Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. (It may also be helpful to read Matthew 11:1-6 to gain a context for these verses!) Matthew 11:7-24 - 7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’[a]
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears, let him hear.
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge,and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.[b] If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
I just wanted to give a few thoughts on this text before worship and the message today. The six verses at the beginning of the chapter help set the stage for the text today. Notice that after John has doubts about who Jesus is, how Jesus responds towards him. He praises John for his faithfulness to his calling and faithfulness to the Lord---no one greater born of woman---amazing! We think that people of faith cannot doubt, but doubt in the NT is almost always seen by the believer. We must first believe, before we can doubt!
Jesus then sets the stage in verse 15---He who has ears, let him hear! He expects not only that we hear His calling, but that there is a response associated with that. The generation Jesus is speaking to, complains at the strictness and ascetic lifestyle that John lived and his radical preaching and they also rebel against the compassion Jesus shows to sinners and freedom in His expression of faith. They attempted to set parameters for God to act within, but our God is not customizable! We must come humbly and recognize that He is God---He who has ears, let him hear.
Jesus continues on in verses 20-24, by pronouncing eternal judgment on the cities that He has done the majority of His ministry in, because they have failed to repent and respond in humility before Jesus. He alludes to some of the most wicked OT cities (Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom) and says that they would have responded with repentance if they had seen what Jesus did in the region of Galilee. Ouch! There is something much deeper behind the lack of listening and lack of repentance/response than enough evidence. What else did the people need to see? I think it’s an issue of pride and self-righteousness that ruled in the heart of the people of the day and they were unwilling to respond to God.
Jesus was specifically addressing the generation of His time, but there is plenty of application to our generation today. We try and dictate how God should perform and when He should do it and question His existence if we don’t get what we want, when we want it. Americans are independent and love to be in control---repentance, submission, and surrender are not words that we like to live out. There is no room for pride in the Kingdom of God. Scripture says that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus is begging us to kick the god of self out of the center and receive life by trusting in Him. He who has ears, let him hear!
Have you had seasons of trying to dictate how God should behave? How did that work for you? Have you run into obstacles of pride, self-centeredness, and control during your faith journey? What does it look like to respond in faith to Jesus calling in this text? Please feel free to add anything from worship that grabbed your heart as well!