SECTION 5: THE CLAIMS OF THE KING
A MORE THAN A PROPHET’S QUESTION
TO WHAT SHALL I LIKEN THIS GENERATION
Scripture To Consider:
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Jesus, ‘Are You the coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see. The blind see 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. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’“
“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John. ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind. But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments. Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in king’s houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.”‘“
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” Matthew 11.1-19
Something To Consider:
In chapters 11 and 12 of his gospel, Matthew reveals the increasing hostility to Christ shown by His enemies. It is more and more obvious that the King is to be rejected. This forms the continual background of the entire gospel narrative-style picture. On the other hand, Jesus is here making with ever-increasing clearness His claims to be the Messiah, the King of Israel, the predicted Savior of the world.
In recording these claims Matthew is, therefore, furthering the specific purpose of the gospel. In earlier chapters Jesus has borne similar testimony to Himself and in later chapters this testimony will become ever more definite and complete. Yet, as it is the custom of Matthew to group materials under certain definite topics, in order to heighten the effect, so here is a series of incidents, in each one which the King makes a startling claim.
First of all, when John the Baptist sends from prison to ask whether or not Jesus is the coming One, the predicted Messiah, Jesus sends as His reply a description of the gracious work which He is performing and particularly of the glad tidings or good news which He is preaching even to the poor. These should be signs to reassure John, and in spite of the long delay on the part of Christ in publicly manifesting Himself as the Messiah, John appears to doubt the truth which he had himself publicly proclaimed.
Then, as the messengers are leaving, Jesus turned to the multitudes to bear His matchless testimony to the character and work of John. The people, who had heard the bold preaching of the wilderness herald, were probably ready to point at John the finger of scorn as he sent a message which implied something at least of doubt as to the truth of his own testimony; but Jesus declared that John was the greatest among men.
According to Jesus, John’s greatness consists partly in his character, but more definitely in his career. He was great as a man but still greater as the messenger of the Messiah. His moral greatness is set forth by an implied negative answer to two questions. First, John was a man of courage, obviously not a reed shaken with the wind. In spite of opposition and peril and in the face of the king he had stood firm as a rock.
Something Else To Consider:
John was also a man of consecration. He was not a man who wore soft clothing, that is, who sought only comfort and gratification. At any sacrifice John had pursued his great mission. It was indeed this mission which constituted his essential greatness. Unlike other prophets who had predicted the coming of Christ, John enjoyed the unique privilege of actually pointing to Jesus and declaring Him to be the Messiah.
John the Baptist was indeed the messenger, of whom the prophet Malachi had spoken, as Jesus confirmed; “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” Jesus also declared of him, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of woman there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.”
The Master adds a gracious and mysterious word, when He proclaimed, “But he [or she] who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John the Baptist]“. It must at least mean that present day messengers of Christ in every generation, know more of Christ’s person and work than even John the Baptist knew. And more definitely still, that however great may be the privilege of any messenger in this present time, it will not compare with the glory of the least of those admitted into the kingdom of heaven.
In that perfected kingdom the relative position of John is not implied. That will be determined by the comparative faithfulness of those who like John have been privileged to also witness and testify for their King Jesus. Therefore, how are we doing as we reside in this evil and corrupt 21st century generation? Do our lives, our words, and our daily actions reveal us to be faithful end time messengers for the Messiah? And if not, why not?
As has been suggested, the background of this glorious claim is the dark picture of the rejection of Jesus. As the forerunner was imprisoned, so Jesus was to be disowned and crucified. Both in the person of the herald and in the person of the King Himself, according to Jesus, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence.” If John, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah was allowed to languish in prison, the King saw clearly that for Him there was ready a cross.
With the thought of His own rejection coupled with that of John, Jesus spoke the parable of the children in the marketplaces who were complaining that their companions were unwilling in their childish games to imitate either funerals or weddings. John had come with his solemn call to repentance, and many turned from him as from a gloomy fanatic, declaring, “He [Jesus] has a demon”. Jesus came eating and drinking, showing the glad life matching His good news; and they declared according to Jesus, “Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
Neither one was able to please the unbelieving generation of Jewish onlookers. They were both rejected, not because of their manner of life, but because John insisted upon repentance, and because Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, the divine King who had also demanded repentance and who would later demand a life of sacrifice, dedication, and individual faithfulness required of subjects in any earthly or heavenly kingdom.
Something More To Consider:
Jesus asked the question, “But what shall I liken [or compare] this generation?” According to Jesus, the generation who heard the message of John the Baptist, a more than a prophet, was fickle to say the least. They were willing to travel to the most remote areas of the wilderness to listen to John’s message of repentance, while many even appeared to respond favorably. But only time would truly tell of their true response to John’s pointing them to Jesus as the promised coming Messiah.
We know that in the end, there at the foot of the cross of Christ, where the violent ultimately took Jesus by force in the darkness of night and did what they pleased and what was prophesied. These same onlookers were many and also were among the few faithful followers there at the cross when time came for a show of faithfulness. But we must ask ourselves, where will we stand if face to face against the violent who attempt to take advantage of the kingdom of heaven in every generation since Jesus and John the Baptist?
Will we possibly become discouraged and doubtful as some declare John the Baptist had become when things were not coming to pass according to what he had thought the Christ was to accomplish in his lifetime? What had been predicted in the written and preserved Word of God and what had been taught by the so-called religious leaders of John’s Day, were two totally different things.
Therefore, will we become impatient or discouraged concerning the coming of Jesus and end time events as time progresses and the world becomes more and more violent and when lawlessness continues to abound as according to Jesus? Will we be deceived by so-called religious leaders who teach falsely that which is in total opposition to the written and preserved Word of God concerning a pre-tribulation rapture?
A Few Final Words:
Will we in the end, question Jesus’ motives, miracles, cleansing of lepers, opening of deaf ears and blinded eyes simply because we did not personally witness these divine acts of mercy and grace? Will we question Jesus’ authority as King of kings and Lord of lords after witnessing for ourselves, our own dead in sin lives being spiritually raised to new life in Christ?
Will we question our own reasons to continue promoting the preaching of the gospel to the poor, and thereby become offended because of Jesus? Therefore, the question proposed by Jesus, “But to what shall I liken [or compare] this generation [this 21st century end time generation]?”
Will we be found looking unto Jesus in the midst of promised violence, persecution, and abounding lawlessness, while being willing to do a victory dance at the thought and mention of Christ’s soon return? Will we be found refusing to eat and to drink with the drunk and violent who continue to attempt to take by force or to overturn our commitment to faithfully follow Jesus even if it leads to an untimely death?
Let us always choose godly biblical wisdom when given so many choices in life! Let us choose godly biblical wisdom when we stand at each of life’s undeniable crossroads. Let us wisely choose the unmistakable godly and biblical wisdom found within the sacred pages of Scripture for us to consider. And having done so, we will be wiser for having done so!
Our Father in heaven, thank You for revealing the biblical answers to the many more than a prophet’s questions that we have from time to time. Help us Father to correctly answer for ourselves the question asked by Jesus, “But to what shall I liken this generation?” Make of us true end time believers in Jesus and in the written and preserved Word of God, of whom is Jesus. In Him Always, Amen!