The Messenger Questions the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-10) by Bro. Luis Cortez

Praise God for His word. Happy Lord’s day everybody. Welcome to CHC. It’s that time of the year already that many of us for the coming weeks will be at events and gatherings with family, friends, officemates. And as we all have experienced before, such gatherings consist of plenty of food so it’s a… it will be a feast but then after the holiday season come, January. If you notice that we gained weight after from all the eating, we start making resolutions and the most common one is getting into a diet. People have tried different types right?

Vegan, keto, carnivore diet, pescatarian, I.F., and the list goes on.

In the Bible, there is one particular diet that caught a lot of people’s attention and we actually read that earlier in the scripture reading. And it was John the Baptist diet, right. He only ate locust and honey and during his time in the wilderness in Matthew 3, again, John only ate wild locusts and honey but that wasn’t the only thing that draw people to him. He had a powerful testimony and message with him. And many went to see him there. In our text this morning, we will read about John the Baptist once again, but this time, he’s not in the wilderness anymore proclaiming the coming of Jesus. He is now in prison questioning the prophesied Messiah. And for us to know more about this unusual scene in John’s life, let us read our passage this morning. So kindly open your Bibles with me to Matthew 11: 1 to 10. It’s Matthew 11: 1- 10

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, or what Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Verse 4,

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. And verse 10, This is he of whom it is written,“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

Before we dive deeper into our passage this morning, let us open in a word of prayer. Father God in heaven, thank You for Your infallible word that points us to Christ. I pray Lord for today’s preaching. Lord you have called once again a man who is undeserving and unworthy and yet oh Lord, You allow us oh Lord through Your infallible word to hear Your very words. And what grace it is oh Lord for us sinners to hear once again comforting words, words that would convict us, words that would shape us into the image and likeness of Christ. And I pray Lord that we see the true Christ of the Bible. Thank You Lord for this. We love You in Your name we pray, amen.

So before we dive into a new chapter of Matthew’s gospel in chapter 10, let us do a recap of the recent chapter that we have finished. We learned that in chapter 10, Jesus called His 12 disciples right to go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and were given authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. And while they were to do that, the disciples were told not to take with them extra money or other resources during this mission and were only to radically depend on the provision of God. And not just financially, but they were also to depend on on God for strength to endure the trials, persecution and opposition that they were about to face. Because Jesus said they will be sheep in a land of wolves.

Christ tells them that they were to suffer for His Name’s sake. And since the world hates God, the disciples were also hated because they were messengers of Christ. And the message that they were to proclaim would be rejected by many. Despite the hatred and threats, Jesus encouraged His disciples in verse 28 to not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Even though there were intense trials during their mission, Jesus assured them of His promise to avenge His people one day by judging the enemies of the Kingdom. This shows God’s loyalty to His followers and we learned last week that followers of Christ must also respond with such loyalty to their King. Verse 37 says whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t love our families anymore when we follow God. It only means that we must take Him, take Christ as our utmost priority. It cost Him His life for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God and in following Him, there is also a cost. Verse 38, and whoever does not take His cross and follow me, is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. And the section of Matthew chapter 10 closes with the opening verse of chapter 11. We read in Matthew 11:1 and after all the instructions, the warnings, the encouragements that Jesus gave to His disciples, they went on with their mission. And so did Jesus. He started to teach and preach in their cities. And we all know that during the Earthly Ministry of Jesus, some were offended; actually many were offended by His claims and rejected Him completely as the Christ. Some were humbled and amazed and astonished by the preaching and teaching of Jesus and believed in Him. And some knew about the coming of the Messiah, but had a different expectation of what He would do and what He would be like during His Earthly Ministry. Many questioned and people doubted if He truly was the Christ. And we read in our text that one of them who questioned the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, was John the Baptist. Wait… what? John the Baptist? Christ’s forerunner and messenger? But isn’t he the one who said Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? Was he the one who baptised Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit descending on Christ? Did He hear the voice of God the Father from heaven saying to Jesus this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. And did John not say about Jesus: I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. But now in our text, John doesn’t seem to be sure about this Jesus anymore. The messenger questioned the Messiah… are you the one who is to come? or shall we look for another? Many Bible commentators believe that John faced confusions and doubts regarding the Christ probably because of His imprisonment. He was thrown into jail when He courageously rebuked Herod..

Herod Antipas for marrying his sister-in-law, Herodias. John was strong in his convictions; he called out sin and called people to repent and because of his bold act and calling out the king’s evil acts, he was thrown into prison. And while he was there, he started hearing reports about what Jesus, the prophesied Messiah, was doing and he probably remembered his preaching about the Messiah as someone who would deliver judgment during his Earthly Ministry.

Instead, John heard about the miracles, teachings and preachings that Jesus was doing. It didn’t meet his expectations. He knew that Jesus was still around doing his ministry while he was in prison. And he knew Jesus as the prophesied Messiah who would deliver justice to the wicked rulers like Herod who placed him in prison. And while he was suffering in jail for a long time, he started to question Jesus and sought confirmation. And how did Jesus respond when He heard this about John? He enumerates in verses 4-6 His miraculous works that were actually prophesied about Him in Isaiah chapters 35 and 61. And in this way, He tells John the Baptist that the prophecies about the coming Messiah were actually being fulfilled already by Him. And if John the Baptist believed in the claims of who Jesus was, Jesus said in verse 6, blessed is the one who is not offended by me. It’s like telling John if you believe that what I’m doing right now as the Christ is true and it doesn’t disappoint you, you are blessed.

Sadly, many fall away and abandon Christianity because they have unmet expectations and wrong ideas about Jesus. Thinking that following Him will make their lives comfortable. Again, let this be a reminder that following Christ has a cost. It is difficult. It is a life of denying one’s self and submitting to who God is and what His will is. And if we are not offended by this and trust that His plan is pleasing and perfect, Jesus comforts us today with His word that we are blessed. In the next verses, we will see what Jesus also did for John after being questioned regarding His identity as the Christ. In verses 7 to 10, we see that Jesus not only assured and comforted John by answering his questions, but He also defended the ministry of John the Baptist. The confusion of John might have put his credibility of his ministry in question. But since Jesus faithfully upheld John and his ministry of pointing people to Christ, Jesus was telling the crowd that John was still a faithful messenger of God. This goes to show that even the great men of God will falter, will fall at times. But such men will never completely fall away because Christ is faithful to His people and draws His wayward people to Himself in times of despair. And followers of Christ will only find Him in the Holy scriptures in His word. If we want to know Christ, we must know His word. John knew about old prophecies and when He was facing doubts, Jesus pointed John to scripture. And if we have questions about Christ, just like John the Baptist, we must seek Christ by remembering, remembering what the word of God says about who He is and what He has done. When we open the word of God by the grace of God and the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, we open our eyes and see Christ— the Word who became flesh, the living, holy, infallible Word that helps us fight every doubt that we will face in this fallen world. Dear church, this is what we must remember from our text this morning: Christ, The Living Word comforts the doubting believer with unfaltering truth and hope.

We will unpack this message into two parts with a question and an answer.

In the first part, we will go through the question of John the Baptist: Is He The Christ? And the second part of this sermon will help us understand how to fight such doubts that John the Baptist faced during the times of suffering and even in our lives. And we will learn the answer to the question of every doubting believer. He Is The Christ.

So let us now consider the question, the first part of our sermon, Is He The Christ? John the Baptist sought clarity regarding his confused idea or perception of who Jesus truly was. Is he the Messiah? Now we must be clear first regarding battles with doubt and the Christian faith. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a doubting Christian is showing disloyalty to God. It shows that our faith, it shows that our faith is only getting weak. J.C. Ryle says: “Doubting does not prove that a man has no faith, but only that his faith is small. And even when our faith is small, the Lord is ready to help us.” And so a true follower of Christ when his faith is being tested, will seek help from God. And it’s okay to wrestle with questions about God and His word. And as long as you won’t abandon the faith when things start to not make sense. When life doesn’t make sense, just like John the Baptist, we must take our doubts to the Lord. But where did John’s idea about the Messiah come from? Why did he start questioning the Messiah?

During their time, many believed including John, that the Messiah would arrive as a political revolutionary. They were looking for a king who would dominate aggressively against evil rulers of their time. What these people failed to understand was the prophecy! In Isaiah chapter 53, about the coming Messiah as the suffering servant. It says there in chapter 53 of Isaiah: He was despised and rejected by men, Christ, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions he was crushed for our iniquities and upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. When Jesus came into this world, He didn’t immediately start swinging the acts of judgment to sinners. Instead, He extended patience, grace, peace and mercy. John thought that Jesus would execute judgment from the get-go. But later on in the Earthly ministry of Jesus, we know in the scriptures that there would be an execution of judgment. John wasn’t able to see this. But the judgment that was actually laid here wasn’t on wicked people. It was actually poured on the Christ Himself. And so Jesus actually brought judgment but to Himself when he was nailed on the cross. Where we see the mercy of God and the perfect judgment of God together. And because of this, those who believe in the Messiah, are rescued from the wrath that is to come. And if you are here today, and you don’t believe in who Jesus is and what He has done, understand that all of us have sinned and have violated God’s commandments. Because of this, all of us deserve judgment. And the only way for sinners to be saved from God’s judgment is to admit that we have sinned before a holy God and believe in His sacrificial work on the cross. And Christ demonstrated His power over death and sin when He resurrected after 3 days. And is now seated at the right hand of the Father standing before God as the Mediator who reconciles sinners to a holy God. And one day, Jesus will return no longer as the suffering servant, but as a King who will perfectly judge the living and the dead.

So dear friend, dear guest, repent now of your sins and believe in the true Christ so that you can flee from the wrath that is to come. To my dear brothers in the faith ,may we continue to put our hope in the One who suffered for our sake and the One who served us eternal life. Let us keep reminding ourselves of who Christ is and what He has done for us. You may not be in prison like John during his time of confusion, but wherever you are right now in your life; if you’re having unmet expectations or facing difficulties in believing the Lord and His will, church, do not lose hope. Maybe you’re already getting impatient just like John when he probably thought that the Messiah would bring an instant end to all the injustices going on. Or maybe you have been waiting for God to answer your prayers or maybe the future seems to be uncertain or maybe you have lost a job recently, or lost a loved one; and you think that He doesn’t care or that His will is not good, dear brother, dear sister, do not lose hope and do not fall into the trap of looking for another type of Saviour or Messiah that you think will satisfy your needs or that will bring you instant comfort.

Odd Thomas of Beautiful Eulogy, if you guys like rap music, highly recommended it’s a Christian rap group if you like white boy rap, ayan, highly recommended. Odd Thomas of Beautiful Eulogy, a Christian rap group says in one of their songs entitled “Messiah” I’d like to share a little bit. It says there: these gods, these small ‘g’ gods make promises but always lie to us. The kind of lies that say they’ll keep us s safe and satisfy us. We blame the lies outside of us but it’s the lie that lies inside that captures the depth of desires and false messiahs.” So during the deepest and darkest of times when we struggle the most, in believing the promises of God, if we are in deep doubt about who He is and if we don’t resolve our questions with God, unresolved doubts may lead us to look for false messiahs. Are you the one who will carry me through in this tough time? Or shall I look for another? Are you the one who will supply all my needs or shall I look for another? And when we look to worldly pleasures for answers or begin to trust what the world is saying, instead of what the word says, we carve our version of small “g” gods that we think will comfort us.

Remember when the serpent entered the garden and started to confuse Adam and Eve about what God said regarding the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? They began entertaining questions of the serpent and wondered who was telling the truth. And as we all know, sin entered the world when both Adam and Eve believed Satan, believed a lie and ceased to trust God’s word. And up to this day, believers still face such temptations and lies from the enemy.

Jerry Bridges says: “While God most often appeals to our wills through our reason, and Satan usually appeal to us through our desires.” That is why it is so important to keep ourselves grounded in the basic disciplines of the Christian life that are essential to us such as praying, studying and reading the word of God, staying in the fellowship of Bible believers instead of bad company, going to church regularly and receiving the word of God there. When we forget about these things, we easily get persuaded by the lies of the world. We fill our minds with worldly pleasures and other lies instead of taking every thought captive to obey Christ. That is why my first challenge for all of us this morning is this: Resist The Lies Of The Enemy By Renewing Your Mind With A Word. Renew your mind with a word daily. Romans 12 chapter 2 do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Again, our minds get renewed when we hear or read the word of God. The sufficient sword of the spirit; this is our spiritual weapon whenever we have battles with doubt, when lies start to creep in, slay right away before it completely corrupts your mind.

When John was having difficulty understanding who Jesus was, he asked help from his followers to go to Jesus and ask Him to clarify things. Now imagine if John’s followers didn’t comply, bahala ka diyan di ba.… If they didn’t comply with John’s request to go and ask Jesus for help, what would happen to John? It was a very difficult time for him and probably even for his followers. They’ve been seeing John suffering in prison, right. And this also teaches us that if we see and know a fellow Christian having a hard time, believing God’s promises and truth, let us remind them of who God is. Maybe you have been ministering to someone for the longest time and you’ve probably thought I’ve tried enough already.

You’ve rebuked this person in love, persuaded this person with the word of God. You’ve been praying for this person and still you see no change… and now you’re discouraged. You’re running out of patience and probably you have given up. My dear brothers and sisters, let me ask you this: did God give up on Adam and Eve when they sin again? when they sinned against God in the garden? No! God came looking for them when they sin and hid from God. Did Jesus give up on Peter when he denied Him? No! After Christ resurrected, He appeared to Peter.

He restored him and asked him to feed the people of God with the word. Did Jesus give up on John the Baptist? No! He helped John’s doubts by reminding him of what prophecies he had fulfilled already. Jesus pointed John back to the word. Did Jesus give up on sinners? No! He didn’t give up on us. Actually, He gave Himself up for us so that we may live. Church, never give up on your struggling; brother or sister. Keep pointing fellow believers to Christ and let this be a reminder to all of us that if we struggle with doubts and have probably entertained lies about God, may we slay every thought that disrupts the truth by searching the scriptures that point us to the person and work of Christ.

This leads us now to the second part of our sermon He is the Christ. Jesus assured John that He had fulfilled the prophecies about Him as the Christ. He tells the disciples of John to tell him, tell John what they heard and saw. And what they learned were the miraculous works of Jesus. Verse five, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, leper are cleansed and deaf hear and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Interestingly, these words of Jesus were actually a prophecy in Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied in chapter 26: 19 that the dead shall live and the bodies shall rise. Isaiah 35 also says then the eyes of the blind shall be open and the ears of the deaf unstopped then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. And not only that. Jesus wasn’t just called to perform healing miracles. We all know that His main ministry was to preach. And our text says that Jesus did preach the good news to the poor and needy sinners. This preaching of the good news to the poor was also prophesied in Isaiah chapter 61. The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. So when this message from Jesus arrived to John, he probably would have recognised the words from the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah and Jesus was letting John know that these works were being fulfilled by Him. And if we look closely at the text that Jesus used to answer John’s questions, these prophecies from Isaiah they are actually connected to the coming judgment of God. And so in a way, Jesus was telling John that he knows about the coming wrath that John had been preaching about Him and the judgment that that he was hoping for from Him. It wasn’t just the time yet. It wasn’t it was just not the time yet. And although John’s expectation of the coming Messiah was different, Jesus continued to let the crowd know that John was still a faithful messenger of the Christ. Take note that the crowd that Jesus addressed here were probably people who were also witnesses of the Baptist ministry while he was in the wilderness. And just like John, these people were also expecting a messiah who would be a militant, who would raise an army and forcefully establish His kingdom. Jesus knew that these people didn’t just have wrong expectations but some of them also had wrong motivations in hearing John’s preaching in the wilderness. That’s why he asked the the crowd three times what did you go out into the wilderness to see? We all learned from our previous sermons in Matthew chapter 3 that John had crowds of his own during His ministry. His ministry centred on repentance and people wanted to hear and see him. Matthew 3:5 tells us that Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going to Him. And now in our text, Jesus questions the crowd. Because most probably everyone who went there had different expectations or motivations, right. That’s why Jesus asked the crowd what made you guys go into the wilderness? What did you guys expect to get from John? Jesus then proceeded to ask them rhetorical questions. He asks them first: did you expect a reed shaken by the wind? Was John someone who got swayed by the winds of culture or politics? No! John wasn’t someone who was influenced by the world. He actually stood strong against it. Jesus then asked the crowd again: did you expect a man dressed in soft clothing? During their time soft clothes would refer to expensive or luxurious clothing and we know that John the Baptist didn’t dress like that. Then Jesus says that the soft clothing was something that was reserved for kings and someone of royalty like the one who imprisoned John. Matthew 3:4 tells us what wardrobe John the Baptist had— a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. This clothing was actually very typical of a prophet and Jesus did confirm that John was a prophet. And not just that, Jesus said that he was more than a prophet. He was so much more because not only did John speak the word of God as a prophet, but the word of God also had a prophecy about him. When the priests and Levites asked John who he was, he said in John chapter 1: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness; make straight the way of of the Lord as the prophet Isaiah said. And so we go back to the question of Jesus: what did you go out into the wilderness to see? The fickle crowds didn’t like what they saw and heard from John and many rejected his ministry. At the same time, this was also true to the teaching and preaching of Jesus during His earthly ministry: many people didn’t like what they saw and heard from the Messiah and so many people also rejected Him. And even up to to our day, we have people who go to church expecting to hear something about Jesus based on their version of Him. And when they hear about the true Jesus of the Bible, they have a difficult time accepting it and most of the time, just like what verse six of our text says, they get offended. And many people reject Him still. Sadly, there are churches today that adjust to the expectations of these people who get offended by the true Christ. And Paul warned us about this in his letter to Timothy. He says in 2 Timothy 4:3 for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but have itching ears; they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. There are people inside churches today that are more fascinated with everything except the truth. When you ask them: what do they expect when you go to church? You will find that their answers show that what they want to see in the church is something that they see and hear and get from the world. And this my dear friend is very dangerous. Churches that adapt to worldly practices will produce fake Christians who have their faith grounded not on the true Christ but on false promises. Believe in Jesus and you will be wealthy. Believe in Jesus and you will be healthy. Believe in Jesus and you will be happy. Many people come to church with wrong motives and when the time comes that they hear the true message of the Gospel, one that is Christ affirming and not self-affirming— either they willrepent of their sinful ways and believe in the true Christ or they will be offended.

And so if you are here today and you hear the word of God faithfully preached every Lord’s day and you are not offended by it, again Jesus is telling us that we are blessed. A true follower of Christ will long to worship the true Christ of the Bible. The more that we submit to Jesus and His commands, the more we become like Him and as Christians, we are to be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. The Bible helps us see the pattern of the Christian life because it shows us how Christ lived here on Earth. And when Christ lived here on Earth, He was tempted in every way. He heard the lies of Satan while He was in the wilderness but He, unlike John, didn’t falter. Jesus remained faithful in His mission here on Earth despite being rejected, beaten, mocked and persecuted and not not once did He fall. His fulfillment of the prophecy about the work of the Messiah and His perfect obedience shows us that He indeed is the Christ. And those who are in Him, will never be completely shaken because He is faithful and true to His word. And scripture promises us that one day He will return and not just defend His people but usher them to the new heavens and new earth where we will no longer be confused about Jesus and will no longer have doubts in the faith because our faith will finally turn into sight. We will see the Christ, the God man and we will worship Him in glory forever and ever. This is our blessed hope, our sure and steady anchor. He will never fail us and He will never forsake us. And nothing will ever separate us from the love of God… not confusion, not doubts. He is always with us.

That’s why my last challenge to all of us is this: Take Hold Of His Unfailing Word That Gives Us Hope. Seasons come and go. There will be good times and there will be bad times; but one thing is certain: the word of God remains forever. Although reading or memorising scripture doesn’t automatically change our circumstances. But it does changes our lives; it changes our sight from looking to the world that gives no hope to looking to Christ who is our blessed hope. It changes the way we think from believing in the lies of this world that gives no hope, to believing in the steadfast love of Christ who is our hope. And because of who Christ is and what He has done, we can endure our battles without here on Earth. And as the hymn goes: when the winds of doubt blow through me and my sails have all been torn, and the suffering and the sorrow when my sinking hopes are few. I will hold fast to the anchor it shall never be removed. Christ the sure and steady anchor through the floods of unbelief; hopeless somehow oh my soul now. Lift your eyes to calvary this my ballast of assurance, see His love forever proved. I will hold fast to the anchor, it shall never be removed.

In closing, let us rejoice in knowing that we can bring our doubts to the Lord because God is gracious to reveal to us the truth about who He is and what He has done. May we find our Hope in the Living Word and the Word who became flesh Jesus the promised Messiah.

Let’s pray. Father God in heaven, thank You, thank You for today. Thank You for the today oh Lord. Thank you for Your word, Your very words oh Lord that is living and active, that pierces through our hearts. Lord, if we are convicted, I pray that we humble ourselves and not get offended by who You say You are and what You do and Your will and promises, oh Lord. Thank You Lord that You have reminded us today that we are blessed when we believe and trust in Your perfect will. Even though it seems uncertain the future oh Lord; even though we are grieving recently or or years already, that somebody that we love have passed oh Lord, but Lord we know that our future in You is certain because You say… You said in Your word oh Lord that You will usher us oh Lord to glory that nothing will ever compare oh Lord; the sufferings that we face here. Oh Lord, nothing will compare to the glory that awaits us when You bring us home. Thank You Lord of this blessed hope. Thank You Lord that one day, our our faith will turn into sight when we see You face to face in full glory. We love you oh Lord. May we respond in worship with a humble heart that worships the true Christ in Your Name we pray, amen.

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