His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55), and Matthew 11 and 12 demonstrate that. Jesus is doing and saying things that confuse and anger some of the people around Him. That’s often our experience with what God does and says to us, too. This sermon lifts our thinking and our hearts to view many life issues from God’s perspective.
Do you remember the first time you read something in Scripture or heard some godly wisdom from a teacher, and you said, “Whoa, that’s pretty much the opposite of what I’ve been thinking!” Matthew 11 and 12 are filled with stories of Jesus bringing such surprising perspectives to His listeners.
Matthew 11:1-6 John the Baptist is in prison. When he heard about what Jesus was doing, he sent two disciples to ask if He was the Coming One. Jesus answers by quoting Isaiah 35:5-6. He often quoted Old Testament passages to tell people that He was the Messiah, and that He was the son of God.
But then he says: Mt. 11:6. This was first said in reference to his cousin John the Baptist. John likely expected that the Messiah he proclaimed would come in power and victory over the Romans, and usher in a new political and religious age.
And now John is in prison with a death sentence over him. This was confusing. John the Baptist had certain expectations that Jesus didn’t meet.
Some of us might say, Oh, I would never be offended with God. We’re tempted to be offended with God, with the Bible, and with what God asks of us. Circumstances can seem to cancel out what we think God is saying. But what’s happened is that our understanding and our expectations get crossed by reality. And then we have a choice–we can open up to something new or we can close down and stop our spiritual growth by letting the lies in. But if we open our hearts to the point where we are no longer offended, Jesus promises a blessing.
Then we have one of the most misunderstood scriptures in the New Testament. Matthew 11:12: The kingdom of heaven suffers violence….. Remember, Jesus has just been talking about John the Baptist, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus is simply describing the eager crowds that first came to hear John, and now come to hear him. “It was, as it were, a city attacked on all sides by those who were eager to take possession of it.” That’s it. Nothing more!
Some feel he’s referring to Micah 2:12-13.
Then one of the most comforting passages ever written: Matt. 11:28-30. Notice the people He invites: not the strong and powerful, but those that are tired and weary.
What would Jesus’ audience have heard, or thought? They would have been thinking of all the weight of following the Old Testament law, and then all the added man-made restrictions that were added by the scribes and Pharisees. Some might have realized that He was also talking about the weight of sin on them, and the guilt of it, and the effects of sin on their lives.
And He begins the whole offer with “Come to ME”! To Him as a person, not to an awareness of something, or a commitment to a cause or belief system. He says to come to Him!
There will be a yoke put around us, and a burden for us to carry. But they will be easy and light in comparison to the weight of sin or of trying to please God on our own. And Jesus again refers to the Old Testament: Jeremiah 6:16
In chapter 12, Jesus walks through a whole load of legalist and illogical thinking.
His thoughts are not our thoughts. And yet if something makes sense to us, we often think that’s the end of it! Let’s not lock down on our thinking just because it makes sense to us! The Pharisees did that when Jesus seemed to break the Sabbath laws, and they had a “logical response”: to murder Him!
Jesus’ disciples were hungry and took heads and grain and ate them on a Sabbath. Then Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath, and they used it to accuse Him, and then began to plot against Him. God’s heart is to heal. It’s his heart not to put legalism before love. In both these cases, Jesus had an understanding of the Sabbath that went back to the way it was originally intended.
Then He was accused of setting demonized people free by the power of Satan. That doesn’t even make sense!
On our own, we don’t think right. Is. 55:8-9. We come to wrong conclusions and then act on them, and we get into trouble. This chapter is one demonstration after another that we don’t understand the thoughts of God. This is one of the great benefits of reading our Bibles every day.
Then Jesus talks about the unpardonable sin, an issue that has caused a great deal of concern and worry among God’s people. Matt. 12:31-32
First let’s look at the good news here. The size of our sin doesn’t matter–no sin is bigger than the death of Jesus. Jesus even forgave those who killed him–the worst crime and worst sin in history!
But let’s look at the context. The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The book of Mark adds, “…because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus doesn’t actually tell the scribes they’ve committed that sin. It seems to be more of a warning. But seeing the work of the Holy Spirit and calling it the work of Satan, they are on the brink of committing that sin.
If we call the move of God the move of Satan, and call the Holy Spirit Satanic, we put ourselves beyond repentance, and therefore forgiveness is impossible.
It’s not what God does to anyone. It’s what a person does that puts him outside of God’s forgiveness. God created the plan of salvation, Jesus paid the price for that salvation, and the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into truth, into awareness of sin, into repentance, and into salvation. If we completely reject the Holy Spirit in our lives, there’s no way we can be saved.
The Holy Spirit is the one who applies the work of Christ to our lives, and if that’s rejected, so is being saved.
If you fear that you’ve done this, you haven’t.
Last part of ch. 12 – much more pleasant. But still challenging to our human nature. Again, God has different perspectives!
Look at how beautifully and gracefully Jesus handled this. There is no rebuke, but there is no indication that Jesus stopped what He was doing to attend to his natural family’s needs. Instead, He used the occasion to reveal a great spiritual truth.
He said these people were His family. He didn’t say, “these are like my family.” He was more aware of his heavenly connection with His father than any earthly connection, and He simply said what to Him was an obvious, wonderful truth: Those that were listening to Him were His mother and brothers and sisters!
For some of us, that’s our life! We don’t have a natural family anymore, or we are not connected with them in a healthy way. But for many of us, we really enjoy our families, our immediate family and our extended families.
There is something of a caution here for those of us who enjoy our natural families. Let’s make sure that we realize that our spiritual connections with our Christian brothers and sisters are the basis of a greater relationship. It’s deeper, it’s eternal.
So the good news for everyone who has accepted Christ as their Savior is that, to borrow a phrase from Olive Garden’s old motto, “If you’re here, you’re family.” Not everyone is part of God’s family–that’s romantic nonsense. The reality is that if you know Jesus personally, you’re part of the family of God. And if we want more family benefits, let’s continue to do what Jesus said of those who are His family: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven….”