Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:6 (Holman) “And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is
More literally, blessed is the one not scandalized, not caused to stumble, by Me. The metaphor depicts a trap or snare causing one to falter and be turned from the right way. Blessed are those who do not stumble over Jesus, who see beyond His humble veil of flesh and recognize Him as being God in human flesh.
Evidence in favor of Jesus being God is overwhelming, preponderant. Any who stumble over Jesus have only themselves to blame, yet many do it anyway.
Multitudes decide against Christ in advance, before taking time to weigh the evidence at all. Some will never deliberate, read the New Testament, or seriously discuss Jesus. Having already decided, they don’t want to be confused by facts.
Some reject any notion of a human possibly being God. For others, a pet sin is the culprit. They are determined to hold on for dear life to an indulgence of the flesh, whatever the cost, and whatever anyone else, including God, might think.
Many want 100% proof, but God gives only evidence. He never lets us see the whole picture. Thus, parts of Christianity will always remain an enigma to us.
For some, Jesus did not conform to what they think a Savior should be like. Jesus’ life of compassion is valued by most people, but by no means everyone. Many harbor a harsh outlook, not prizing care for the lame, blind, deaf, and poor.
Emperor Julian the Apostate scorned, “Jesus wrought nothing of report, unless somebody thinks that to heal the lame and blind, and to relieve demoniacs, in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany, were among the greatest works.”
Many, yea a majority, find in Jesus difficulty, perplexities hard to unravel. Blessed are those who are satisfied with Christ, who are not scandalized by Him.
Matt. 11:7a (Holman) “As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the
crowds about John:”
As John’s two disciples departed, a disapproving murmur against John may have buzzed through the crowd. The hearers may have been shocked that John, the essence of boldness and firm convictions, would have the audacity to publicly admit misgivings about One he had baptized and declared to be the Lamb of God.
Jesus squelched the grumbling. For John, Jesus threw open the floodgates of His heart. He wanted no one to think less of John because of his questions. He defended John against any who might use his perplexity to injure his reputation.
Jesus’ words here on behalf of John may justifiably be called the funeral oration for the Baptist, for soon Herod beheaded Jesus’ forerunner. This eulogy is an enthusiastic statement by Christ, venerating John the Baptist’s great worth.
We tend to make kind statements about people when they are present, reserving negative remarks for when they are absent. Jesus did the reverse, saying kind things about John in John’s absence. “Thank you, Lord, for this example.”
Society usually finds it difficult to evaluate contemporaries accurately. History often overturns immediate verdicts. In Edinburgh, Ruth and I saw a huge monument built in honor of Dugald Stewart. We could find no one who knew who he was. Finally, someone found a brief internet article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica telling a little about Stewart’s work as a philosopher and speaker. Obviously, his contemporaries were keener on him than history has been.
We easily err when judging others, but Jesus knew precisely what Heaven thought of John. Praise from Jesus is real praise, and He lavished it here on John.
John had repeatedly praised Jesus publicly. Now the favor is returned. When John was center-stage, and Jesus in obscurity, John bore witness to Christ. Now that Jesus is center-stage, and John in obscurity, Christ publicly praised John.
The Bible commands believers to give honor to whom honor is due. Honor your father and mother. Honor your wife. Honor widows. Honor pastors. Honor the king. Honor everyone. “In humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10; 13:7, Exodus 20:12, Philippians 2:3b, 1 Peter 2:17; 3:7, 1 Timothy 5:3,17).
Scripture obviously indicates Christ-followers should be noted for their speaking well of others often. Make it a spiritual discipline. Let it become our habit. Seek to elevate each other’s reputations. Honor often, criticize rarely.
God deliver us from the scarcity mentality, believing there is only a limited amount of praise and honor to go around. Some act as if honor bestowed on another is stolen from them. They thereby display the miserly nature of their own heart. Don’t be chintzy with honor. There is plenty of praise to go around.
Matt. 11:7b (Holman) “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A
reed swaying in the wind?
A picturesque image from nature. The banks of the Jordan River grew cane grass reeds in abundance. Some reached twelve feet tall, yet gusts of wind bowed the light and flexible reeds to the earth. None resisted the wind or stood in protest.
John ministered among reeds, but wasn’t one of them. No wind shook him. His was not a weather-vane testimony. John did not sway with breezes of change.
Religious leaders have much to learn from John on how to persuade the masses. Multitudes listen to a voice of conviction. The crowds, usually wishy-washy and fickle, are easily led, for better or worse, by a leader of stronger will.
Men desperately need examples of true manliness. We are hard pressed to find a role model better than John. At my ordination, Dad preached from John 1:6, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John,” and challenged me to imitate John the Baptist in my ministry. Dad’s good word then is a good word today, not only for the ministry and me, but for all aspects of life, and for all men.
Rather than a reed shaken by wind, John was a wind shaking reeds. Firm in his convictions, John did not vacillate. He refused to bow to popular opinion. John the Baptist was a mighty oak standing against evil wind currents of his day.
Independent and singular, John stood tall for God. Human approval and disapproval did not budge him. A real man shows heroic spiritual firmness, is sure of his message and himself. He embraces William Penn’s maxim, “Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
A real man is decisive for God. When friends tried to discourage Luther from traveling to face the tribunal at Worms, he held his ground, vowing, “Though there be as many demons in Worms as there are tiles on the house-tops, I will go.”
A real man is constant and courageous. When Nebuchadnezzar’s music began, signaling all to bow before the graven image, almost everyone bent down like reeds blown in the wind, but three Hebrews stood tall. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn someday that they stood taller than ever, even up on their tiptoes.
When wicked Haman passed by in procession, all bowed like wavering reeds. Did I say all? There was one noble exception, the great man Mordecai.
A real man rises above adversity. Winds of affliction howled, but John was not overly influenced by them. He was unwavering. Everyone has troubles. Life brings out its battering rams against us all. Overcoming them is what makes a person great. Successful saints fight through their difficulties with prayer and trust. John struggled with the storm of Herod’s rage, with the quiet loneliness of solitary confinement in jail, with Messiah not acting as he wanted Him to, but based on Jesus’ glowing estimation of the Baptist here, obviously overcame it.
John did not bend to circumstances. He made circumstances bend to righteousness. His was an unusual force of character. Totally sold out to the cause of Christ, John the Baptist carried his integrity to prison and to the block. May we learn from John’s example to stay faithful to Christ, no matter what.