A number of you may have heard my verbal sermon titled Are You Him? on Sermon Audio. If you heard it, I am hoping it was helpful to you. I am doing here something I have done before. I am placing a written version here for you. I also hope it is helpful. I suggest you read it, and then listen to the audio version. Maybe together they will reflect what I wanted to say. Pray for me. God bless you!
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:1-3)
Not everyone believes that Jesus Christ is the blessed redeemer. There always have been the doubters.
There have always been those who put Him to the test. Sometimes we are surprised to see who has
doubted Him. Maybe we all have at one time or another. But God, by His grace has assured us that He is
the One. He is Him! This is the story of one of those incidents; one of those tests. Based on what we
know regarding when Jesus was born, this incident happened about 26 A.D. That date is based on a
scholarly study by W. Graham Scroggie, and some others.
I think before examining the above verses, we need to take a quick look at chapter 10. There we see that
Christ was instructing His disciples, and telling them of their responsibilities in preaching, and what was
expected of them. He warned them of persecution. He taught them to be patient, and kind. He taught
them how to respond to vicious words. One of the most profound things Christ said in that long chapter
was “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” (Matthew 10:40) He was telling them that preaching and teaching was right, and that He expected it, and
He would always be with them in spirit.
QUESTIONS FROM JOHN THE BAPTIST
Chapter 11 begins with the declaration that Christ was departing to teach and preach in the cities of His
disciples. Before He left, two of John’s disciples arrived and asked Him a very important question “Are
you He that should come, or do we look for another?” Did this question indicate doubt from John the Baptist? Some think it did, others not. Remember, John was the one who basically introduced Jesus as the Messiah, when he was baptizing. “John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh way the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) In other verses, John declares Him to be Christ. In the same chapter he again declares “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)
So, I like what Martyn Lloyd-Jones said about it. In the book The Heart of the Gospel he said. “But now John is in prison, where he has been for some time, and from there he sends two followers with this
question. Is this a doubt? No, I do not think so. This is a depression, and there is all the difference in the
world between a doubt and a depression in a believer. I do not want to stay with this, but we must hold
on to the vital difference between these two things. I have no doubt also, but that this was greatly
encouraged by his own followers.”(1) They saw that Christ was drawing more than John. They may have
said “If Jesus is Messiah, why does He let you stay in prison? Wouldn’t He deliver you if He was the
Messiah?”(2) No doubt, questions like this were troublesome to John, and added to his depression, and in
that state of depression, he sends his disciples to question Jesus. I basically agree, it was not doubt, but
Jesus had not yet been crucified for our sins. That was at least two and one half more years. Thousands had
been already crucified, especially since Rome came to great power. That was their preferred method of
executing non-Romans who were criminals. But, none of these thousands was able to die for anyone but themselves. The apostles unfolded this truth throughout the NT; neither Jesus’ teaching, nor His example
could save a soul, only His death. It had to be a bleeding death. In Hebrews it says “Moreover he
sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:21, 22) This was comparing what Christ did on the cross with the OT sacrifices. Had Christ not shed His blood, we would remain lost. It took the blood to save us!
Was John’s question mainly so his disciples would know Christ, as some say? Whatever John’s reason
was, they gave Christ the question. His answer was very thorough. “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their 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.” (Matthew 11:4, 5) Was not this what Messiah was supposed to do? In the short time since Jesus began His ministry, all these things were done. No wonder Jesus added “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matthew 11:6)
Let us examine Christ’s answer a little. What other person could perform all these things? No one! Only
Christ could restore the blind’s sight; heal the lame; cleanse the lepers; and heal the deaf, and also even
raise the dead. What kind of saviour do you want? Christ did all these things in His earthly ministry, and
more. There are no limitations to Christ! Not only did he heal those who came to Him, but He proclaimed
the truth to them. He added to his kingdom. It doesn’t seem possible to us today that in that little area all
this was done, and yet it spread all around the world. In spite of opposition, turmoil, persecution and
hatred, the gospel has been preached. Even in this day of apostasy, it is being preached every day! He still
There have been many who find offense with Jesus Christ. Some say He could not be Messiah. They say
He didn’t have a normal family and home life. He allowed many of His followers like John Baptist to be
killed. He didn’t exercise power over his enemies, and He even allowed Himself to be tragically killed by
crucifixion. This could not be Messiah, so they say. These are some of the difficulties that present
themselves to us. Yet, through all that, he prevailed. He told John’s disciples “The poor have the gospel
preached to them.” Now the world would not give that much regard. Charles Spurgeon said “There is as
much of the miraculous in the poor man’s gospel as in the dead man’s resurrection.”(3) In spite of almost 2000 years of enemies, the church still is here. I know it is mixed; many false churches, many heresies, but there is still a remnant. It is struggling, but walking with Jesus Christ. Remember He told us “And upon
this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew16:18b)
QUESTIONS FROM CHRIST
John’s followers were leaving, and Christ has some questions for all there. “And as they departed, Jesus
began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in king’s houses.” (Matthew 11:7-8) These are probing questions. "Did you go out to the desert to see a reed shaken in the wind?" He knew the answer. John was physically a strong man. He wasn’t shaken in the wind. "What about a man in soft clothing?" Again, Jesus knew John dressed in clothing that he had made for himself, much the same as Elijah had worn. He wore a garment of camel’s hair with a leather girdle around his loins. He was not that man of the king’s house. He was a man of the wilderness, sent to preach the gospel.
Jesus’ next question was something else. He asked “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I
say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my
messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matthew 11:9-10) The first two questions had a “no” answer. But this one was a “yes”. John the Baptist was a prophet. He was the
messenger to prepare the way for Christ. He actually was the last Old Testament prophet. Then Christ says
regarding him “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: not withstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11) Here Christ was praising John, yet saying he was not as great as those recently born ones that were in the kingdom of heaven. Remarkable!
Here Christ is focusing us on His kingdom, and showing that the great man, John the Baptist, was the
least. John could declare the gospel, believe the gospel, but he was born before the crucifixion. He was an
Old Testament saint. Perhaps the greatest, but still lacking what the New Testament saint had. Christ had
not yet died and paid the price for everyone who was to be saved. Because of this he that is least in the
kingdom of heaven is greater than John. John had only a vision, of things to come later. His message was
incomplete. There was still the cross ahead. So John was great, but he was less than the NT saints were. I
like what John Gill said here regarding the difference between the NT saints and John. “The comparison
does not lie so much between their persons, as their several degrees in light and doctrine.”(4) I am trying to show you that even as great a man as John was, he was subject to Christ. This message is about Jesus Christ. He is the one who was to come; don’t look for another! I really believe that John also knew this.
Jesus goes on to say “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:12, 13) This statement is at first glance a little puzzling. What it is telling us is that a large number of people were heeding John’s message, as many began to heed Jesus’ message. They were so eager that they were called violent. They wanted to believe it. The reason we have problems with these
verses is that in our day we have seen very little of this violence. I remember long ago seeing a bit of this
type of response, some real shaking in a few churches, but it didn’t last long. I have heard reports of some
rather violent shaking, but again this was some years back. We really do not see this much in our day. But
in the first century, the Bible tells us of this shaking with John the Baptist, and Jesus, and later with Peter
and Paul. When God wants to shake people in reality, He does so. Read the book of Acts. Read early
church history, and you will see it. Just remember that all in the kingdom have a superior station compared
CHRIST CALLS JOHN THE BAPTIST ELIJAH
Something even more striking that Christ said regarding John. It really is remarkable “For all the
prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you will receive it, this is Elias (Elijah), who was for to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” (Matthew 11: 13-15) Jesus here is telling us that John was the promised Elijah who was to come before the Lord came. Malachi proclaimed “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” (Malachi 4:5) John was the forerunner. He was not Elijah in person, or reincarnated, but had the same spirit as Elijah. He was like Elijah in many ways. We are told five times that John was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” In Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Like 3:4; and John 1:23. Read it! This is significant. God wanted us to know who John was. For him to have it declared five times makes it a mountain top experience! He wants us to be sure we understand John’s purpose with Christ.
I believe that John the Baptist understood something that we must understand: “Christianity is not a
teaching, it is Christ.” I do not know who first said that, but it is truth. If you have any doubt that Jesus is
the Son of God, settle it now. If you are right about everything else, but wrong about Him, you do not
have the living God. What about the centurion who was there when Christ died? “And Jesus cried with a
loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the
bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:37-39) My dear friends, Christ has already been tested, and proclaimed to be who He said He was by a remarkable number of witnesses.“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) These were words again from John the Baptist, proclaiming the deity of Christ. Every apostle, every preacher, every one whom He has saved has declared Him to be the Son of God, the Messiah. He Himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
This world is nearer to the coming of the Lord than it ever has been. I am not making any rash predictions,
but Christ told us the signs of the times that would be evident at the time of His return. One of the signs is
the great falling away. It sure seems that that time is here. We need to pray for our loved ones, and our
friends and other unsaved people that we are in contact with. He is coming back, and those who are
unsaved will perish. I am glad that John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus these questions, and I
am glad for the questions Jesus asked about John. While we are here we are to be learning and preaching.
The enemy will discourage us if he can. Stay close To Christ. He will come soon. All that God has
proclaimed in His word will come to pass, just as He has said. Jesus has been gone from earth almost 2000
years, and when He shall return I do not know, but He will return to claim His children, and judge this
world. Are you ready?
(1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Heart of the Gospel, chapter one, page 15; Crossway Books,
Wheaton, IL 60187; 1991
(3) Charles H. Spurgeon, Gospel of Matthew, Page 77, Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, TX; 1974.
(4) John Gill, Commentary on Matthew 11:11; taken from online edition.
“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the
kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Published by Charles Woodruff- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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"He must increase, I must decrease" (John 3:30). My name is Charles Woodruff. I am 74 years old, and my desire is to serve God the rest of my days, preaching the old evangelical gospel that Paul and Peter preached, that Calvin preached, that Whitefield preached, that Spurgeon preached, and that Isaac Watts wrote about in his hymns. You are welcome! I hope you like our blogs.Your comments are also welcome. Please feel free to comment.
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