t need to look for another.”  To the miracles that He did was added, that He preached the Gospel to the poor, which they knew was to be done by the Messiah.  Isaiah predicted that it would be preached to the meek, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1), and in Psalms we read that He would save the souls of the poor and needy, “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.” (Psalms 72:13)  They must decide if anyone could better fit the characteristics of the Messiah and purpose for His coming.

 

And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Luke 7:23)

We are living in a state of testing and probation, and there is enough evidence to persuade anyone that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only way to heaven, if they are honest and impartial when searching for the truth, and if they have their minds prepared to receive it.  However, those who are lacking in judgment, worldly and sensual can find enough objections to blur the truth.  Christ’s lack of a strict Jewish education, the commonness of his family and relatives, His poverty, and the despicableness of His followers were stumbling blocks to many, which all the miracles He did could not overcome.  The man who is not persuaded against faith in Jesus Christ by all of these things is blessed.  The fact that he is not overcome by these things is an indication that God has blessed him.  This high praise was for John the Baptist, but was not given while his messengers were in attendance, for fear that He would appear to flatter him.

 

And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (Luke 7:24)

In view of the fact that John was in prison, his ministry was over, so Christ reminds the people of what they were missing, and why they went into the wilderness to see him.  Our Lord asserts that John was a man of great self-confidence; unwavering, steady and consistent.  He was not like a reed that can be shaken by any fleeting wind, bowing first in one direction and then in another.  He was steady as a rock.  If he could have bowed to Herod, and fit-in with the court, he would have been a favorite there, but that is not what he sought after.  He was a man of unequaled self-denial, and he had contempt for worldly affluence and lusts.  He did not wear soft clothing or eat delicate foods. 

25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
  Luke 7:18-35 (KJV)

 

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