Don’t be offended by God
Jerry A Collins
v How might we respond to Jesus when He offends us?
v Why would Jesus be offensive to anyone?
v Does my ministry bring offense to people?
The challenge for us who believe the Bible to contain the inerrant revelation of God and to explain the plan of God and reveal the mind of God, is that we often have to present it to people who want God’s plan to conform to their expectations. No matter what is offered they do not want that. That is the nature of unbelief. There are plenty of movements out there which provide alternative plans, contrary messages, and deviant theology. They do not like what the plain, verbally inspired, Word of God teaches. So they talk as if the Word of God is up for grabs, can be culturally conditioned, and is in need of a postmodern analysis. They believe the gospel needs their help and the death of Jesus is not a substitute for sin. Those they influence also become antagonists. So, just teaching the Bible, unwilling to acquiesce to their demands of scripture twisting, one faces their opposition, some of it even violent—even attacked by absurd name-calling as Jesus and John the Baptist were. But do not let this unbelief decide your lifestyle, theology or ministry. Jesus and John held their own against it and were not offended by God. So we can struggle with our relationship with both the unbelieving secular and religious world. Personal attacks and name-calling can follow. Let’s consider this influence and how we may avoid it manipulating us and our ministry.
1. SUFFERING WITHOUT EXPLANATION CAN CONFUSE US ABOUT GOD’S PLAN 1-6
Vs 1 is a transition verse connecting the preceding section with this new section. The emphasis is the discipling of His disciples by giving instruction, and taking them with Him as He was teaching and preaching in their cities. Discipleship is always in the context of being close up instilling the information and opportunities necessary to move on to maturity. Discipleship does not happen from a distance nor does it take place in a vacuum. John is in prison 2 But Matthew immediately alerts us to the plight of John the Baptist. He is in prison vs 2. John was in prison because Herod Antipas—son of Herod the Great—put him there. Herod had visited his brother, attracted to his wife, divorced his own wife and married his sister-in-law. John had publicly exposed this as sin and was imprisoned for it Matt 14:1-7. While imprisoned he hears reports of Jesus ministry—reports which may have been prompted by doubts about or at least confusion about Jesus identity? Are you the expected or coming one or shall we look for another? You can find yourself confused when it your expectations of God are not realized. Jesus was being rejected and not welcomed as the Messiah was prophesied to be.
Jesus answers John 3-6 In one sense John received the answer he expected but not necessarily the one he wanted. (1) Yes, Jesus is the Messiah 4-5. Jesus verifies this by quoting from Isaiah 35:5f and 61:1. He applies Isaiah’s message to Himself. John was the last OT prophet and would be reassured from another OT prophet that Jesus is the One to Come. As Isaiah had prophesied, Jesus was proclaiming the good news and He was doing the mighty works as well. The list is significant—blind see again; lame walking about; lepers cleansed; deaf hearing again; dead rising; poor brought the good news. What a list and these ‘kingdom acts’ a revelation of the Messiah’s identity to any willing to receive it. However, there is one glaring omission—Isaiah also had said He will set the prisoners free. (2) John was still in prison. John had already declared that Jesus, the messiah would take His winnowing fork in His hand and He will thoroughly clear the threshing floor and the axe is already laid at the root of the trees. The very ones these were prophecies against—the religious elite—were the ones who still seemed to be in control. Jesus was not going to get John out of jail. John had no way of knowing the fulfillment will come by a Second Coming. Jesus never explained that to him. Only look at what I am doing, John. So we may ask why is God permitting this to happen? Maybe I made a mistake; should have been more tolerant; taken a different stand? Focus on what the Lord is doing. Look around at the prayers answered, the people saved, the ministry accomplished, the lives changed. That alleviates the doubts you may have. What bothered John was that he could not predict what God was doing and he was a prophet. Jesus said don’t take offense over that vs 6. God is good & defines what is good. God serves our best interests and defines that. God has His plan and His timetable for that. God’s plan included Jesus suffering and death before the Kingdom and that also meant John’s suffering, rejection and death too. While in prison, John would have to trust Jesus knew what He was doing. Leaving John in prison meant Jesus could suffer and die to rescue us from our prison of sin.
2. FAITHFULNESS TO LORD’S WORK IS MARK OF GREATNESS
Jesus delivers a powerful defense of John in case anyone doubted John for asking such a question.
John had conviction 7-9 Here are 2 pictures illustrating the conviction of John; (1) A reed shaken by the wind. Theologically the landscape is filled with them. Blown this way and that as Paul says and carried about by every wind (change or opinion) of doctrine Eph 4:14. John was not that way at all. His message of deliverance was powerful but it came with a price—his life. (2) One in soft clothing vs 8? In contrast to the religious elite, John had nothing but the skin on his back. No comforts, no allegiance to the world’s pleasures. Repent and flee from the wrath to come in consistent with palace living. John was not fickle, tossed about by popular opinion.
John had greatness 10-12 (1) He was a true prophet. He had a message from God he delivered with courage and conviction without regard for his own comfort. (2) He was also more than a prophet—he was the last OT prophet vs 13, the last link in the long chain of God’s mouthpieces. He also was more because he prepared the way for the Messiah vs 10. No other prophet had that privilege, Mal 3:1 prophesied of the prophet, John. Others had prophesied many things about the Messiah—where born, what He would so, how he would die—only John could say here is The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world Jn 1:29. Since John had this privilege—this earthly prophetic ministry—none born was greater. (3) Yet, as great as John was, those least in the kingdom are greater 11. John never witnessed Jesus death on the cross. He never peered into the empty tomb. Even if you believe you are insignificant in the kingdom, to be in this kingdom and to serve Jesus the Risen Savior and Lord is more than John had. Greatness is not measured by the worlds standards but by faithfulness to the work of the Lord. Not by fame but faith. Not by pride but humility. Not by influence but obedience.
1. Don’t be offended by God—stumbling over what God is or is not doing in your life when you are in a prison of suffering without explanation. Job’s suffering was not explained to him; Paul’s thorn in the flesh not explained as well. The disciples stumbled over Jesus sleeping while they were perishing in the boat. They thot Jesus did not care—not involved—absent. Jesus said they had little faith and when we are in suffering situation don’t respond with less faith in God.
2. God’s kingdom program in on course in spite of opposition, confusion and rejection. It is clear that John was the forerunner and Jesus the Messiah. So we can confidently build our faith in Him.
3. Every believer knows more than John knew and has greater opportunity. Like John focus on our mission not allurements.