Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:1

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

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The intervening verses between our Lord’s healing of the deaf men, covered in last week’s post, and the beginning of Matthew 11 recount His appointment and training of the Twelve Apostles.

All of those verses are included in the three-year Lectionary. I’ll look at Matthew 10 tomorrow apart from this series.

Matthew prepares us for Chapter 10 at the end of Chapter 9 (Matthew 9:35-38):

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

At the beginning of Matthew 11, we find that as the Twelve go to preach, teach and heal, Jesus goes ‘to teach and preach in their cities’.

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

that means the cities of the disciples, which were the cities of Galilee. Eleven of the twelve of them, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. So He continued His Galilean ministry.

He adds that Christ’s ministry was two-fold:

teaching and preaching, and they are different. The synagogue was a place where the Scripture was read and exposited. Philo, the historian, says the synagogue’s main feature was to read and give a detailed exposition of Scripture. So the Lord would go into the synagogue, and since any resident expert who happened to be there could speak, He would take the occasion to speak, and He would take the Old Testament and give them the meaning of the Old Testament and apply it to Himself. He was an expository teacher.

He was also a preacher. The word means ‘to proclaim,’ and He would go from the synagogue to the streets and the hillsides, and the highways and byways, and the corners, and anywhere. He would preach and proclaim His Kingdom. So He continued doing this. We may also assume, based on verse 5, that He continued the miracles of healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and forgiving sin. So the Lord goes on about His work.

So, Jesus did not take a break whilst the Twelve were invested with the same divinely-bestowed gifts. He continued His ministry.

Matthew Henry says the Apostles were performing miracles while Jesus was preaching and teaching. Which was more important?

Observe, When Christ empowered them to work miracles, he employed himself in teaching and preaching, as if that were the more honourable of the two … Healing the sick was the saving of bodies, but preaching the gospel was to the saving of souls.

Church leaders and clergy can draw upon His example by keeping just as busy as His Apostles. Serving Christ does not allow for directing from the top and remaining idle. All should be equally occupied in spreading the Gospel message:

Note, the increase and multitude of labourers in the Lord’s work should be made not an excuse for our negligence, but an encouragement to our diligence. The more busy others are, the more busy we should be, and all little enough, so much work is there to be done.

Matthew’s message through Chapter 9 establishes Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One. Then he changes tack. In Chapters 11 and 12 he tells us about people’s reactions to Jesus. MacArthur explains:

In fact, he lists for us the various kinds of reactions to the claims of Christ. Through giving us brief narrative events in these chapters, he gives us categories of response to Jesus Christ. These chapters are filled with very common reactions to the claims of Christ, which were true then and are true today as much as they were then.

For example, in Matthew 11:1-15 is the response of doubt. From verses 16-19, we see the response of criticism. From verses 20-24, there is the response of indifference. Going to chapter 12, the first 21 verses deal with the response of rejection. Verses 22-23 are the response of amazement, and verses 24-37, the response of blasphemy. Verses 38-45 show the response of fascination.

Those are all the negative responses: doubt, criticism, indifference, amazement, rejection, blasphemy, and fascination. Each of them, in a sense, is kind of a unique response all its own, although there is some overlapping as well. But you’ll notice that I said nothing about the last section of chapter 11 and the last section of chapter 12, because both of those deal with positive responses; the response of faith, the right response.

So by the time you have covered these two chapters, you have run the gamut of possible reactions to the claims of Christ and crystallized the categories. That is very helpful, because you’ll find out as we move through these two chapters, we’ll be able to see the varying responses that are just as true today as they were then, and understand, perhaps a little better, where people are coming from when they react to Jesus Christ.

More to follow next week.

Next time: Matthew 11:12-14

 

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