Matthew 11:1-6 The Coming One

Matthew 11:1-6         The Coming One                                           WC McCarter
The Bible is filled with stories of doubt. Even the greatest leaders and heroes of the Bible question their callings and sometimes God’s plan for their lives and others. Abraham and Sarah laughed at God’s promise that they would have a son in their old age. Moses questioned why God would send him to speak for the nation because he had a reputation of being tongue-tied. The Israelites cried out against Moses, Aaron, and God when they struggled in the wilderness. Thomas, and the others, doubted the resurrection.
I don’t think I would be off base to say that you have probably doubted or at least been slightly perplexed at times in your life. Your own life is filled with stories of doubt. Maybe you have questioned your place in the family of God. Or maybe you can remember those times when you have been confused about what God was doing in your life. Well, you are not alone.
Today, we will take a look at a passage of Scripture that raises a question about who Jesus is and what He is doing. We will also see a clear response to the question. Matthew has spent the first ten chapters of his Gospel account painting the picture for his readers of who Jesus really is in person and deed. He has set forth an answer to the great question of the 1st Century down to our day, Who is Jesus of Nazareth? In chapters eleven and twelve he recounts some of the reactions to what the people were hearing and seeing of Christ Jesus. Today’s reaction is one of doubt/confusion.
READ Scripture- This is the word of God
An Introductory Verse (1)
The first verse of this chapter bridges of from chapter ten into chapter eleven. Chapter ten is all about Jesus choosing His twelve apostles and sending them out on their first missionary journey with many instructions. After He finished commanding them, He departed from there to teach and preach.
First, let us notice that after the Lord sends out His twelve disciples He does not sit back and relax. He sends out His followers to work in the harvest, and then He gets to work Himself.
Second, we are told that Christ went to teach and preach in “their cities.” This must refer to the cities of the disciples. All of the disciples, except for Judas Iscariot, were from Galilee. Of course, Christ was from Galilee as well, but here that area is referred to as “their cities” and not His cities which only begins to distance Him from Galilee. Remember, a prophet is not heard in his own hometown, not even the Messiah.
Third, Jesus had gained lots of fame from His three-fold ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing. Yet, here we are told that as He resumed that ministry, He focused on teaching and preaching. More than anything, people need to hear the Gospel and the things of God and His kingdom.
John’s Question (2-3)
The John that is meant here is John the Baptizer. By this time he has been put in prison which was mentioned in passing in (4:12). Matthew will explain John’s circumstances in more detail in (14:1-12). Maybe the pressures that naturally accompany a jail cell caused John to question his understanding of Jesus. He has already said great things concerning Jesus (3:11-14), but now he seeks reaffirmation.
The “works” that he had heard about must have been all of the great miracles that are recorded in chapters eight and nine. In those chapters, Jesus healed lepers, paralytics, feverish, demon-possessed, blind, mute, an issue of blood, and a girl who had died. He also calmed a great storm on the sea. These were great things that John had obviously heard about, so why does he question who Jesus messianic status?
Apparently, “The Coming One” was a messianic title. It reminds us of what John said in (3:11), “. . . He who is coming after me is mightier than I. . . .John sends some of his disciples to ask, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” What we must realize is that John was sitting in jail. A man who was a great prophet, who proclaimed the imminent appearance of the Messiah, who knew Jesus’ ministry had begun, was in jail. How could the Messiah allow this injustice to continue? Actually, even though Christ was doing all sorts of great things, He hadn’t done much of what most of the Jews thought the Messiah would do. They thought He would overthrow Rome; that He would be a political, military, and social leader and liberator. Yet, as we have already noticed, even though the Lord was doing great miracles among the people, His focus was on teaching and preaching the Good News of the kingdom of God. That is not what anyone expected, not even a hero of the faith like John the Baptizer. John’s question reminds me of the man who said to the Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
Jesus’ Response (4-6)
Jesus respects the person and ministry of John enough to respond to his question. He basically tells the disciples to retell John the things that Christ was doing. Verse five is actually an allusion to Isaiah 61:1 which was a messianic passage that even Jesus, in (Luke 4:16-21), acknowledged referred to Him. There the prophet says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. . . .” Do you notice what Jesus left out when referencing it to John’s disciples? He does not mention setting the captives free.
In so many words, Jesus was saying that freeing John from prison was not a part of His immediate ministry. And some of us may say, why? Why didn’t Jesus free John from the injustice of a prison sentence? He was God in the flesh, the Messiah and yet He would not set John free? The fact of the matter is that Jesus would set John free in due time. Although John would never be freed from prison literally and physically, he would be freed from the captivity of sin and death because of Christ’s sacrifice.
In the formation of a beatitude, Jesus sends a word of encouragement to His forerunner, John. He says, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” In other words, happy is the one who does not stumble because of Me. For whatever reasons, it is so easy for people to stumble over Christ. He is not what they envisioned, or He does not immediately free them from a difficult situation, or they consider His plan to not be good enough and they are ready to move on to another.
Conclusion and Application
1. Doubt is real. It is almost as if only those who really trust in Christ can doubt.
2. The plan of God is sound. Despite our circumstances, God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

3. Lastly, let me give you a very practical application. Ministry must involve all of us. We are all gifted in various ways by the Holy Spirit. We may not all be doing to same thing at the same time, but Gospel ministry is made up of all of us doing those things we have been called by God to do. We are called to be light in a dark world and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Make sure you are doing your part, and make sure that you are involving others in the ministry of the church.

James 1:22-25 A Lenten Look

James 1:22-25            A Lenten Look                                                           WC McCarter
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. We do not formally observe this time in our tradition, but some of us have found it appropriate to consider a Lenten look this morning. Maybe some of you are observing the full period of time until Easter, but at the very least we will think about it today. Lent is a time for fasting, prayer, and reflection into one’s own life. How long has it been since you really took a long, hard, deep look at your own condition? I hope that you will as we take a look at James 1 this morning.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Deceiving Yourself
One who only hears the word and thinks that he is comfortable is sadly mistaken. Even if you affirm what you have heard, even if you tell yourself that you believe the facts in your mind, it is not enough on its own. Genuine belief is doing something with the message you have heard. We must respond to the message. Don’t get me, or James, wrong. Hearing is important. Listening is important. It is the first step, but if you do not do something with the message you are only deceiving yourself. How dangerous it is to be one who deceives himself!
There have been times that I have looked into the mirror and seem some type of blemish or issue that needed to be tended to, but in my laziness or whatever we away and told myself it wasn’t that bad. “Maybe it will go away on its own” or “I’ll take care of it sometime.” Have you ever found yourself doing that? Of course, this is a great illustration of those who only hear and do not do anything. Yet, it is only an illustration because when we are talking about hearing and doing the word of God, we are talking about eternal things.
Doers of the Word
In verse 21, James instructs believers to receive, or accept, the implanted word. Now, in verse 22, he better explains what he means. To accept the word of God is not merely to hear it or even to acknowledge it, but to do it. James is building on the history of Jewish teaching and even upon what Christ Jesus has already said. He encouraged in Luke 11:28, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
We must renounce the things of the world. Are we to hear the word of God and yet continue to pursue the things of this present wicked age? Of course not. We must repent of all things contrary to the commands of God and seek His kingdom and righteousness whole-heartedly. Someone who consistently refuses to obey the word of God is someone who has not accepted it in the first place.
James was apparently writing to those who were Torah-minimalists. They wanted to do the bear minimum to get by in their religious life. They heard the Gospel and affirmed its facts, decided that they liked it and thought that they were done. They thought they could here and then continue life the way they always had. James teaches that thinking like that is deceptive, dangerous, and as far from the truth as one can become.
Perfect Law
James talks about the “word of truth,” the “word,” and the “perfect law.” What James is showing us in so many words is that the Word of God is whole. It is complete. “If we want the benefit of the ‘gospel,’ the word that brings us into God’s family, we must also respond to the ‘law,’ the word that commands and instructs us” (Moo, 97). “If one wants the benefits of its saving power, one must also embrace it as a guide for life” (Moo, 90).
The Gospel message is liberating. It frees us to live for God without fear of condemnation. It was the apostle Paul who said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Who do not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit.”
Conclusion and Application
1) Give yourself a reality check today and often. Ask yourself the tough questions.
2) Do not be forgetful of the Scriptures. Spend enough time in them and apply yourself to the point that they will make an impression on your soul.
3) Blessed are those who seek God’s righteousness and act when they learn they do not meet up to it.

Hosea 4 and 6 Let Us Pursue Godly Knowledge

“Let Us Pursue Godly Knowledge”              Hosea 4:3, 6; 6:3, 6                WC McCarter
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Hosea’s Background
In these verses we are presented with a problem and a solution. Hosea is preaching during a time when things are economically and politically prosperous in Israel. The nation had not seen such success sense the days of David and Solomon. Yet, the priests, the prophets, and the people had turned away from the Lord. They worshipped false gods.
Lack of Knowledge
The two verses we looked at from chapter four bring us into the courtroom of God as He brings charges against the nation of Israel. Their great guilt is seen best in their lack of godly knowledge. Three issues are brought up in 4:1. The first two prove the third. If there is no truth or mercy among the people, then there can be no claim to the knowledge of God in the land.
4:6 tells us the situation point blank, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” There is the problem in a nutshell. The people would fail because of their lack of godly knowledge. They paid no attention to the things of God. They gave no thought to His standards. They did not consider His great love and covenant faithfulness. Their end was destruction. The northern tribes of Israel were destroyed and the people led away into captivity never to return again in 722 B.C. by Assyria. What was the charge God brought against them before that destruction? They lacked knowledge. Now, in this sixth verse, the focus has changed. God no longer talks broadly of all the people, but He specifically targets the priesthood. After all, the priests were the teachers of the people. At any time that the people of God lose sight in godly things, the leadership must bear the bulk of the burden. The Lord says that the priests had rejected knowledge. I would say that there is no more frightful time in the history of a group of people than when the leadership fails to acknowledge God and seek His wisdom. We cannot help but recall the words of the Lord in Matt 15:14, “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.
Such strong language is used toward the people and mainly the priests. Words like destroyed, rejected, and forgotten encapsulate the problem. There are no accidents here. Destruction will not come upon them by chance. God is able to pinpoint the very foundation of the problem: the priesthood. The leaders have rejected knowledge which has led to the people’s lack of knowledge which ultimately led to their demise as a nation. Through the prophet, Hosea, the Lord has brought a charge against the land. The people are guilty. Their sentence is sure. Their end is destruction. As we leave this section and turn to chapter six, the words of the Lord resound in our minds, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
Let Us Pursue Godly Knowledge
We have been informed of Israel’s problem. The Lord has gotten to the root of it. We may take it as a critical warning in our own day. Yet, Hosea’s message is thorough. He states the problem, but he also gives the solution. You know, churches are great at stating all the problems, but you rarely hear any solutions. Well, Hosea gives both. It is extremely simple as well. Things do not have to always be complicated. He says in 6:3, “Let us know; let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” Godly knowledge is not something that simply happens, but it is something to be pursued. It is something for which we must reach. It is something for which we must strive (Phil 3:7-14). This is a great demand for fellowship with our Father in heaven, and we are promised that if we pursue this knowledge, we will not be disappointed. The Lord says in Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” As 6:3 says, God’s unfailing love is as sure as the sunrise in the morning.
6:6 is a famous and highly important verse of Scripture. It teaches us the meaning of true worship. It tells us what it means to live by faith and have a relationship with the Lord. Christ Jesus uses this verse on a couple of occasions during His ministry. He truly wanted the people to examine this verse and understand it. The people during Hosea’s time and the people during Christ’s time had allowed ritualistic worship to become an obstacle in their relationship with God. Do we think that our age is any different? Maybe some of you have allowed tradition and ritual to come between you and your Savior because you simply go through the motions. God wants more than your motions. He wants your heart. He wants to change more than your behavior. He wants to change your mind.
Conclusion and Application
So, you see, there is a problem and a solution. There is a warning and an encouragement. People are destroyed for lack of knowledge; therefore, let us pursue the knowledge of our Lord.
1. Pray for your leaders in the church and in the country.
2. If you are going to state a problem, be ready and willing to work on a solution.
3. Do not allow tradition, ritual, or anything else to come between you and your Savior.
4. Pursue the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Acknowledge Him in all your activities.