In this “Study of the Kingdom” we will focus on Matthew 11: 11 to 15 (NIV). But first, let’s fill in the time-lapse since the last post. Jesus went through all the towns and villages preaching the good news of the kingdom. He told the Disciples to pray about workers going into the fields and then He sends them out. They are sent with authority and a solid block of instruction/teaching (Matthew 10: 5 – 42). Verse one in chapter 11 leads me to think He went teaching on His own. Jesus then has a visit from John’s disciples, again. Steven Furtick, pointed out recently that John’s disciples did not hear verse 7 to 30 as they were leaving. As I have said before, we tend to break things up for our convenience, but I feel it is important to remember that all of this has a “John” focus!
Jesus is not shy in his accolades of John. In doing this series I have come to believe that Christianity may be guilty of downplaying John’s importance and the shadows that he fulfilled and the pattern he shows for the future and the end times. The part of the verse that grabs my attention is “who is least in the kingdom of heaven” and who was Jesus talking about? Normally, you think that is referring to future Christians that maybe did not do as much as they should have. The word “least” makes me think of a servant, so in this phrase, Jesus could be talking about Himself. He considered Himself the servant of all.
I felt I needed to use the parallel function on Bible Gateway with this verse, I was very surprised at the wide interpretations of this verse! The King James uses words like violence, violent men, suffereth, and force. Pull this out of the context of John’s situation and add in a little fire and brimstone this will get you a slanted view of the Christian life.
As I continue, we need to focus back on John the Baptist. The next two ways of viewing this verse are wrapped up with him. 1) Herod and his soldiers are violent men and they are trying to stop the Gospel by taking people (John) away by force. (This seems to be the current thought in the latest NIV. My 1990 version more or less reflects the KJV.) 2) That people are turning to the Gospel with a forceful change of life and attitude. Several paraphrases pick up on the meanings of biazo (violence) and harpazo (force) in determining their verbiage. In reflecting on the mission of John and grace, I want to think #2 is a better idea. Luke 16:16 is a companion verse and it holds this idea. The Disciples were out on their first mission trip and that adds strength to the second idea. Since Jesus is speaking in current terms, it is just as easily #1. Either view works, so choose one or both, but keep it in the context of John, his mission, and that fact he is in prison.
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (NIV) This verse/idea has changed my thinking on John and just how important he is in God’s timeline. Wherever you want to stop the “prophesying”, his birth, the start of his ministry, his imprisonment, or his future death that is in just a few months or years from when Jesus is speaking. Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and training His disciples did take an upward turn with John’s death.
Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:14 and 20+21 and 10:4) puts this into perspective. Death reigned from Adam to Moses, the Law was added – Moses to John, and grace picked up with Jesus who ended the rule of the Law and ushered in righteousness (if you believe). If you add in John to Jesus (Matthew 11:11) there is the forceful joining to the Kingdom.
Since this is Jesus speaking about John, it is worthy to take note. It must have been a jolt to his audience and is as close as He comes in the Gospels to say who He was and His mission. This does raise the question for me – If John prepared for Jesus, did Elijah prepare for Elisha?
Thoughts and Observation
- “At that time” is used in the NIV in Matthew a lot! It gives the feeling of just a few hours or days. In one respect it shrinks the stories to very special days and not a scatter-shot of time over three years. I realize that the same parables were told and retold. I like Luke who keeps the milestones and time markers in line and adds parables where they will have the most impact.
- Because of #1, Chapter 11 occurs close to a Sabbath and the Disciples returned from their trip as this session ended. A course the disciples in chapter 12 may not have been the Twelve.
- The forceful men in verse 12 made me think of the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt. They always wanted to go back to Egypt! Well, that is not very forceful! Unless, they wanted to go back, not as slaves but as invaders. Egypt was a mess and the army was rebuilding, what better time to conquer the land!
http://www.freebibleimages.org for the pic