THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 51
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see?”
“As they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind, (which is commonplace)? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing (entirely unsuited for the harsh desert)? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. – The Words of Jesus, Matthew 11:7-19
These words of Jesus are often misunderstood or passed over because of their mysterious sounding nature and complexity. These are metaphors and colloquialisms known by the Jew, and if you were a Jew in that day, you would understand the references used.
It would be easy to assume that these words spoken to the gathering crowd are draped in sarcasm, when actually Jesus is issuing a stern warning. He is rhetorically asking the crowd why would they travel so far in such a desolate place? Did they make this journey only to see the ordinary and mundane, such as a commonplace reed blowing in the wind? What would be the point of travelling into the wilderness when you could see that anywhere? Or perhaps did they expect to see a man wearing royal clothing wandering about the wilderness? Nonsense. They are fooling no one but themselves!
Before continuing, please remember that these are creative, causative, prophetic and instructional words of Jesus. These words apply to you and to me today in the same way they applied to the crowds following Jesus. Grasping what Jesus is saying, teaching, prophesying and instructing is our obstacle to overcome.
Even in our day, crowds of people travel near and far after hearing about a miracle-worker, a prophet or a gifted man of God. They go to great lengths to be amazed, entertained or to receive a prophet’s miracle. Too often, however, when we seek out a prophet of God, we only find that which is very ordinary. But what did you really expect?
But if you encounter a true prophet of God, it will not be a commonplace thing. There will be no inspiring oratory, no magnificent stage presence, no entertainment, no magic. Jesus continues by saying,
“But what then did you (really) go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more (eminent, more remarkable and far more) than a prophet (who foretells the future). This is the one of whom it is written (by the prophet Malachi),
“‘Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.” (Matthew 11:9-10)
Jesus emphatically states, whether they know it or not, they shall see one who is a prophet, and more than a just a prophet!
Likewise, if you encounter a true prophet of God, your curiosity will turn into fear. You will not encounter the ordinary, but the extraordinary things of God. Your sins will be exposed, you will be humbled, and you will know the fear of God. You will mourn, you will hunger and thirst, and you will find seek and find mercy.
Jesus warns this crowd and gives us perspective of the natural order versus the Devine, our standing as citizens of earth before Christ Jesus and on our position as Christians in His Kingdom. Jesus continues,
”I assure you and most solemnly say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater (in privilege) than he.” (Matthew 11:11)
Jesus, in His tribute to John the Baptist, is reminding us that the greatness of men is measured by the divine, not a human standard. ‘The prophet, who was more than a prophet’, the herald or the forerunner of the kingdom, was greater in his work, his holiness, his intuition of the truth, than the far-off patriarchs, Abraham, Moses, David or Solomon, and much greater than the conquerors and the destroyers. The Greek gives the comparative, not the superlative.
The death and the resurrection of Christ were indeed great points of the gospel, but to which John could only prophesy of, and not preach of, and declare us things in his time accomplished. So, Jesus explains and warns that the weakest Christian is greater in privileges than the greatest of the Old Testament saints.
We are not to seek to attain earthly glory or status – even when they are beneficial and worthy things, for the best of earthly accomplishments fade to nothingness when compared to the glory and privileges, even the lowest of Christians will attain in the Kingdom of God. Jesus continues in
Verse 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violent assault, and the violent take it by force (as a precious prize). 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, John (himself) is Elijah (the messenger) who was to come (before the Kingdom). 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear (and heed my words).
You might be better served to read a good commentary for the preceding verses (twelve through fifteen). However, it is certainly passive here. Luke’s phrase compels us to understand the reason of the violence is for entrance into the kingdom. The kingdom is not being ill-treated, but it is as if it were being taken by storm (Meyer). The violent, are men using strong force, men whose minds are made up and who do not care what force and power they employ to attain their object. Take it by force, i.e., ‘grasp it for themselves’ like rough and violent bandits seizing their prey. Our Lord is describing the energy with which some souls are pressing in, and using such energy, so their salvation is obtained. There is no thought of hostile purpose in these words. Next Jesus says, in
Verse 16. “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
Verse 17. “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
Verse 18. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ Verse 19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
Jesus uses a metaphor to describe the behavior of both observant and non-observant Jews as miscreant children, saying they are immature, selfish and childish. They are “like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates”, pretending that what is occurring is only a child’s game for their entertainment. But the seriousness and the reality of it is that, “John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and (yet you ‘childish people’ say), ‘He’s possessed by a demon. ’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
“Yet, wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
Please don’t make the mistake of reading these words and believing they were spoken only to and for the Jews present at that time – or you miss the entire point of what Jesus is saying. These words were spoken to the Jews at that time and for you and me in our time. Also, please remember specifically, the words of Jesus are never random. His Words are always creative, causative, prophetic, and instructional, and are spoken to and for all people of all the ages.
We must grasp the reality, the immediacy and urgency of this fulfillment of prophecies as explained by Jesus in these last days – which are evidenced by the coming of John and of Jesus.
We must not think or behave like immature children through the rituals of “going to church and calling out to our ‘playmates’ seeking to entertain and to be entertained in the name of our religion, complaining when we don’t get what we want or expect.” In other words, we must stop ‘playing church’, and sense the gravity of the task before us as Christians.
“Wisdom is justified by her deeds” and of us will be found out by way of our own deeds! There is no exception.
Please, let’s show one another grace and pray for one another. That day is now upon us. We must be mature, trained, obedient and ready for His return. It is imminent.
Your Brother and Friend,
NEXT: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them?, “Then Jesus began to denounce the cities”, Part 52.
PREVIOUS: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them?, “Go and report what you hear and see”, Part 50.
2 thoughts on “THE WORDS OF JESUS THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them?, “What did you go into the wilderness to see?”, Part 51”
That’s sound insight .
Thanks for the visit and the comment. Glory to God, alone.