Oh, dear Matthew....it's been a while. Like mid May.
Yep, for over six weeks I've neglected you in order to read and post on so much other stuff. You know I thought of you. I even read from you a bit and jotted down brief notes. Today...yes, today this second day of July, I am studying you again. And I shall continue posting my thoughts about you and what you have to say about the Christ.
In the last post I wrote from my study of Matthew, I talked about Jesus' Divisive Sword and the conclusion of his instructions to his disciples before he sent them to the Jewish people. We'll continue now in Matthew 11 where we are introduced to something rather shocking: John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, was having doubts about Jesus!
Ever been there?
You may recall John was put in prison because he'd been a bit too vocal about Herod's lifestyle. Mark tells us,
17For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. 18For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6)
So John was unjustly put in prison if you look at it from a righteous person's point of view. He pointed out a moral flaw in the ruler. Brave man! Why did God not honor this outspokenness for the righteous and holy side? Do you ever wonder what men such as John thought when they were languishing in some filthy prison for days on end? Don't you think their very human sides would get weak and prone to doubting God's faithfulness? His justice?
"Lord, I was doing what you called me to do! Yet I am here?"
As one blogger put it so well while tying John's doubts into our own thoughts when God doesn't intervene or when we expected God to act one way, yet He does something totally different or seemingly nothing at all,
I believe that John the Baptist’s doubts while in prison as he was about to be executed were very emotional (Matt. 11:2-5). His circumstances caused him to begin to question what he formally knew to be true. At the Baptism of Jesus he proclaimed that he was the one who needed baptism from Jesus. He even heard the voice of God from heaven proclaiming Christ to be his son (Matt. 3:13-17). John knew that he was not even fit to tie Christ’s sandals. However when God did not pull through for him the way he expected (unmet expectations), he sent his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you really the one, or should we look for someone else.” If your circumstances have caused you to cry out to God, “Are you really the one?” “Are you really there?” “Do you really care?”, take heart. You are in the company of one of the greatest men of God who ever walked the earth (Matt. 11:11). source
When John's disciples came asking Jesus if he were the one, Jesus gave his actions and message as proof of his calling.
4Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
(These are words similar to Isaiah 61 in which lovely words are used to describe him upon whom the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord rests. Jesus claims these words are being fulfilled by him to the synagogue crowd in his hometown (see Luke 4).
From this bit spoken by Jesus, we imagine the blind gawking at the beauty of a flower; the lame jumping and doing cartwheels; those with running, oozing sores, marveling at their clear complexions and soft skin; the deaf holding their ears as they get used to birds singing, people talking, shopkeepers yelling and sheep baaing (making sheep sounds). The dead are even back from the grave! Yet what is this "good news" preached to the poor? Why was the poor not made rich by suddenly coming into a small fortune in the price of olive oil rising on the Palestine Stock Exchange or the price for sheep suddenly tripling? Or does this mean poor in spirit hearkening back to Jesus' words in Matthew 5 where he declared "blessed are the poor in spirit." Why? This perhaps is the good news: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
As we discussed in my Beatitudes post way back in March,
poor in spirit -- "the humble and pious who seek God" and "know they need God's grace."
kingdom of heaven-- "has to do with the rule of God in the lives of individuals and societies"
So the good news for the poor (in spirit) was what? To you who humbly seek God and know you need God's grace, He will rule in your hearts and lives and lead you Home.
Is this not indeed good news for us today?