On Knowing Jesus

We have made it through chapter 13. The previous section of Matthew’s Gospel expounded on what the kingdom of Heaven is. Tonight, we begin a new section—A section we can title The Identity of Jesus. As Matthew continues to prove that Jesus is the Messiah foretold throughout the Old Testament, He now begins to explain who Jesus is and who He is not. This section begins in Chapter 14, verse 1, and runs through Chapter 17, verse 27. After that, Matthew takes time to explain every disciple’s place in Christ (Chapters 18:1-20:16). Then, The Work of Jesus (20:17-28:20).

In tonights passage, Matthew begins by showing us that Jesus is not John the Baptist.

Matthew 14:1-12

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

Herod hears about Jesus (v. 1-2)

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

At that time, as Jesus is doing miracles and preaching the Gospel in Galilee, Herod hears about Jesus. Herod Antipas is the son of King Herod, who was mentioned in Chapter 2. Antipas has 3 brothers who also rule or have ruled, hints the title of tetrarch. While King Herod ruled over all of Israel, Antipas only rules over Galilee and Perea. He tells his servants that Jesus is the resurrected John the Baptist. After all, no one can have miraculous powers unless he or she returns from the other side as some sort of super-human or tormenting spirit. Right? By the time Herod hears about Jesus, John has already died. 

Why Herod misidentifies Jesus (v. 3-11)

For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.

Matthew explains the story of John’s death to show us why Herod thought Jesus was the resurrected John. Herod married his brother’s wife. His brother, Phillip, was tetrarch over the territories in the Northeast corner of Israel. John spoke out against the injustice according to the Law in Exodus 20:17, Leviticus 18:16, and Leviticus 20:21. Herod responded by imprisoning John. He was afraid to kill him because the people believed John was a prophet— he was (Cf. 11:9). The wife Herod stole had a daughter with Herod’s brother. She danced for Herod and he liked it; He gave her John’s head to be presented to his illegitimate wife.

Herod broke God’s Law and murdered the prophet who called out his very public sin. Because of his guilt and fear, he believes now that John has returned and is doing miraculous things. 

John’s disciples (v. 12)

His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

Despite his father having hunted the Messiah approximately thirty years prior (4 BC, Cf. 2:16), Herod Antipas did not hear about Jesus until this juncture. He does not know who Jesus is. As far as Herod is concerned, the Messianic threat to his throne was dealt with thirty years ago. But, John’s disciples know who Jesus is:

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” (John 11:2-6).

When their teacher died, they buried his body and reported what happened to Jesus—their Messiah.

When people hear about Jesus, they have many responses and preconceived ideas about who Jesus is. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet. Many people today believe Jesus was a good teacher and moral example. Jehova’s Witnesses and Mormons both believe that Jesus is simply our example and, if we follow his example, we can become gods or kings as Jesus became a god or king. Some people believe Jesus is here to fix people; Others believe He is working to exalt Himself and glorify the Father. The challenge before us as we begin this section of Matthew’s Gospel for us to discern who Jesus really is. How can we know? We can know by reading the words of those who walked with Him in person on this earth. So, who do you say Jesus is? We receive the first part of our answer tonight. Jesus was not merely a prophet, teacher, or moral example. Jesus is the expected Messiah foretold throughout the Hebrew Scriptures—the one who would heal His people, take their infirmities, raise the dead, and restore justice to the earth. When we do get to Matthew’s section of the work of Jesus, he will show how Jesus accomplishes the work of the Messiah foretold throughout the Old Testament.

Jesus’s Identity According to Matthew 14-17

Who Jesus is:Who Jesus is not:
The expected Messiah (Isaiah 35:4-5; 61:1-2):
The one who would heal His people, take their infirmities, raise the dead, and restore justice to the earth.
John the Baptist; the new Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6):
Not merely a prophet, teacher, or good person.






Questions:

  1. Why do you think there are so many different opinions about who Jesus is?
  2. What is the best way to know about Jesus?

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