Jesus Didn't Do His Job

Tonight, we get to begin a new section in Matthew’s Gospel. The previous section described Jesus’s mission work on this earth and His calling on His disciples to partake in that mission work. This passage begins Matthew’s section in which Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has mentioned the Kingdom of Heaven (3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 20; 6:10, 20, 33; 7:21; 10:7) and now begins to explain what the kingdom of Heaven is. This section runs from Matthew 11:1-13:52 and includes explicit teaching and parables describing Christ’s kingdom, His church.

Jesus has given His disciples instruction for their first short-term mission trip in Galilee. They are to preach the Gospel and fill needs in the communities they visit. They will be rejected by most and accepted by some. Those who accept them and Christ’s message through them also accept Christ. Those who accept Christ also accept the Father. Those who reject them reject Christ and the Father.

Matthew 11:1-6

When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John, while imprisoned, 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: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus, the anti-hypocrite (v. 1)

When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Jesus did not merely instruct His apostles to go on mission. He went, too. Jesus set the example. He is the good shepherd. I notice something as I read the Gospels. Jesus always practiced what He preached and He always preached what He practiced. He was never hypocritical.

Hypocrisy goes two ways. We usually think of it in terms of not practicing what we preach. Hypocrisy is also not preaching what we practice. Jesus is not only our Lord but our example. He is the good shepherd. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He doesn’t do. He doesn’t do anything that He doesn’t instruct His disciples to also do. For us to be like Christ is to be rid of the hypocrisy we see so prevalent in our society and in this world. I will provide a couple examples.

The parent who instructs her children to do as she says not as she does acts hypocritically and unlike Christ. Parents are the shepherds of their households. As parents disciple their children, they set the example they want their children to follow. If parents desire their children to have a healthy relationship with Jesus, they will model what it means to live in a healthy relationship with Jesus. Likewise, the parent who lives a certain way but does not instruct her children to live that way acts hypocritically and unlike Christ. Part of raising children means not doing all the household chores, not always picking up all their toys, not cooking every meal for them, not doing all their homework, and so on. Raising children means teaching them to partake in our duties and hobbies with us and asking them to do so. It is how children become adults—growing into maturity. This is the example Christ sets for us. He teaches us to do what He does and asks us to do it as we mature. If my toddler is awake, he sits with me and does my quiet time with me. We are already teaching him how to wash dishes, pick up his own toys, not be wasteful, take care of the dogs, and more. That’s simply good parenting. That is how Christ is with His children.

The boss who only commands his employees and doesn’t partake in the work acts hypocritically and unlike Christ. Likewise, the boss who does all the work without distributing the responsibility among his employees acts hypocritically and unlike Christ.

The pastor who moralizes to his congregation but is unable to himself live a perfect life acts hypocritically and unlike Christ. Pastors are the under-shepherds of their local churches. As pastors disciple their flocks, they set the example they want their congregations to follow. If pastors desire their congregations to have a close relationship with Jesus, they model what it means to live in relationship with Jesus. Likewise, the pastor who lives a certain way but does not instruct his congregation to live that way acts hypocritically and unlike Christ. Part of shepherding a congregation means not doing all the work of ministry. That is not why God makes them pastors. They cannot visit every member every week. They cannot provide every specific need. They cannot plan everything. They cannot lead every component of the worship service. They cannot be Christians for their congregations. Why? Because it is hypocritical for them to do so. Not even Christ did things that way, yet it is often the expectation of unhealthy human religion. Shepherding a congregation means teaching her to partake in Christ’s work of ministry and asking her to do so. This is how Christians grow into maturity. It is how we become spiritual adults. This is the example Christ sets for us in the way He shepherds His twelve apostles. Pastors should not teach what they are unwilling or unable to do. They should not do what they cannot teach the whole of the congregation to also do. This is the Good Shepherd’s example for us in every arena of life.

The Bible’s job description for the elders of the church is to train the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Paul will even instruct the Corinthians to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). That is what God means when He instructs His pastors/elders to shepherd His church. We should not add anything else, especially our own expectations or rules, to God’s definition.

Jesus questioned because of His works (v. 2-3)

Now when John, while imprisoned, 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?”

John, Jesus’s cousin, heard from prison about how Christ was doing His work. Jesus wasn’t exactly meeting people’s expectations. He wasn’t exactly giving the Jews a prominent place in the world. He wasn’t exactly squashing Roman oppression. He wasn’t exactly fulfilling His job-description according to the human-centered religion of the First-Century Jews. This is probably the most prominent question I have heard during my own ministry. Someone has a complaint because I am training the saints for ministry rather than doing everything for everybody and catering to people’s preferences. He or she asks, “Isn’t that your job? That’s why we pay you!” This is the sort of question John sends his disciples to ask. They do. Are you really the one, Jesus? Should we look for someone else, someone who will do the work and give us a comfortable place?

A clarification needs to be made, here. Only Christ can save. Only Christ has the power and authority to judge and to deliver any person from unrighteousness. He calls His people to partake in the missional work of the Gospel, which didn’t quite fit into the human-centered Jewish religiosity of the time. It is also the case that people are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We cannot do enough mission work to become righteous. We cannot win our way to Heaven by telling enough people about salvation. Notice, Christ calls those who are already His disciples to partake in the missional work of His Gospel.

John the Baptist is the best of us. Christ will say as much in verses 7-19. Yet, John questioned Jesus because he perceived that Jesus wasn’t doing His job.

Why Jesus offends people (v. 4-6)

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus does not respond by asking for a copy of His job description so that He can cater to people’s human-centered expectations. Instead, Jesus quotes the Scriptures. He takes the people to Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1, the prophet Matthew alluded to in chapter 8, verse 17, to describe the work the Messiah would do.

Isaiah 35:4-5

Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened

Isaiah 61:1-2

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn…

Instead of catering to unhealthy religious expectations, Jesus simply took John’s disciples back to the Scriptures, “Don’t you see me accomplishing exactly what the Bible says I should accomplish?” He follows up by blessing those who do not take offense at Him. Why? People always believe that their expectations and preferences are correct. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have expectations or preferences. It offends us when God’s Bible says something different from what we already think or believe. Christ’s statement is reminiscent of His instruction to the twelve,

He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward (10:40-41).

The person who accepts God’s word as spoken by the twelve, those who profess Christ, and those who have received Christ’s righteousness accepts God. The person who holds on to his or her own expectations and preferences and rejects God’s word rejects God. Those who remain offended at the way God does things and instructs His disciples to participate do not know God and are not blessed of God. Those who are not offended at Christ and His ways are the blessed of God. When we are offended by God, it is the fruit of unrighteousness. When we are not offended by God, it is the fruit of salvation—fruit that is consistent with repentance (3:8). Those who find their lives will lose their lives. Those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake will find their lives (10:39).

The first thing we learn about Christ’s Kingdom, His church, is that His kingdom is a kingdom of priests, not consumers (cf. Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6).

Questions:

  1. On what did Jesus base His ministry?
  2. Why did John’s disciples question Jesus?
  3. Why are the lives of Christ’s servants so offensive to people today?
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