Contemporary English Version (CEV) Mt. 11:2-6
John was in prison when he heard what Christ was doing. So John sent some of his
to ask Jesus, "Are you the one we should be looking for? Or must we wait for someone
Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you have heard and seen.
The blind are now able to see, and the lame can walk. People with leprosy are being
healed, and the deaf can hear. The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the
God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do."
There was a local doctor who was receiving acclaim for developing a weight loss program with profound results. He preferred to market his diet online, and for good reason. An in-person visit to the doctor’s office would likely startle the patient desperately seeking to shed pounds. The diet doctor stood about five-foot-eight and tipped the scales at about 380 pounds.
What does this story mean? Could this doctor lack credibility? If he had the answer, why was it not evident in his life? Could his answer inspire? Could he even be trusted with a life-changing commitment such as he recommended? If he knew the truth of successful weight loss, did it not work for him? There is an old adage: never trust a bald barber or a thin chef. Silly, yes. However, maybe there’s a nugget of wisdom.
In Matthew 11:2-6, John the Baptist was imprisoned for speaking against a sinful king. He had directed his disciples to follow his cousin, Jesus. He may have been suffering doubt. John sent them to confirm if Jesus was “the Coming One". His question included a confession that he and his followers had been looking and believing in the coming Messiah.
If Jesus had answered His cousin with the simple affirmation that He was indeed the
Christ, it would have been true. However, there were apparently several Israelites at that
time proclaiming they were the Messiah. There still could be dispute.
The Lord's response was far more profound. There are many lessons we can derive from it. Firstly, Jesus directed John's disciples to answer for themselves, based on what they saw and heard. They would bring their own observations along with the Lord's answer to the Baptist. Messengers have no responsibility for interpretation. They simply play and record the communication, like tape recorders. Jesus transformed these men from messengers to witnesses, requiring them to observe, process, and interpret what they saw and heard. Jesus Christ calls every one of us to do this. We cannot ride into heaven on the backs of our parents or spouses, or the pew of a church.
God reaches each of us where we are. He then requires us to consider, test, and to choose whether we truly believe it or not. This is not tempting God, but rational evaluation. We are all responsible for what we personally do with the gospel when we receive it. This is the nature of truth. It always challenges us to change.
Each of us has our own perspective. Two or more people may witness a single event, with differing accounts. One of the most effective ways of discerning fact is to compare two or more eyewitness accounts of an event, and the segments that collaborate are likely the most accurate details. Jesus made these men witnesses to exemplify this principle. They would each take not only the words Jesus had spoken, but their individual interpretations of what they observed. Comparing the reports revealed the truth.
Secondly, Jesus responded, as He often did, with Scripture. Old Testament references to the ministry of the coming Messiah spoke of healing and restoring. The Savior would heal not only bodies, but preach the gospel and bring reconciliation between God and His people, and would have the power to raise the dead (Isaiah 29:18,19; 35:5,6; 61:1). Jesus told the men to tell John the Baptist what they saw and heard Jesus doing and saying. The Lord was confident in His cousin's knowledge of Scripture. He answered, "You know the Scriptures. Do you believe I am fulfilling them?" Jesus also often answered questions with a challenging question.
Several years ago, I read a book by Floyd Schafer about clown ministry. One idea will
always remain with me from that book. Christian clowns are not supposed to wear any clothing, jewelry, or make-up that identifies them as a "Christian clown". They are to demonstrate Christ through their actions and words (if they are a talking clown). What a lesson for all of us! There's nothing wrong with talking about our relationship with Christ, but we should eliminate the phrase, "I am a Christian" from our vocabulary. First, what is the first word of that phrase (and therefore the emphasis)? Is that the message we should send? Or should we be living a life that is obviously different than those around us? Believe me; if we do that, it will attract attention.
When people become curious, we must give God the glory for our transformed life. I
have not always done that. I like being the center of attention, and so I basqued in the
opportunity to display my biblical knowledge. Resolutely, some were very impressed with my knowledge, and some saw me for the fool and braggart I was. I want to learn, first, to consistently live what I believe (not so people will see me as a good person, but that they will see Christ in me); and secondly, to respond along with the apostle Paul: "It's no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). He is the source and reason for any good in me.
We live today in what Jesus would have called "an evil generation", not because of
the rampant decadence and debauchery thriving all around us (although the Lord despises
those things). Nevertheless, we live in a religious world, where most people subscribe to
some religious belief, and many design their own god(s) based on their personal preferences and opinions. They chase after signs and wonders, and rationalize that anything supernatural must be of God. Sadly, such people fill the Christian churches and even occupy some pulpits. The religious leaders at the time had come to Jesus seeking a sign from Him to reveal who He truly was. The Lord rebuked them, and then said the
only sign they would receive was that of Jonah the prophet. Three days and three nights the prophet had been in the belly of the great fish. Although most probably had never considered it prophetic event, Jesus revealed it was. For He said the "Son of Man" (He often called Himself that) would be three days and three nights in the grave, and then would rise. Again, Jesus directed them to the Scriptures for nderstanding His identity. He still does.
We are to learn and know the Scriptures, so that we can discern what is true and godly. Jesus was clearly the fulfillment of Scripture for those who study with understanding. However, the Pharisees and Sadducees knew the Scriptures very well, yet they read and understood through the filter of their religious traditions and expectations. For many of them, Jesus was a radical who broke the Jewish laws and a blasphemer who considered himself equal with God. To them, He was a usurper, evaporating the power they had to control the people. Studying the Scriptures with HOPE is essential to
understanding. You cannot really understand who Jesus is without the Bible. However, you must come to the Word of God SEEKING and BELIEVING. Then God the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to reveal God the Son, Who will bring you to know God the Father.
I am not suggesting a salvation through works. However, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). If we say that we believe Jesus is our Savior and Lord, but nothing in our lives proves it, then what effect does that faith have on us? Moreover, if our faith is ineffectual in our lives, how can it be a beacon of hope for others to find Christ? Like the diet doctor, our lives will call our message into question.
Romans 1:16 says “ I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (NIV). The message in itself has the life-changing power.
If we believe it, we WILL be changed. The greatest and most effective witness we who believe possess is that changed life. Witnesses need not be morally perfect. That’s not the gospel. That is religion, which is counterproductive to the gospel. If we offer religion, the world looks at us, not Christ. When our religious efforts are scrutinized, our hypocrisy is evident. Be assured, the unbelieving world will observe.
But our faith is not about morality. Rather, we have a daily relationship with our heavenly Father by the only way we can, grace. When we walk in the forgiveness of God, we are living proof of the gospel. That is the power of
God. We can follow the example of our Lord when asked if it is true. “This is what I do. What do you believe?”