Matthew Lesson 12 Day 2
3a) John the Baptizer’s questions
While John languished in the Machaerus fortress in the mountains near the Dead Sea1, there are several possible reasons he might have sent his disciples to question Jesus. In John 1:29-36, John didn’t doubt that Jesus was really the Messiah. But “perhaps he himself had misunderstood the ministry of the Messiah.”1
It is possible that John made a mistaken distinction between the Coming One and the Christ, the Messiah. There is some indication that some Jews of that time distinguished between a prophet to come promised by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) and the Messiah. The dominant note here is one of confusion; John’s long trial in prison has confused him.1
Or perhaps Jesus “would perform works connected with a political deliverance of Israel – to at least the deliverance of John, who was in prison.”1 He languished in prison, unable to witness Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons.
We don’t know exactly what they expected, but both John, the Pharisees, and others expected the Messiah to be different than Jesus—not from Nazareth and not meek and humble. The Messiah was supposed to look and act like royalty, overthrow Herod, throw the Roman empire out of Judea, call down fire from heaven, or something dramatic.
Since those who knew the scriptures so well didn’t recognize Him, we may have wrong expectations about what moves of God should look like and what He meant about coming soon. Will He come to reign or just take all the believers away? Restore the earth to paradise, or destroy it?
Simeon (Luke 2:28–32) and Anna (Luke 2:38) recognized baby Jesus but probably didn’t live to see His ministry unfold.
b) Combatting doubt
For the most part, the way of the Lord’s service is the way of plodding perseverance in the doing of apparently small things. The history of the Church shows that this is one of the lessons most difficult to learn.” (Morgan)
Jesus gives the points outlined in Isaiah 61:1-3 in reference to the coming Messiah—the same passage Jesus read following His forty-day fast in the desert.
He also gave examples of miraculous signs and wonders He performed.
Isaiah 29:18-19—Jesus opened deaf ears and healed blind eyes.
Isaiah 35:5-6—Jesus healed the deaf-mute by casting out a demon, and he healed the blind. He healed a paralyzed man who picked up his mat and walked.
Isaiah 61:1-3—In addition to miracles, Jesus showed compassion to the lost sheep who had been abused and burdened by the Pharisees. Jesus forgave sins and provided forgiveness for all.
c) Personal time of doubt
When I was a teenager, my mother died of cancer. I was angry at God and didn’t talk to Him for a while. It was hard living without my mom, but I couldn’t do anything about that. I could do something about my relationship with God. He hadn’t gone anywhere, and I knew I still needed Him more than ever.
4a) John’s trust in God
“Blessed is he who can be left in prison, can be silenced in his testimony, can seem to be deserted of his Lord, and yet can shut out every doubt. John speedily regained this blessedness, and fully recovered his serenity.” (Spurgeon)
John sent his disciples to question Jesus. Now that he was isolated, he was losing touch with Jesus’ ministry. He didn’t lose his faith in God, but God hadn’t revealed everything to him about Jesus’ ministry.
He remained steadfast his entire life. John served in the office of the final Old Testament prophet and died a martyr as most did. He lived a disciplined life; without the comforts the world offers.
b) Asking questions
We all have questions and doubts. Since Jesus wasn’t offended by John’s, we can ask ours, too. Jesus even commended John immediately after the disciples left.
When we have doubt, we can confess and ask God to help us overcome it. If we don’t get clarity right away, we can say, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
Many answers can be found in scripture. The more of it we hide in hearts, the less we will be tossed about by our feelings.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
“Your word is truth.” John 17:17
5) Jesus honors the life and ministry of John.
“John had often borne witness to Jesus; now Jesus bears witness of John.” (Carson)
In the hearing of the crowd, Jesus honors the life and ministry of John as the messenger prophesied about in scripture. He “commends John as a man of courage, consecration, and greatness yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater in privilege than John.”2
Perhaps Jesus was referring to those who, unlike John, lived to experience the new birth Jesus provided in His own death and resurrection. They would experience the new covenant rather than the limitations of the old. They would also have the opportunity to be baptized with fire as John had prophesied.
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1 EnduringWord.com used by written permission.
2 AWM Living Commentary used by written permission.
3 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations from *The ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4 Strong’s Concordance, public domain.
5 *Spirit Filled Life Bible®copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (The Holy Bible, New King James Bible) copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
6 Ellicott’s Commentary, public domain.
7 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, public domain.
8 The Names of God Bible (without notes) © 2011 by Baker Publishing Group.
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My answers, research, and notes for BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Matthew Lesson 12 Day 2