Skip to content
Jun 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 24, 2012 – Matthew 11

Now when John, while in prison, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see” Matthew 11:2-3

INTRO: Why are you here this morning?

I’m here to do whatever I can to move us into the best life possible
– to me, the best life is not an achievement or a static condition, but a process, because the best life is a life of constant growth

Since material success isn’t essential to the full enjoyment of life, we concentrate on the spiritual journey
– “journey” implies waypoints, destinations we have to reach to move toward our goal
– there are developmental tasks that require us to learn new information and skills

In Christian spirituality, these waypoints are usually referred to as “stages”
– but I think that introduces a view that’s too systematized
• it implies that we all travel by the same route, hitting the same mile marks in the same order
– God’s Spirit determines what we need next
• we hope to eventually experience all the waypoints, but we don’t move out of one “stage” into the next as if ascending the runts of a ladder
• whatever we learn from one experience, carry with us into next
• sometimes, the Spirit takes us back to an earlier place, which we must relearn or penetrate to a deeper level

C. S. Lewis, “We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’ In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again.”

– so it may be that God brings us back to an old resentment (or ego issue, guilt, etc.) several times before it is finally resolved

We can go to school to learn we need for the spiritual journey — “The University of Jesus Christ”

Vv. 1-6, A question launches Jesus into his teaching

Three lessons for the spiritual journey:

  1. v. 4, We learn by experience – what we “hear and see”
    – We don’t live someone else’s story – or what they know
    –  Things we know most certainly are things we’ve experienced for ourselves
  2. v. 5, We learn the mission of Jesus (it’s our mission too)
    – His target is people on the margin of society
    – He works with them to bring them to wholeness
    – By analogy, the “gospel” brings a person to spiritual wholeness
  3. v. 6, We learn that accepting Jesus for who he is can be a struggle
    – It was the struggle John experienced

Mike Myers, “I find it highly suspicious that your personal Lord and Savior shares the same prejudices, phobias, and superstitions that you do.”

He is saying that Christians have made Jesus in their own image
– we avoid doing this when we take Jesus for who he is — but that is a challenge

Vv. 7-19, Jesus explores the ministry of John

There are two parts to this passage and both begin with a question (7 & 16)
– this is typical of Jesus’ teaching style – he began by getting people to think
• “Do you agree with ‘A’ or with ‘B’?”
• once their attention was focused where he wanted, he enlightened them

Three more lessons for the spiritual journey

  1. vv. 12-14, We learn about the kingdom of heaven
    – It’s not what we thought
    – Jews at that time thought it meant the restoration of their nation and its return to world dominance and Jewish zealots assumed they could commandeer the kingdom — “take it by force”
    – Christians typically assume it means heaven after we die, but praying, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” indicates an interaction between heaven and earth in the here and now
    – There is something in this world that is not of it, something transcendent, and in that something the world finds its meaning
  2. v. 15, We learn to train our ears to hear
    -This is about becoming more aware, more sensitive to God’s gentle whisper
  3. vv. 16-19, We learn to stop finding excuses for resisting God
    – John was too severe, too religious and Jesus was too loose, too worldly
    – But wisdom is not vindicated by excuses, but deeds

Vv. 20-27, Jesus divides people into two groups

He pronounces “woes” on the first group and praises God for the second group

Three more lessons for the spiritual journey

  1. v. 21, We learn about repentance
    – Journey is progress and progress is change — we have to work at it
    – Jesus provides us a way out of a life that will end badly
  2. vv. 22-24, We learn about a day of judgment
    – What we do with this life does matter
    – Those with the greatest privileges are treated the most severely and those with fewer privileges are shown more consideration (“more tolerable”)
  3. We learn about God
    –  That he is Father of Jesus and those who follow him
    – That he is revealed
    – There are places we must go where wisdom and intelligence cannot take us
    – That there is a different kind of knowing and we cannot study our way in or think our way into it

When we hope to meet God in the present moment, we cannot think our way into it, but must sink our into it
– it is a matter of training our souls how to “be” with God in this moment

Vv. 28-30, Jesus invites us to enroll

The “yoke” refers to the discipline of the teacher’s training
– I want to emphasize that Jesus not only teaches us, but he takes the time to train us

Jean-Yves Leloup, Being Still, “Fr. Seraphim, a monk who lived in a hermitage near Saint Panteleimon . . . had an ambiguous reputation among his circle of monks . . .
“When anyone arrived at the door of his hermitage, Fr. Seraphim had the custom of observing the visitor in a most insolent way from head to foot, for five long minutes, without saying a word. Those who were not put off by this sort of examination would then undergo the monk’s biting evaluation. ‘You! He hasn’t descended beneath your chin.’ ‘You! Let’s not talk about it, He hasn’t even come into you.’ ‘You! How marvelous! He’s got right down to your knees.'”

If God has not descended into us beneath our chin, then we only have knowledge about him
– it takes nothing more than an education to get God into our heads, but to get Him into our heart, our hands, our feet, requires training

Our lives are the lab – or, if you prefer, we are receiving our training in the field
– we only learn faith by being in situations that require faith; we only learn patience by being in situations that require patience; etc.
– of course, learning this way can be miserable
• in the times we most need to calm ourselves, it’s most difficult
– Jesus uses the misery that surfaces in us to teach us something about ourselves, to show us something in us that needs to be healed

Our Teacher is also the subject we study
– he stands in the place we hope to one day reach
– he observes us for awhile, then takes us where we need to go next

Our souls need rest
– from the daily grind in the world
– from mental anxiety and emotional turmoil
– from concerns about our status with God
• through the chapter we’ve seen people who can’t connect with Jesus
• “Am I one of those? Do I take offense at Jesus? Am I a fickle child in marketplace? I’m I unrepentant like Chorazin or Capernaum?”
• in Jesus, we meet God as our Father and all those concerns are resolved — “I am my Father’s child”
– a soul at rest is a soul that can notice beauty in the moment, pain in the eyes of another, sights of mystery and wonder
– a soul at rest can resist being rushed into an action or decision

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”
– receiving our education and training from Jesus makes the spiritual journey doable
– Our Teacher doesn’t lay the responsibility of learning totally on his students
• rather he takes it on himself

CONC: Two themes keep rising to surface in this chapter

  1. People who live on the margin of society – the blind – the least – the sinner “friends” of Jesus – infants
  2. Jesus’ use of the personal pronoun, “Me” – not offended at Me – all things handed over to Me – come to Me

These two themes define our spiritual activity
– we go from the center (Me) to the periphery (margin), back and forth
– we go from the well to the thirsty and then back to the well

Jesus is taking enrollment today
– if we accept his invitation, he will let us know what we need to learn to make this leg of journey and climb to the next
– he will meet us in all circumstances for the rest of our lives, using them to train us
• train us to live closer to him and to provide excellent care for those on the margin

Leave a comment