STUDY THIRTEEN: QUESTIONS AND CONFLICT – MATTHEW 11- 12; 15

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012

Jesus has made some really heavy demands that raise fundamental questions. Who is he that he assumes authority over me? What right does he have to demand my absolute allegiance and obedience? How can this man demand that I change my entire outlook on life and see things from his perspective alone?

A. JOHN’S QUESTION: ARE YOU THE ONE WHO WAS TO COME? [11:1-19]

John the Baptist had boldly affirmed the identity of Jesus at the Jordan River [Matthew 3, Mark 1; Luke 3; John 1] and pointed people to follow Jesus.  Now in prison, and having heard various reports of Jesus’ activity and teaching, John [Matthew 11] seems to have lost that confidence, or, more likely, to have become puzzled because Jesus’ ministry was different from what he had expected. He sent a question to Jesus asking him to confirm whether or not he was the long expected one.

Is he the Messiah? Is he the King?

Jesus’ answer [11:4-6] seems on first reading to be rather evasive or disappointing. He doesn’t give a simple ‘yes’, possibly because he knew that people’s expectations concerning the Messiah were not accurate, and to say ‘yes’ would therefore have been misleading.

List the six points of evidence that Jesus gave to John

 

 

 

How does this evidence confirm Jesus’ identity as the promised King? [Read Isaiah 61:1-3]

 

 


In all of these activities Jesus is reversing and undoing the impact of Genesis 3. In doing so he is clearly demonstrating the he is indeed the King, but far more than an earthly King. He is the ultimate King who has the authority to undo the just results of our human rejection of God and rebellion against him.

But in demonstrating that he is this kind of King Jesus makes himself vulnerable to further rejection. People did not want this kind of King. People wanted a King who would deliver them from Roman domination and re-establish the throne of David. The potential for people falling away from him when they realize that he is not a political Messiah is great.

Note on verse 12: This verse confuses scholars, and is translated with different meanings in various translations. Taking the context [11:1-30] into account it seems that Jesus’ meaning is this: John the Baptist is in prison for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus himself is facing opposition because of the kingdom he is preaching. Neither is accepted. Both the herald and the King suffer rejection at the hands of men, because the kingdom they proclaim does not fit the preconceptions of men.  [Note that the NIV translation appears to miss the mark.]

 

B. JESUS REBUKES THE UNREPENTANT CITIES [11:20-24; 12:38-45]

Matthew 11:20-24 is evidence of the failure of men to recognize both the kingdom and the King, and points out the extreme hardness and unrepentance of Jesus’ contemporaries. Even the wickedness of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom does not compare with the hardness of the inhabitants of the towns where Jesus demonstrated his divine authority.

Check out these cities:
Tyre and Sidon [Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26; Amos 1:9-10] 

 

Sodom [Genesis 18:16 – 19:29]
 

 

Similarly in 12:38-45 Jesus rebuked the unbelief and unrepentance of his generation, referring to them as ‘wicked’ [36,45] and ‘adulterous’ [36]. He contrasts them to the people of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah, and the queen of the south, who came ‘from the ends of the earth’ to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.

Jesus is far greater than Jonah and Solomon, yet he is rejected by his generation. Neither Jonah nor Solomon performed miraculous signs yet they were believed. [Note that Jesus is rebuking his generation because of their demand for a sign (38; see also 16:1-4).] To have been in the presence of the King, to have heard the message of the King, and to reject him, is to be in a worse condition than before [43-45].

 

C. THE QUESTION: HOW DOES A PERSON COME TO KNOW THE KING? [11:25-30]

Jesus teaching in 11:4-24 reveals how difficult it is for people to actually understand the true nature of the King and his kingdom. In response to this, and in contrast to the unrepentant hardness of men’s hearts, Jesus now briefly addresses the question “How does a person come to know? How can this unrepentance and this hardness be replaced with repentance and faith?”

C.1 The sovereign work of God [25-26]
Jesus acknowledges the sovereign hand of God:

• God hid these truths from ‘the wise and learned’
• God revealed the truth to ‘little children’.
• This was God’s ‘good pleasure’.

C.2 God the Father revealed only by the Son [27]
Everything – all truth, all knowledge of God - has been committed to Jesus, the Son, by his Father. Because of this:

• Only the Son really knows the Father – a knowledge that comes from his unique relationship with the Father
• Only the Son can reveal the Father
• Knowledge of the Father comes only to those to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father

C.3 The only place of rest [28-30]
In coming to Jesus, in learning from Jesus, one comes to the place of ‘rest’. Here, in Jesus the questions are answered. Here in Jesus God is seen and known. Only here, in Jesus, do we find ‘rest’ for our souls – rest from that universal human quest to find and define ‘god’, and in defining ‘god’ to define self and to identify our own purpose and meaning. Here we are liberated from the burdens imposed on us by our man-made gods and our man-made religion. 

In coming to Jesus, in learning from him, we are no longer ‘lost’. We are, once again, where we were always meant to be: safe in the Father’s arms, safe in the Kingdom.

List the promises Jesus makes in these verses

 

 

 

How do these verses express the concept of repentance?


 

 

D. THE PHARISEES CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY AND INTEGRITY  OF THE KING [12:1-14; 15:1-20]

In challenging Jesus about the Sabbath the Pharisees display their ignorance of his true identity. To them, he is just a man, a self-appointed teacher who is breaking the rules that they deem important.

 

12:1-8

12:9-14

What offended the Pharisees?

 

 

 

How did Jesus respond?

 

 

 

How does this affirm Jesus’ authority?

 

 

 

Note Jesus’ statement: ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’. He stands in authority over the Sabbath because he is the One who made the Sabbath in the first place.

Similarly, the Pharisees challenged Jesus with his breaking ‘the tradition of the elders’ [15:1-20]. 

What do these verses teach us about the words, actions and attitudes of the Pharisees?

3

 

 

4-6

 

 

7-9

 

 

13

 

 

14

 

 

In challenging the integrity of Jesus the Pharisees are in fact exposing their own lack of integrity. By their rejection of Jesus the reveal their own rejection of the true God and his word.

 


E. THE SERVANT KING [12:15-21]

Matthew chose here to bring Isaiah 42:1-4 to our attention. This passage is in stark contrast to the kind of Messiah/King the Jews expected and wanted. This passage also reflects Jesus’ refusal to attract followers by spectacular means, as suggested by the devil earlier, and the kinds of people that are he incorporates into his kingdom.

How do these verses communicate:
That Jesus was not establishing a political kingdom?
 

 

That Jesus was not building a team of the strong, the rich and the famous? 

 

That Jesus’ kingdom is trans-national?
 

 

F. THE PHARISEES’ ACCUSATION ABOUT THE SOURCE OF JESUS’ POWER [12:22-37]

So jealous were the leaders of the Jews of Jesus power and increasing influence that they sought to discredit him by alleging that his power, which was evident to all, had its source in Satan. There are some very important truths in his response to their allegation.

The Pharisees have accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus, having pointed out the lack of logic in their suggestion [25-27] identifies the true source of his power. He casts out demons ‘by the Spirit of God’. The Pharisees have attributed the work of the Spirit of God to Satan. Jesus takes up this terrible error in verses 31 and 32, pointing out that by this error the Pharisees are actually blaspheming the Holy Spirit – something that will never be forgiven.

[To say that the work of the Holy Spirit is the work of Satan puts one beyond the reach of forgiveness. So long as we do this we are refusing that gracious work of the Spirit by which he teaches us the truth and by that truth reconnects us to God. To refuse his word and his work, to call it the work of the evil one, to identify Jesus with the evil one, is to refuse God and salvation. That is the devastating logic of Jesus’ words.]

These words of the Pharisees are their own condemnation [33-37]. By these words they have rejected the King; by these words they have rejected God.


G. THE FAMILY OF THE KING [12:46-49]

In just a few words Jesus summaries all he has taught so far: ‘whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’.

This ‘will of my Father’ is not a matter of rules, regulations and ritual but a matter of deep repentance, of a radical change of mind: it is the reorientation of the whole of one’s life under the authority of the appointed King.