Matthew 11-12: The Real Slippery Slope

  • Read Matthew 11-12 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (20 February) you can listen to it here.

In Matthew 10 Jesus gives a lengthy warning to his apostles regarding the opposition they will experience as they share the message of Good News.  In giving this warning Jesus presents a key principle in v24, “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.”  The apostles should expect opposition because they are not greater than Jesus, and Jesus will encounter opposition… to state it mildly.

Matthew uses chapters 12-13 to give examples of the opposition that Jesus experienced.  He also demonstrates that it gradually escalated.

1. John the Baptiser – After earlier “preparing the way” for Jesus and pointing him out to his followers, John finds himself in gaol.  As he sits reflecting upon his ministry, he decides to seek reassurance that his efforts weren’t wasted.  H sends messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  This may seem like a harmless question, but it contains the seeds of DOUBT.  Doubt is the precurser to the subsequent degrees of opposition Jesus encounters.  Jesus doesn’t reprimand John for having questions, but he answers him and warns him not to let his doubts undermine his faith and his reward.

2. Chorazin, Bethsaida & Capnernaun – Jesus spent most of his years of ministry around the shores of the Lake of Galilee.  These towns were right in the epicenter of his ministry circuit. Many people from each town would have heard Jesus teach, seen his miracles, and experienced his healing.  Yet the population of these towns overwhelmingly rejected his message.  Jesus responded to their REJECTION by condemning them.  Their rejection of Good News in the face of the overwhelming presence of God reveals a hard heartedness that excludes them from the kingdom of heaven.

3. Eating grain on the Sabbath – Although the previous towns rejected the message of Jesus, there’s no indication that they attempted to hamper his ministry.  In fact, the seem to have enjoyed the benefits of his presence.  However, in chapter 12 the religious leaders begin criticising Jesus and his disciples.  I believe that in Matthew’s Gospel this is the first time that Jesus has received CRITICISM.  The opposition is increasing as in v10 we’re told that the religious leaders were “looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.

4. Plotting to kill – There’s really not a lot to add to this heading.  In v14, after Jesus has answered their questions without giving them reason to accuse him, they escalate the CONFLICT by plotting to kill him.  Their animosity towards Jesus is no longer hidden.  The battle lines have been drawn and the sides chosen.  There can only be one victor.

5. Blasphemy – Just when you thought there was no way to escalate the opposition to Christ’s ministry any further, Matthew presents the ultimate sin.  As if scheming to assassinate the Son of God wasn’t depraved enough, the religious leaders next attempt to convince the crowds that Jesus actually conducts his ministry and casts out demons by Satan’s power, not God’s (12:24).  Jesus describes this false attribution of power as BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  In v31-32 he describes this as a sin that will not be forgiven.

Although we could discuss each of these events in a lot more detail, I hope this summary clearly illustrates the escalating nature of the opposition Jesus experienced.  Truly, students are not above their teacher.  Jesus didn’t preach one thing and live another.  He lived a life of purity: a life of consistency.  He experienced opposition.  We will also experience opposition as we continue his mission in our lives.

  • I like to encourage people to question their faith rather than “blindly” believing.  How can we do this while avoiding the dangers of doubt?
  • It amazes me that the first challenge to Jesus identity (in this passage) comes from a fellow-ministerHave you ever witnessed Christians promoting doubt within a church?
  • What can the church learn from Jesus’ response to John about the best way to build and restore faith in those who doubt?
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