Opposition through doubt part 1: An extraordinary man

John the Baptist and doubt

Matthew 11:1–12

The conflicts of Jesus

40 Blogs of Lent: Day 12

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
Matthew 11:1–12 ESVUK

a reed shaken by the wind
A reed is shaken by the wind.

Matthew’s Gospel is arranged into five sections where a narrative section is followed by a teaching section. At the beginning of the following section there is a transitioning verse saying something like, “And when Jesus finished these sayings.” We are now into the third section of the gospel.

Narrative Teaching Transition verse
1—4 5—7 7:28
7:29—9:34 9:35-10:42 11:1
11:2—12: 50 13:1—52 13:53
13:53—17:27 18:1—35. 19:1
19:1—22:46 23:1—25:46 26:1
26:1—28:20 (The Passion)

So far Matthew has told of Jesus meeting opposition and has shown Jesus telling his disciples to expect opposition, but the opposition itself has not been detailed. Meeting opposition is the subject of this part of the story of Jesus.

Opposition from doubt

John doubted, and his doubt led him to send his followers to Jesus. I’m going to tackle this in reverse order, starting with who John the Baptist was.

John no popular preacher, John was a man of courage. He boldly stood up to politicians, which ended up with him being in his present position, in prison. John never showed the populist tendency of saying things to please others. John was the one who was the forerunner to Jesus, who baptised thousands who came out into the desert to hear him, John was mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah. And now John doubts.

John doubts yet Jesus says he is strong. John doubts yet Jesus says he is not one to be swayed by public opinion like a reed in the wind. John doubts and Jesus tells him not to look to his own feelings but to look at the evidence — miracles predicted in the prophecy of Isaiah are taking place.

That is what I had to do in the years following my accident, look at the evidence. I was down asking, “God why don’t you heal me?” I had to look back into my past, see where I had evidence of God’s healing. I have seen people healed both as a response to prayer over time, I have seen them healed immediately when prayed for, I have seen them healed when I prayed for them and I had been healed myself. I had evidence not only that God can and does heal but more importantly that God cares. God’s love is not limited by me walking on crutches, Jesus walks alongside me as I trundle along on my crutches, in my pain. I have experienced more of God’s love through being disabled than I ever did by being an able-bodied Christian.

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