Matthewby Mike Raiter
Sometimes in the Christian life, things just do not add up. We cannot work out what God is doing. We may find ourselves asking: If God loves me, then why has this happened to me? We can become discouraged and demoralised.
There was a time in the life of John the Baptist when things did not add up, particularly concerning Jesus. In his preaching, John had warned wicked Israel that the Messiah was coming in judgment, and that He would burn up all the ungodly (Matthew 3:12). Yet, it appears that the only one facing death is John himself, languishing in prison (see Matthew 14:1-12). What's more, he has been hearing reports of Jesus' ministry, and while there are wonderful works of mercy, there has been no judgment. What happened to the ″winnowing fork″ (Matthew 3:12)? John is confused (vv. 2-3).
Jesus reminds John of the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1), who spoke of the signs and wonders that would mark the coming age of salvation. These are the very deeds that accompany Jesus' ministry. Jesus is the long-awaited Saviour and He is inaugurating the kingdom. There will be judgment in the future, but today is the day of mercy.
Jesus then bears witness to John, the greatest of all the prophets (v. 11). No prophet spoke so clearly about the coming Christ as John did (Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-18; John 1:6-9; 15-34). Yet even John could not fully comprehend the character and work of Jesus. Only those who live on this side of the cross and resurrection, the ″least in the kingdom″ (v. 11), you and me, can speak so unambiguously about the Servant King, who came to make atonement for sin, and conquer death once and for all.
God's kingdom has always been powerfully advancing. Throughout history and across the world, people are turning and submitting to the Lord Jesus. Yet, as the kingdom advances, its enemies have always tried to destroy it (v. 12). These have always been the twin marks of kingdom work: powerful growth and relentless opposition.
John was confused, and so Jesus took him back to the Scriptures, all of which point to Him (v. 13). That is where we go when we are confused. Until the day we meet the Lord, when we will fully understand, we can trust Him whom we wonderfully meet in the Bible.
John was confused about both the circumstances of his life and what Jesus was doing. Can you identify with John? Why did Jesus take John to the Bible? Do you think that answered all his questions?
How have you seen the kingdom powerfully advancing in your context? How have you experienced opposition? What comfort can these verses bring?