Matthew 11:7-19 Wisdom is Justified by Her Children

Matthew 11:7-19        Wisdom is Justified by Her Children                        WC McCarter
Do you remember the earthquake that hit in the summer of 2011? I remember sitting there and feeling a trimmer thinking that it was one of those jets that flied over fairly often. I even noticed that when transfer trucks pass by down on the highway, the house trembles a little. Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it and continued on with my day. Then Bridget called from work and asked if I had felt it. Of course I had, but didn’t pay much attention to it. I decided to turn on the TV to find out what was going on and quickly saw that an earthquake had hit near Mineral, Virginia that was the largest on the east coast since the late 1800’s. I soon started getting phone calls from the family down in North Carolina wanting to make sure that everything was alright. I thought it was laughable because it sounded much worse than it was, especially in our area. We know that there was some damage to some buildings in some places. Now I say all of this to point out our reactions. Life is made up of reactions, isn’t it? We react to natural events, to people’s words and deeds, to our own mistakes, and the list goes on. Why didn’t I react any differently than I did to the earthquake? 1. I was not expecting it. 2. I had little to know knowledge of those things. 3. It did not seem to affect much.
In today’s passage of Scripture, we will once again be talking about John the Baptizer. He spent his ministry pointing to Christ, yet today Jesus will point back to him and validate his prophetic ministry. We will talk about the people’s reaction, and, in the end, we will discuss the lifestyles of those two as well as ourselves.
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Concerning John (7-10)
The disciples of John, who had come to seek reaffirmation from Jesus concerning His identity and ministry, left to return to John with the answer. Apparently, they had asked Jesus this question in a public setting. Now, Jesus must look out at the crowd and give an explanation of who John is and his ministry. If people were having doubts about Jesus (even John the Baptizer did), then they may begin to have doubts about John. Thus, Jesus affirms John’s unique ministry that took place out in the wilderness by the Jordan River.
The Lord first throws out a few rhetorical questions. He possibly even waited for a response from the crowd that had gathered. Was John a reed shaken in the wind? Did he have no strong convictions? No, of course not. He was fiery and brave. He declared the truth bluntly, without holding anything back. Was he a push-over, fragile, or weak? No, he was rugged and strong, a man who grew up in the desert. Was he a man clothed in soft/luxurious garments? Of course not. Matthew told us in (3:4) that, “John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” If you wanted to see someone dressed in soft, luxurious clothes, you didn’t go to the desert. You would go to a king’s house.
Jesus is ruling out those things that John was not. So, we are getting closer to the truth. Finally, he asks, did you go out to see a prophet? And the answer is, “Yes.” Christ goes farther than that description by saying, “I say to you, more than a prophet.” To be exact, John the Baptizer was the forerunner for the Christ; the fulfillment of certain Scriptures; the last of the great Old Testament prophets. He was the one who prepared the way of the Lord, the messenger who went before Christ. His lifestyle was rugged and harsh, and so was his message.
The Kingdom of Heaven (11-15)
John was the end of an era. His life and ministry marked the end of the Old Covenant. From the beginning of time until the advent of the New Covenant, there was not one person born that was greater than John the Baptizer. Yet, even the least is the kingdom of heaven (the kingdom that was established on the basis of a New Covenant), will be greater than John. How is that? The New Covenant is so much better than the Old that even the least of the followers of Christ are greater than any heroes of the Old Testament. After all, we have access to the once-for-all forgiveness of sins and we have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

At this point in history, when John’s ministry and Christ’s ministry somewhat overlapped (John must decrease, Christ must increase), there was a transitional period. Yet, we come to realize that John would not live to see the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, with this greater/lesser language Jesus is not talking about eternal salvation or degrees of reward in heaven as if John will not enjoy the glory at the end of the age. What He is referring to is the benefits of the kingdom in this life. John did not experience and enjoy all the things that we do.
As great as the New Covenant is, as excellent as the new era is that John was paving the way for, as amazing as the kingdom of heaven is that Jesus was establishing – it has constantly suffered violence. From the early days of John’s ministry until this time in Jesus’ ministry, the kingdom of heaven had been subjected to violence and violent people had been attacking it. God’s plan of redemption was increasingly gaining more and more opposition. John had been arrested by Herod; Jesus was being resisted by the leaders/teachers; and the people were growing more impatient waiting for the reforms that the Messiah was supposed to bring.
Verse thirteen reminds us again that John is the end of an era. He was the tip of the arrow that was pointing to Christ. All the Old Testament, the prophets and the law, were pointing to Christ. All of God’s promises are made “yes” in Him. How is John Elijah? He is not the Elijah of old who has come down from heaven. No, he is the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Wisdom is Justified by Her Children (16-19)
In our last paragraph today, Jesus begins to sum up His teaching on this subject. The people were beginning to doubt Jesus’ Messiahship and probably even began to question John’s reputation as a great prophet. So, Jesus wants to make sure that the people understand that if they reject both Him and John, they are rejecting the truth and the plan of God. It wants to show them their inconsistency in thinking.
First, He compares the generation to children in the marketplace (the equivalent of a playground) who refuse to play the wedding and funeral games their friends propose (Blomberg, 189). Second, He gives an example of the generation’s faulty thinking by way of their reactions to John’s starkness and Jesus’ sincerity. The proverb at the end of our passage refers to the lifestyles of both John and Jesus. Wisdom is justified in their lifestyles and in their deeds.
Conclusion and Application
The people saw John the Baptizer out in the wilderness, dressed like a rugged loner, eating locusts and wild honey. They saw and heard his fiery preaching of repentance and judgment. And eventually many of them began to say that he was demon-possessed. Yet, they did not grasp the righteousness of his person. They saw Jesus befriending and eating with tax collectors and sinners and they said he was a drunkard and glutton. Yet, next week we will see that He judged the multitudes righteously. Both of these conclusions were far from the truth.
We, too, react to the lifestyles of people like John and Jesus with doubts. Yet, their lives exemplified a great balance of Christian liberty and responsibility. Some in the first century and many today are either hardcore moralists who do not understand Christian liberty or they prefer grace without any kind of responsibility.
            1. Are you so willy-nilly in your morals and ethics that outsiders wouldn’t have a clue as             to the holiness of God based on your life?
2. Or are you so legalistic that outsiders could never get a sense of the grace and love of God based on your life?
3. Lastly, let me say, you cannot make Jesus out to be whoever you want Him to be.