Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 11:1-19, Not Offended


Our greatest life disappointments frequently come from our life expectations not matching reality. We can have a vision of how we expect things to go in life. But when things do not go according to our plan or our vision, we become angry, disappointed, depressed, frustrated, and many other potential emotions. Expectations not meeting reality is a common problem. But this is a very big obstacle when it comes to the gospel and following Jesus. Jesus is going to address this concern in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11 begins a new section in this gospel. Matthew marks the different sections of his gospel with the words, “When Jesus had finished…” The end of Matthew 7, which concludes the Sermon on the Mount, reads, “And when Jesus finished these sayings.” Chapters 8-10 are now concluded with the words you see in 11:1, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples.” The next break in this gospel is found in Matthew 13:53, “And when Jesus had finished these parables.” This happens two more times in this gospel, which are found in Matthew 19:1 and 26:1. So Matthew 11-13 are the teachings of Jesus and this is our theme for this teaching series over the next few weeks. Matthew is keying our minds to see this next section which will show us Jesus teaching various people. But you might be surprised that Jesus needs to begin with a teaching about expectations. Look at Matthew 11 with me in your copies of God’s word.

Expectations of Jesus (11:1-6)

Matthew 11:2 tells us that John the Baptizer is in prison. We will be told about why he is in prison later in chapter 14. Why he is in prison is not the point here. The point is in verses 2-3. John is in prison hearing about the works that the Christ was doing. John sends a message by his disciples to Jesus. Listen to his question in verse 3. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Are you surprised by his question? We could be shocked that John would ask this question. How could he say this? John is the one going around proclaiming Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29, 36). John was refusing to baptize Jesus because he understood who Jesus was (Matthew 3:14). Further, when John baptized Jesus, the sky opened, the Spirit of God descended and a voice proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). So how could John ask this question?

I think the answer is clear. Everyone has doubts. No one is immune from times of doubt and fear. John’s expectations do not seem to match what he sees and hears happening. Jesus is doing works but John is in prison at this time. John’s personal experience and John’s expectations of Jesus are not matching. Now how is Jesus going to handle this question? How will Jesus handle John’s doubts? Look at the answer in verses 4-6. Jesus does not express his disappointment in John. Jesus does not chastise John. Jesus does not scold John or question his faith. What Jesus does is refer to scriptures that predicted the work of the Christ (Isaiah 61:1-2; 29:18-20; 35:5-6) and notes that this is being done. Jesus is doing the work that the prophets said he would do. He is giving the blind sight. He is making the lame walk. He is cleansing those who have leprosy. He is giving the deaf hearing. He is raising the dead. The poor is having the good news preached to them. Jesus is doing the work. But I want you to carefully consider how Jesus ends the message in verse 6.

“And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6)

Jesus reassures John in his response. But Jesus ends the message with an implied challenge. Will you be offended by me and how I am doing the work? Now this is a key truth about Jesus and the gospel. Jesus does not work on our expectation level. Jesus does not take a survey, ask us what we want in a savior, and then fill those expectations. Rather, Jesus does the opposite. Jesus does his work knowing that what he says and does is going to challenge our expectations and cause offense. Jesus knows that our expectations of him are going to cause offense. This is an important truth to accept as Matthew begins this section of his gospel recording the teachings and parables of Jesus. What Jesus says is challenging. What Jesus does is challenging. We will come back to this key truth in a moment. But Jesus shifts and starts talking about what the people expected of John in the next paragraph.

The Expectations of John (11:7-15)

Jesus then asks the crowds what they expected to see when they went out to John the Baptizer. What were you expecting to get from John? Were you expecting to see a reed shaken by the wind? This is an image indicating that John would be swayed by popular opinions or change his message to match what the people wanted to hear. But John was not swaying with the winds of culture or the desires of the people, though they wanted that from him.

Jesus asks again in verse 8 what they expected to see. Did you expect him to be wearing soft clothes? Now that image does not make sense to us today. Soft clothes would refer to luxurious clothing that would be reserved for people like royalty who did not do physical labor. Remember John was wearing camel’s hair for clothing and a leather belt (Matthew 3:4). John wasn’t fancy, wearing top of line clothing. He was not impressive in his apparel.

Jesus asks again in verse 9 what they expected to see. Did you expect to see a prophet? With this question Jesus confirms that John is a prophet. But then he goes further. John was more than a prophet. John was the one who was sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. In verse 14 Jesus says that John was the prophesied Elijah that Malachi spoke about (cf. Malachi 3:1). Jesus even says that there was no one greater than John that was born of women (3:11). In other words, except for Jesus, there is no one greater than John who walked the earth. Please think about this. John the Baptizer was greater than Abraham. He was greater than Moses. He was greater than Joshua. He was greater than Elijah and Elisha. He was greater than all the prophets.

John also defied all expectations. The vast majority of people did not realize who he was and what great work had been assigned to him by the Lord. If the people understood who John was, they would have listened to him. But since the beginning of John’s ministry, Jesus says that the kingdom has suffered violence and the violent are trying to take it by force (11:12). Rather than submitting to the kingdom, they are violently trying to take the kingdom for themselves. This is why John is in prison. Instead of submitting to the message, they are rejecting the message and killing the messengers. They are practicing violence instead of obedience. John, the greatest person to walk the earth except Jesus, was in their midst and they violently rejected him.

The Problem With Our Expectations (11:16-19)

So what is the problem? Why is this happening? Jesus addresses the problem in verses 16-19. He uses an illustration to show the problem with the people. He describes the people being like children calling to their friends, saying, “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a lament, but you did not mourn.” The illustration is simple. You did not do what we wanted you to do. We played a flute but you did not dance. We sang a lament, but you did not mourn. Now Jesus applies this in verses 18-19.

When John the Baptizer came, he was fasting. He did not come eating and drinking. He was in the wilderness eating locusts and honey (Matthew 3:4). But the people drew the conclusion that John had a demon. Why did they draw that conclusion? They drew that conclusion because John did not do what they wanted him to do. So then Jesus refers to himself in verse 19. The Son of Man came and he is eating and drinking. But the people drew the conclusion that he is a glutton and drunk. He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners. The people did not like what Jesus did either. But John and Jesus came to the people differently but they were both rejected.

So what is Jesus saying? Jesus is saying that the problem is not with Jesus and the gospel message. The problem is with us and our expectations. But Jesus makes a powerful point. They could not meet your expectations even if we tried. No matter what they said or did, if you did not like their message then you are going to find a way to dismiss them and reject them.

To use the illustration Jesus used, we act like spoiled children to Jesus’ offer. You did not do what we wanted you to do. You did not teach what we wanted you to teach. You did not do for our lives what we wanted you to do. The problem is not with Jesus or John. The problem is not with the teaching. The problem is with our expectations that we have for Jesus and the gospel.

We need to think about this for a minute. What are our expectations of Jesus? What do we think he should do? What do we think he should teach? What do we think he should do for our lives? What do we think he should have done so that we would believe him and follow him? What should he have done differently? Then think about what Jesus said. It would not matter if we did it differently because you would have not liked that either. This goes back to the key point Jesus made that we read in verse 6.

“Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (11:6)

Look also at verse 14. “If you are willing to accept it.” Jesus breaks expectations about what it means to serve the Lord and follow him. All of us are going to get reality checks as we learn more about God and the gospel. All of us will have doubts and questions as our expectations are broken. But will we be offended and leave him because Jesus does not match our expectations? Will we accept what Jesus teaches? Will we accept Jesus shattering our expectations?

I want us to see what we are choosing to walk away from. Go back to verse 11. We noted that Jesus said that there was no one greater born of woman than John the Baptizer. But look at the rest of verse 11.

Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11 ESV)

John is greater than all born of women and yet every person who belongs to Jesus is described as even greater. The inheritance we have promised to us is amazing. The blessings that we enjoy because we belong to Jesus cannot be numbered. The apostle Paul just simply proclaims that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). Friends, we have God as our Father who loves us, cares for us, and promises to bring us home to eternity.

Do not miss out on this offer because Jesus does not match your expectations. Do not be thrown by the fact that Jesus challenges your expectations. Do not be like the spoiled kids that Jesus described who said that you did not do what we want. We do not tell God what we want because he is God. God tells us what he wants. But here is the good news. He wants you to be with him for eternity. Being with Jesus for eternity is the ultimate greatness we can ever experience. Here also is the good news. God is going to give you what you want and need. We do not realize what we need because we are darkened by sin. But trust in the Lord that he has come to give you exactly what you want and what you need. Blessed is the one who not offended because of Jesus.

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