Who besides Jesus is greater than the greatest?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 11:7-19 NASB:  7 As these disciples of John were going away, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ 11 Truly I 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 than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 The one who has ears to hear, let him hear. 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a song of mourning, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”  

The 11th Chapter of Matthew tells us that while John was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the one, or if there would be another. I think Matthew wrote about this encounter to explain the nature of God’s kingdom.  Let’s look at Jesus’ answer and what can be inferred from it.

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” Jesus asked as he began to tell them that John is, “…more than a prophet.” 

Jesus began by making it clear that John is the real deal. He is the greatest born among women.  But he went on to say the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John!  There is a kingdom of Heaven where all are greater than those who have not yet entered.  But what is The Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew mentions the Kingdom of Heaven 32 times. Other Gospel writers use the phrase, “Kingdom of God,” exclusively. Matthew, who is writing to a Jewish audience, is the only Gospel writer who uses, “Kingdom of Heaven.” He is writing to a Jewish audience to convince them that the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s kingdom) is near but has not yet arrived.  When one considers John’s question, it seems it was not clear to the Jewish community if Messiah would bring a kingdom on earth or if God’s kingdom was in Heaven.   But Jesus told the crowd who heard John’s question that the least in the kingdom of heaven, which is near, is greater than even John!

Our home is not here. I think Matthew 11:16-19 lets us know that while on earth (this generation,) we can expect some to ignore the importance of the gospel or even mock it. We can expect some to falsely accuse those who deliver the Gospel. But these things are nothing compared to eternity.  Who besides Jesus is greater than the greatest? Isn’t the answer, the least of the Kingdom of Heaven?

What are your thoughts?

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How do you respond when your faith is questioned?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 11:1-6 NASB: When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now while in prison, John heard about the works of Christ, and he sent word by his disciples, 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or are we to look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 those who are blind receive sight and those who limp walk, those with leprosy are cleansed and those who are deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is any person who does not take offense at Me.”  

Matthew 11:1-6 comes immediately after Jesus gave his apostles instructions as they headed out to preach to the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel.  In these verses, John is in prison and sends messengers to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the one, or if it is someone else. John is the one who baptized Jesus, but now that he is in prison for preaching the Gospel he asks if Jesus is the one!

We shouldn’t be surprised that John is in prison for preaching the Gospel. These verses follow Jesus telling his apostles they will be persecuted for delivering his message. An important lesson here is that hard times can make one question if his or her understanding of God’s word is correct. And even an Apostle of Jesus can lose faith.

Matthew told us in earlier verses  that Jesus’ disciples were in a boat with Jesus as a storm hit. Even though Jesus was in the boat with them, they lost faith until Jesus calmed the sea. Now we hear of John asking questions while he is in prison. Some say John lost faith and one could infer this from what Matthew wrote, and it would not be the first time an Apostle lost faith. But I think it’s more likely he’s questioning whether Jesus will be a military-political leader or if someone else is coming to rule on earth.  Could he be questioning his understanding of Messiah? I ask this because Matthew’s theme seems to be to convince Jewish people that Messiah will rule the Kingdom of Heaven.  He uses this phrase 32 times when other Gospel writers exclusively use the phrase Kingdom of God. I think he uses Kingdom of Heaven to drive home his point. 

My point in all this is it’s OK to ask God for faith when we have questions. It’s OK to ask God if we have it wrong. There’s no sense in being dishonest with God because he knows your thoughts whether you express them or not. The apostles in a boat, and John in prison began to have doubts.  But in both cases, they reached out to Jesus for answers rather than let any doubts they have fester. They were short sighted.  Jesus saw the whole picture which ended with his resurrection and salvation for anyone who accepts his call.

Shouldn’t our first response when doubt starts to creep in be to ask Jesus to strengthen our faith and to open our eyes to his will?

What are your thoughts?

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Did Jesus promise a reward for helping those who preach the Gospel?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 10:40-42 NASB: “The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  (New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation.)

When Jesus gave his disciples instructions as they got ready to preach to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, he spoke of rewards.  I believe this includes rewards for the apostles and for those who helped them. Let’s examine Matthew 10:40-42 and consider what Jesus had to say, the disagreement some people have about verse 42, and the implications for us today.

Jesus has just finished telling his apostles that many will reject the Gospel, and some will get violent. But he also said, “The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward…” He added the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. I think it’s clear in this context he is saying the reward of those who help the apostles spread the gospel is the same as that of the apostles who are preaching the gospel and the act of welcoming Jesus’ apostle is the same as the act of welcoming Jesus.  I think a fair analogy from our modern world is the welcoming of an ambassador.  The host country isn’t just welcoming the ambassador, it welcomes the ambassador’s country; the one who sent him or her.

I found there is some disagreement about whom Verse 42 speaks. Jesus tells of the reward given to the person who gives a drink of water to any of these little ones.  Jesus often used the word “children” as a metaphor to describe adults in a spiritual sense. Here, there are at least two groups this metaphor may describe.  I believe Jesus’ metaphor of giving cold water to “little ones” refers to the apostles giving the lost sheep the Gospel, and says the apostles will be rewarded. But I found at least one author who says this refers to the apostles as “little ones” and those who give them a literal drink of cold water will be rewarded. I could argue either way, but at the end of the day, Jesus is talking about rewards given to those who help in carrying out his work.

I think it’s important to note, these are Jesus’ instructions to his apostles as they head out on a specific mission.  Some of the instructions given in the chapter (such as not preaching to the Gentiles or Samaritans) are clearly for this mission only because later they are told to preach to everybody.  But I think since Jesus said, “a prophet,” and not my apostle; and since he spoke of “a righteous person” rather than a specific righteous person, that this applies to all who do this rather than only the people to whom the apostles encountered on this specific mission.  When we help a person spread the gospel, I understand these verses to tell us we share in his or her reward. Could we infer from this a warning about helping those who spread a false doctrine?

What are your thoughts?

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Did Jesus encourage strife and armed conflicts?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 10:34-39 NASB “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.  

Jesus instructs his apostles in Matthew 10:34-39 as they head out on a mission. He tells them, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I think this is a good example of scripture that needs context. If read without context it sounds like Jesus wants strife and conflict. Is that really what Jesus says? Let’s look at the text and why it needs context to prevent misunderstanding.

The 10th Chapter of Matthew is Jesus’ instructions to his Apostles as they prepare to go on a mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus gave them instructions and told them what to expect on this mission. Verses 34-39 take place within the context of Jesus reminding his disciples just what it means to be an apostle.

When Jesus tells them in verse thirty-four, “… I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…” is he not warning them that people may not act peacefully when they hear the Gospel the apostles preach? I don’t think Jesus is telling them to pick up a literal sword. If this were the case, why did Jesus tell Peter in  Matthew 25:52, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword…”  Jesus here says he is not bringing peace, but a sward. Is it not clear he is using the same metaphor we find in Ephesians 6:17, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

There is no compromise when it comes to preaching the Gospel. God’s message supersedes even family members who may get upset. Being an apostle means nothing is more important than the Gospel, and in verse 39 Jesus tells his apostles, “…the one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on my account will find it”

I think it’s clear that Jesus is not saying he want’s strife, but that the apostles should expect it if they preach the Gospel without compromise. Memorizing verses from the Bible is good.  But without context, verses like these could sound as if they are advocating something vastly different from what the author intended.

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Did God blind a man just to teach a lesson?

John 9:2-3 2 NASB And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  

John 9:2-3 tells us Jesus’ disciples asked him who’s sin caused a man to be blind, his or his parents.  They were convinced that sin from one or the other caused the blindness.  Jesus said neither, but the man’s blindness, “was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Does this mean that God blinded the man at birth so that years later Jesus could work a miracle? How would this be fair? I propose that this encounter may not be as it seems if a reader does a fast reading with a Western mindset.

Children who are born blind suffer as a result of a world that became corrupt because of sin; something that happened before their birth or their parent’s birth. Sin corrupted the world before either one arrived on Earth. The apostles didn’t ask if the child’s blindness was caused by sin.  They asked if the cause was his or his parent’s sin. Jesus spoke directly to their question; that is, if it was his or his parent’s sin that cause the blindness. But then he went a little further. He told them a purpose the man’s blindness served: So that God might be displayed in him.  Does this mean God blinded the man at birth so Jesus could work a miracle?  That is one way this sentence could be understood. But if I look at this without a Western cause-and-effect mindset, it could also be understood that Jesus answered their question and went on to answer a more important question than the one they asked.  They seemed to be more interested in knowing why the man was blind rather than helping him.  But as for Jesus, he told them what good could come out of this, then he healed the man. I am not saying my understanding of these verses are Gospel.  I am not a prophet, and I might be wrong. God may have allowed this man to be blind so that good could be worked through his healing. He may have given a purpose to this man’s blindness before he was born.  All we can do is speculate. But no matter why he was blind, is this fair?   

Life is very short, and it not fair. The Bible never claims that life is fair. But this life is not our destination. Life certainly was not fair to the blind man who did nothing to cause his own blindness. Life was also very unfair to Jesus who did nothing to deserve a life of persecution and death by crucifixion. The Bible’s message is not fairness in this life, it’s Salvation for eternity.  And salvation is not a matter of fairness; it’s a matter of Grace and open to all who will accept it.

What are your thoughts?

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