Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
In prison, it is easy to get discouraged, and easy to allow depressing thoughts of failure to creep and settle in the brain. Christ spoke honorably of John after John's disciples were gone from the gathering described in Matthew 11. He didn’t want to flatter John. That wasn’t what John needed at the time. He was in prison, and God knew that John needed the reassurance that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. That reassurance was more comforting than any praise. It meant that God’s words spoken through him were really God’s words of truth. It meant that God keeps His promises, and prophecies of God are a done deal.
A few points to ponder today:
1. We must give all their due praise for their encouragement. But we must avoid everything that looks like flattery; we should not puff anyone up. Pride corrupts; and we must not feed it either in others or in ourselves.
2. There are degrees of glory in Heaven.
3. God’s methods to reach the lost are many and varied.
Pride was probably the least thing that John had a problem with, however, and Jesus knew what John needed. What kind of man was John the Baptist?
- Cared about the souls of others
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. Ephesians 4:14
“He was a firm, resolute man, and not a reed shaken with the wind; you have been so in your thoughts of him, but he was not so. He was not wavering in his principles, nor uneven in his conversation; but was remarkable for his steadiness and constant consistency with himself,” states Matthew Henry.
Because John had these characteristics, he definitely appreciated being treated with the same directness and forthright honesty. All Jesus had to do was remind him of what the Old Testament said.
Truly I say to you, There has not arisen among those born of a woman any greater than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is. Matthew 11:11
It’s interesting that Jesus uses these words—greatest and least. We can discern a great deal from this. First, There are degrees of glory in heaven, some people are less than others there; though every vessel is alike in fullness, all are not alike in volume. A demitasse cup can’t contain a large latte. Although, both cups are full, it doesn’t measure the same volume.
In the kingdom of glory here on earth, John was a great and good man, but he was yet in a state of infirmity and imperfection; therefore he came short of glorified saints, and the spirits of just men made perfect. John died before Jesus rose from the dead, thus he was an Old Testament saint. John said of himself that he was not fit to tie Jesus’ shoe.
Secondly, the least saint in Heaven is greater, and knows more, and loves more, and does more in praising God, and receives more from him, than the greatest saint in this world. The saints on earth are excellent ones (Psalm 16:3), but those in Heaven are much more excellent; the best in this world are lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), the least in Heaven are above the angels because of our joint inheritance with Christ, which should make us long for that blessed state, where the weak shall be as David, (Zechariah 12:8).
When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven here, I believe He is speaking of the kingdom of grace on earth.
There were many in Jesus’ day that pressed into the kingdom of heaven; but most of the people continued in unbelief and obstinately refused to accept Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus commended John, but with His next breath He condemned the people who rejected Him. They had Him among them, and did not profit by His ministry. They saw; they heard; they had no excuse to not believe.
“To what can I compare this generation?” Jesus asked. It is difficult to understand people that hear good preaching, but are never better for it. At least teenagers have some bit of excuse—they are brain damaged until the age of 20 or so. Even so it is ludicrous when people hear truth proclaimed, yet reject the truth and embrace a lie. It is preposterous to have excellent Bible teaching, but souls are never stirred, and they don’t put it into practice in their lives.
To humble the prideful Pharisees and scribes, Jesus compares them to children at play.
We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament. Matthew 11:17
The great thing that God aims for is to dissolve our will into compliance with His will. To do it, He uses numerous and various ways with the same end design. Jesus piped joyful music with His message of grace and love to the people. It is the glorious Gospel describing all the wonderful promises in store for those who believe Him. He mourned the horrendous threat the law presented for those who would not believe Him.
Through Jesus’ commending John and his ministry, and then with this parable we see that Jesus describes the two great lights of that generation—Jesus and John the Baptist—but they had two completely different approaches and tempers. John came fasting and mourning, and calling for repentance. Jesus came eating and drinking.
You do not dance…you do not lament! Matthew 11:17
A crucial key here is that God uses numerous ways to reach all sorts of people. Jesus points out that no matter how God is reaching out, His methods are fruitless with so many. Few were swayed to believe.
If people will be neither bound by laws, nor invited by promises, nor frightened by threatenings, will neither be awakened by the greatest things, nor allured by the sweetest things, nor startled by the most terrible things, nor be made sensible by the plainest things; if they will hearken to the voice neither of scripture, nor reason, nor experience, nor providence, nor conscience, nor interest, what more can be done? – Matthew Henry
Take special note, because the same holds true today as it did way back then. Unfortunately, people who don’t benefit from God’s grace do everything they can to hurt God’s children. They also tend to mock the messenger—those who are faithful preachers and teachers of God’s word. Jesus promised that because the world hated Him, His disciples would be hated as well. We find this in our churches almost as frequently as outside the churches, and that is why we must be so wary of the worldly ways seeping into the fold.
As Jesus points out, they mocked Him for eating and drinking and hanging out with sinners. I ask you, if He didn’t hang out with sinners, who else would He have hung out with? No one was His equal. But those who hated Him for who He was and what He represented cast back in His teeth those things that helped humankind to understand God better, to accept His gift of grace and mercy.
Why?Because these kinds of wicked people have hearts, heads, and hands full of the world. These cares of the world choke the Word, and choke their souls, and those strangling souls try to choke the life of those around them. Be not the seed that gets choked.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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