Are You Offended With Suffering & With Jesus?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel. “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? Jesus answered and said unto them, 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. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:1-6).

 

            “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. But what went ye out for the 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. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath no risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 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. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” 9Matthew 11:7-15).

 

            “But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibbler, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11:16-19).

 

            “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (Matthew 11:20-24).

            “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:25-27).

 

            “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

            When you come to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find a powerful transition within this gospel. If you begin reading with and from the opening verses of this chapter you will find the events which took place taking place on the heels of Jesus finishing and concluding commanding His disciples. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the tenth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find the apostle Matthew describing how Jesus called His twelve disciples unto Himself and gave them power and authority to heal the sick, to cast out unclean spirits, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead and preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in the tenth chapter for within it we find both the ministry of the kingdom as well as the mark of discipleship. As you read the words presented within this chapter you will find the Lord Jesus speaking directly unto His disciples concerning their mission and assignment in the midst of the earth—that which would find them going unto the lost sheep of Israel that they might preach unto them the word and gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for within the tenth chapter of this passage of Scripture there are indeed two different facets of Jesus’ ordaining of the twelve. On the one hand there is the ministry of the kingdom—that which they were called to do within and upon the earth—while on the other hand there was the mark of the kingdom of heaven upon their lives.

 

            There would be those who would read the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew and would like to focus solely on the power and the authority Jesus gave them upon the earth. Many men and women would like to spend their time focusing on that which the apostles were called to do—namely, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and even preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Very few men and women will take the time to read this chapter in its entirety and understand that when Jesus sent His apostles into the earth unto the lost sheep of Israel he didn’t merely send them with the command and commission to participate in the same ministry He Himself had done but He also prepared them for what would and could happen as a direct result. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will find Jesus preparing them to enter into houses and not be received of men—and not only not being received of men but also being hated of men for His name’s sake. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the ministry of the kingdom and how Jesus never promised that we would be received by everyone. What’s more is that Jesus sent us out into the world to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies, however, He also prepared us to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible word for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the intrinsic link between the ministry of the kingdom and the mark of discipleship.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ sending His twelve disciples out into the earth unto the lost sheep of Israel with the sole purpose and mission of preaching the gospel of the kingdom and yet He knew that their going out into the world would not be easy for them to experience. Jesus knew and understood they would enter into houses bringing peace and yet those within the house would not receive the peace and the tidings they came to bring. Oh there is something about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with being sent forth into the earth as an ambassador of the kingdom and yet not being promised full and complete receipt of the words we speak. There would be those who would like to think that saying “Yes” to the call of God upon their lives can and will mean they will have life easy as they preach the gospel of the kingdom and as they heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out unclean spirits, cleanse the lepers and the like. There are those among us who expect to be received, welcomed and embraced by all those who would hear the word of the gospel which they preached unto and among them. That which the Lord Jesus emphatically declares unto them is the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding their being sent out to love their enemies and to love their neighbors and yet knowing they can and will be hated of all nations for His name’s sake.

 

            The more you read the words found in the tenth chapter the more you will find the Lord Jesus issuing some incredibly powerful words of caution and warning unto the disciples when sending them out. Jesus would indeed prepare them to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake and He did indeed prepare them not to be received by everyone everywhere they went, however, we must needs recognize and understand there was so much more to that which Jesus spoke unto them. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you must needs come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the words which Jesus spoke unto them concerning their confession and profession in the midst of the earth. Upon reading the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus commanding them concerning what He told them in darkness that they were to speak in the light and that which they heard in the ear they were to preach upon the housetops. Moreover the Lord Jesus would also instruct and command them to fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul but fear the One who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Jesus would then go on to ask them if two sparrows were not sold for a farthing and yet not one of them shall fall on the ground without the Father’s knowledge and awareness. This would immediately be followed by the Lord Jesus declaring unto His disciples how even the very hairs of their head are numbered as well as Jesus commanding them to fear not for they are of more value than many sparrows.

 

            What you find in the verses of this chapter as it prepares to draw to a close is incredibly powerful language concerning discipleship and that which we as the saints of God must needs recognize and understand if we desire to walk as disciples of the Lord Jesus. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-second verse of this tenth chapter you will find Jesus declaring that whosoever would confess Him before men that one would He also confess before His Father which was in heaven. Conversely, however, Jesus would go on to declare that whosoever would deny Him before men that one would he deny before His Father which is in heaven. While it is true the Lord Jesus sent His disciples out into the midst of the earth as ambassadors for the kingdom we must needs recognize that one of the core tenets and principles of that reality was the disciples’ willingness to confess Him before men. Jesus made it very clear that anyone who confessed Him before men that one or those individuals would He confess before His Father in heaven. It would be one thing if Jesus simply stopped here and spoke solely of their confessing Him before men and His confessing them before His Father in heaven. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for Jesus would go on to describe those who would refuse and those who perhaps would be ashamed and afraid to confess Him before men. Oh there is a clear and present contrast found in this passage of Scripture as within it we find the Lord Jesus describing those who would confess Him before men and those who would refuse to confess Him before men. We must needs recognize and understand that while there are many who profess themselves to be “Christians” in this life there are many who refuse and/or are even afraid and ashamed to confess the name of the Lord Jesus before men. Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the saints which were in Rome as well as the words which our Lord spoke in His Sermon on the mount concerning those who would say, “Lord, Lord:”

 

            “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (That is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:1-17).

 

            “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are raveing wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:15-23).

 

            With this in mind I invite you to consider how these words were presented and recorded within the New Testament gospel narrative written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of this gospel beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all. Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: Ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto the magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” Luke 12:1-12).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for they call us into the place where we acknowledge our confession and profession before men. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus emphatically declared there would be many who would say to Him in that day, “Lord, Lord” and yet he would profess unto them He never knew them. What’s more is the Lord Jesus would go on to declare unto His disciples and the multitudes that gathered themselves unto Him that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” would enter into the kingdom of heaven. These words would be immediately followed by the Lord Jesus declaring unto them that only those who do the will of the Father which is in heaven would enter into the kingdom. Jesus would then go on to speak of those who would appeal to their prophesying in His name, and those who cast out devils in His name and those who did many wonderful things in His name and how they would use such realities as the reason for their entering into the kingdom of heaven. The truth of the matter, however, is that this would not grant them access nor would it grant them entrance into the kingdom of heaven. That which we find in this passage of Scripture calls and brings us face to face with the fact that there might even by those who here upon the earth profess and proclaim “Lord, Lord” and on the surface it sounds and looks good, however, not only are their hearts far from Him but they are those who refuse to do the will of the Father which is in heaven. There is something incredibly powerful about the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples and the multitudes in the Sermon on the Mount for He will emphatically declare unto them that it was possible to make the profession “Lord, Lord” in the earth and yet be those who do not the will of the Father who is in heaven.

 

            When you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord Jesus emphatically declaring unto His disciples that those who confessed Him before men would be those who were also confessed before His Father which was in heaven. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus would go on to declare that those who refused to confess Him before men and those who denied Him before men would be those who would be denied before the Father which was in heaven. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the incredible significance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for what we find within it is a powerful picture of what discipleship truly looks like within the earth. Those who are truly the disciples of the Lord Jesus are not merely those who make confession of and confess the Lord Jesus in the earth but also those who are unwilling to love anything or anyone more than the Lord Jesus. If you continue reading the words which are found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find the Lord Jesus going on to emphatically declare unto His disciples that He did not come to send peace on the earth but a sword. Furthermore the Lord Jesus would go on to declare that He came to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. What’s more is Jesus would go on to declare that a man’s foes would be they of his own household. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for these words would be immediately followed by the Lord emphatically declaring that whoever loves father or mother than Him is not worthy of Him. Not only this but the Lord would also go on to declare that whosoever would love son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him.

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with one of the greatest marks of discipleship within our hearts and lives. As you read the words which are found in this passage you can and will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding those who would allow themselves to love other things and even others before and above the Lord Jesus. We know the greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength, however, the words we find in this passage of Scripture seem to indicate a love for the eternal and only begotten Son. It might very well be said that those who love the Father and those who make the profession that they love the Father must of necessity be those who love the eternal and only begotten Son. Jesus made it quite plain and clear within this passage of Scripture that anyone who loved father or mother more than Him was not worthy of Him and anyone who loved son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and the love we confess and profess for Him. Jesus would previously speak of those who were willing to confess Him before men and now the Lord Jesus goes on to speak of those who loved Him with their whole heart.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be confronted with the tremendous truth surrounding those who might very well have allowed other things and perhaps even other individuals to take the place of the Lord Jesus within their hearts and lives. The words we find in this passage of Scripture calls and invites us into the place where we are forced to confront whether or not we are those allow our hearts to be consumed with those things which we might very well cling to more than the Lord Jesus. There is something incredibly unique and powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it addresses one of the most fundamental and core truths within our heart and soul—namely, whether or not we are those who are unwilling to love anything and/or anyone above the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus would emphatically declare that those who loved father or mother more than Him was not worthy of Him as well as those who loved son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him. Oh pause for a moment and consider the true weight and significance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding one of the greatest needs within our hearts and lives—namely, that of “Take the world but give me Jesus.” Not only this but we must needs ask ourselves is Jesus plus nothing equals everything and/or even Jesus minus everything equals everything. One of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether the Lord Jesus is indeed enough for us or whether we need to add to Him and His life in order to somehow satisfy and appease us.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord Jesus declaring that anyone who refuses to take up their cross and follow after Him is not worthy of Him. Having just previously said that anyone who loves father or mother, or brother or sister more than Him was not worthy of Him Jesus would not declare that anyone who refused to take up their cross and followed after Him was not worthy of Him. Not only this but Jesus would go on to declare that those who found their life would lose it and those who lost their life for His sake would find it. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the incredible significance of the words which are found here for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredible reality of our willingness to be those who are indeed willing to take up our cross and follow after the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that there have been countless individuals who have had a false idea and false understanding concerning what the cross truly is. There are countless men and women who have thought and perceived the cross to be the instrument upon which the Lord Jesus was crucified and hung there naked and bleeding being suspended between earth and sky. There are men and women who seem to associate the cross solely with the suffering of the Lord Jesus and His death as an offering for our atonement and the propitiation for our sins. The truth of the matter, however, is that before the cross was ever the symbol of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus it was an instrument of discipleship which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples.

 

            Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of this same New Testament gospel. The words which we find here in the tenth chapter as well as the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter are incredibly strong and powerful when you take the time to think about them in light of the narrative of John the Baptist in prison. Scripture points to and reveals the incredible truth that John the Baptist was indeed the prophetic messenger and forerunner for the Lord Jesus—the one of whom the prophets Isaiah and Malachi had spoken of. There is not a doubt in my mind that when reading the words found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel there is a great need to consider the words which are found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters. If we want to truly understand the life of John the Baptist we must of necessity understand and recognize that which was asked and required of him by the living and eternal God. When speaking unto His disciples the Lord Jesus would declare that anyone who did not take their cross and follow Him would not be worthy of Him and how those who found their life would lose it and those who lost their life for His sake would find it. We must needs pay close attention to this for when we come to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Simon called Peter making the confession concerning Jesus that He was the Christ the Son of the living God. Directly on the heels of this confession of identity, faith and revelation we find the Lord Jesus once more speaking words which are incredibly similar to that which is found here in the tenth chapter. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel:

 

            “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked His disciples, saying, whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus Christ” (Matthew 16:13-20).

 

           

 

            “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:21-28).

 

            Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for here we have the second time the Lord Jesus would speak unto His disciples concerning self-denial—and not only self-denial but also taking up their cross. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Simon called Peter professing and confessing that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. From that time on Jesus would show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised again the third day. Initially Simon called Peter would rebuke the Lord Jesus declaring unto Him that this thing would not be so and would not come to pass. Jesus—when hearing the words which the apostle Peter would speak unto Him—would appear to rebuke him, or at least speak to and address something which the apostle Peter was not aware of. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord Jesus speaking to, through and perhaps even past Simon called Peter and commanding, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Simon called Peter would attempt to rebuke the Lord Jesus concerning His suffering and death and yet Jesus would appear to speak directly to and through him as he rebuked Satan who was not only an offense to Him but also declared how he did not savor the things which be of God but those things which were of men.

 

            There is a great need to pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for immediately after this the Lord Jesus would go on to once more speak of those who sought to come after Him and follow Him. Jesus would immediately follow this rebuke of Satan with a declaration that if any man would come after Him that same one must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this passage of Scripture is that this would be the second time the Lord Jesus would use the cross in reference to discipleship. I have previously written and mentioned how there are those who think and believe the cross is simply and solely the instrument of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and has absolutely nothing to do with discipleship. The truth of the matter, however, is that as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord Jesus once more taking the cross and using it as a symbol of discipleship. When sending His disciples out as ambassadors unto the lost sheep of Israel the Lord Jesus would declare that anyone who did not take up their cross and follow Him was not worthy of Him. Now the Lord would follow this by declaring that if any man would come after Him they must not only deny themselves but must also take up their cross. If one truly wishes and desires to come after the Lord Jesus those individuals must needs deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him.

 

            I am absolutely convinced we must needs pay close attention to the words which are found within the tenth and sixteenth chapters of this New Testament gospel narrative for within them we are brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding our coming after and following the Lord Jesus. It was Jesus Himself who declared that anyone who did not deny themselves and take up their cross was not worthy of Him and it would also be Jesus who would declare that if any man wished to come after Him that one must needs deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Oh how absolutely incredible the words found within this passage of Scripture truly are for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding that which discipleship truly means. Within this passage of Scripture we find the Lord Jesus once more speaking unto His disciples and directly linking and connecting the cross to discipleship. This is indeed something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous weight and burden of discipleship. We as the saints of God and those who would indeed be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who are not only willing to deny ourselves but we must also be willing to take up our cross. There would be those who think and feel that the cross has absolutely nothing to do with them and that it is simply and solely the instrument of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. There are men and women who would like to think and even believe that the cross is nothing more than the instrument of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and that it has absolutely nothing to do with our lives and discipleship.

 

            The more I think about and consider this absolutely wonderful truth the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His clarion call to discipleship. It was the Lord Jesus who would declare unto His disciples—not once but twice—the great need for self-denial and taking up their cross. Before the cross was ever the instrument the Lord Jesus would be forced to carry along the Via Dolorosa to the Place of the Skull it would be referred to as an instrument of discipleship for those who would come after and follow Him. What’s more is that on the one hand Jesus would declare that those who did not deny themselves and take up their cross were not worthy of Him while Jesus would also declare that if any man would come after him they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are going to be those who are willing to deny ourselves that we might take up our cross. Not only this but I would dare say that the only we can and will truly be able to take up the cross and follow after the Lord Jesus Christ is if first deny ourselves. I would dare say that it is absolutely impossible to be those who would take up the cross and follow after the Lord Jesus if and unless they were. First willing to deny themselves. Oh pause for a moment and consider how incredibly necessary that truth truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding discipleship and how at the very heart and center of it is indeed self-denial and the cross. Oh the cross is so much more than the instrument of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus for it is also a powerful symbol and emblem of our discipleship. Not once but twice the Lord Jesus would call and invite His disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross that they might truly come after and follow Him, thus signifying the wonderful reality of the need of the cross within our hearts and lives as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to recognize and understand the words which are found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew. The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with being sent out by the living God into the earth as an ambassador of the kingdom and finding yourself facing those who would not receive you and even being hated of all men and nations for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. Within this passage of Scripture we find the Lord Jesus instructing and commanding His disciples to not fear those who can merely kill the body but rather to fear that One who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Jesus emphatically declared and proclaimed unto His disciples that they would be put out of synagogues and would be dragged before magistrates, governors, kings and rulers for His name’s sake. What’s more is that Jesus instructed His disciples to not think about what they would see when finding themselves in such a position for it would not be them who spoke but the Holy Spirit who spoke through them. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus would declare that anyone who lost their life would find it and those who found their life would lose it. Not only this but Jesus would emphatically declare that anyone who did not deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him would not be worthy of Him. Moreover jesus would declare that anyone who loved father or mother, son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the narrative surrounding John the Baptist in the eleventh chapter.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter you will find the apostle Matthew writing how it came to pass after Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples that He departed to teach and preach in other cities. What the apostle Matthew writes next is absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about it for it describes and speaks to John the Baptist who was the prophetic forerunner and Messianic messenger of the Christ. In the second verse of the eleventh chapter we find the apostle Matthew writing how John heard in the prion the works of Christ and sent two of His disciples unto Him. The sole purpose of John’s sending these two disciples unto Jesus was very quite simple—to ask and inquire of Him whether or not He was the One who was to come or if they ought to look for another. I am absolutely and completely convinced this is something which must needs be carefully considered when seeking to read and understand this passage of Scripture for this question being asked by John the Baptist was one that came from the same one who emphatically declared and proclaimed that this was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. What’s more is it was John the Baptist who not only saw the heavens opened at the Jordan River when Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism but also saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him in the bodily form of a dove and heard the voice of the Father emphatically declaring and proclaiming that this was His beloved Son in whom he was well. Pleased. It was John the Baptist who would speak of Himself as the voice of one crying in the wilderness and would even profess and confess himself to be the friend of the bridegroom. It was John the Baptist who would declare that it was necessary for him to decrease that the Messiah and Christ might increase.

 

            It is with all of this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives concerning John the Baptist and the prophetic ministry he was ordained and appointed to carry out and fulfill within the earth. Beginning with the third chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative you will find a powerful description of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and that which he had been called to do in the midst of the earth. I am absolutely convinced we must pay close attention to the words and language which is found within the four gospels for they help us to understand the time John spent in that prison after Herod had him shut up in the midst of it. Consider if you will the following words which are found within these four gospels beginning with the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:1-12).

 

            “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:1-8).

 

            “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Luke 3:1-9).

 

            “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizes thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there strandeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:19-28).

 

            “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore I am come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).

 

            “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:35-36).

           

            And now consider the following words which are found in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John concerning that time when Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judaea. The apostle John writes how Jesus tarried there and baptized and how John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim because there was much water there. The apostle John writes how John the Baptist was not yet cast into prison and how there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. There were those who would come unto John and speak of Him it was who was with him beyond Jordan to whom he bore witness who was also baptizing and how all men came to him. It is absolutely astonishing and remarkable to consider the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture for John’s response concerning his relationship to and with the Messiah are such which we should all not only consider but also emulate and model our lives after in this life. Having said this I invite you to consider the response of John the Baptist to those who would come unto him concerning Jesus who baptized and how all men came unto Him:

 

            “John answered and said, A. man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am. Not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is over the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen  and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:27-36).

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need for us to pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for what we find here are illustrations and examples of that which John the Baptist believed concerning Jesus of Nazareth. John the Baptist not only believed that He was the Lamb of God but he also believed that He was the One who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. What we find in the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding John the Baptist being shut up in prison and hearing the works of Christ with his ears. Imagine being John the Baptist and knowing that you were the friend of the bridegroom who was ordained and appointed by the living God to go before His face. Imagine being John the Baptist and having baptized this Jesus of Nazareth, having beheld the Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove and hearing the voice of the Father speaking concerning Him that he was His beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. Imagine being John the Baptist and being shut up in prison and hearing about the works of the Lord Jesus which He was performed in the earth. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that John the Baptist found himself in prison—a place which he would not escape from the rest of his natural life. Scripture makes it very clear that John the Baptist would enter into prison and yet he would never see the light of day outside of that prison as Herod would have him beheaded there in the midst of the prison. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is that John the Baptist would indeed be cast into prison and it would be there in prison he would hear of the works of Christ—this despite the fact that he would not personally witness or behold those works. John the Baptist would hear of the wonderful and mighty works the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed do in the midst of the earth and as a direct result of this he would send two of his disciples to inquire as to whether or not this man was the One who was foretold to come or if they should look for another.

 

            I have to admit I find the words and language within this passage of Scripture incredibly unique and powerful when I take the time to consider it for not only had John the Baptist been cast into prison, but there is also every indication he would hear reports of the works of Christ while shut up in that prison. What’s more is I would dare say that while John the Baptist was in prison he would hear of the mighty and wonderful works of the Lord Jesus Christ without ever experiencing the presence of Jesus there in the midst of the prison. I can’t help but wonder if not only did John the Baptist think and perhaps even expect that Jesus would come and visit Him in prison but if he also thought that his time in the prison cell would be temporary rather than long term. The more I read the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding John the Baptist being found in prison and hearing of the works of Christ. Imagine being shut up in prison and hearing of the works of the Lord Jesus Christ and perhaps even thinking, hoping and even expecting the Lord Jesus coming to visit him there in the prison cell. Scripture makes it perfectly clear how John the Baptist was cast into prison by Herod after he dared speak out against the immorality, adultery and fornication in the palace. John the Baptist had rebuked Herod for having his brother Philip’s wife—Herodias—and as a direct result of this Herodias would have John cast into prison. Of course we know and understand this wasn’t Herodias’ first wish and desire for if she had it her way from the start John the Baptist would have been put to death rather than put in prison. Herod being unwilling to put John the Baptist to death because he regarded him as a just and righteous man would have him put in prison and removed from society.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture. Within this passage of Scripture we find John the Baptist having been cast into prison by Herod the Great where he would spend the rest of his days. It would be there in that prison John the Baptist would hear of the many wonderful and mighty works which were performed by the Lord Jesus Christ and would even send two of his disciples unto Jesus to inquire whether or not this was the Messiah and the Christ or if they ought to look for another. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this passage of Scripture is that John the Baptist was cast into prison—not necessarily at the behest and will of Herodias and Herod but rather according to the divine sovereignty and providence of the living God. John the Baptist had indeed fulfilled his purpose and assignment in the midst of the earth and he would now be placed into prison where he would spend the rest of his days before he would ultimately be beheaded by Herod. Oh there is something truly awesome and powerful about this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding John the Baptist experiencing certain doubts within his heart and soul. It would be there in the midst of that prison John the Baptist would send two of his disciples unto the Lord Jesus to inquire as to whether or not this was the Messiah and the Christ. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and think about John the Baptist being in prison, hearing of the works of Christ which He performed in the midst of the earth and finding himself doubting within his heart concerning the Messiah. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous doubt that was present within the heart of John as he would find himself in the midst of that prison unsure of what would happen to and become of him.

 

            The words which we find within this passage of Scripture are incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it for they bring us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding John the Baptist of whom Jesus said that among those born of women there was none greater than John the Baptist. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in this passage and to consider how although Jesus would not come unto the prison where John the Baptist was being held He would heal the sick, He would cleanse the lepers, He would cast out unclean spirits and more in the sight of these two disciples that they might bring back word concerning what they saw and witnessed. Even though John the Baptist was bound to that prison cell and even though he would never see the outside of it on this side of eternity he would receive report of the tremendous works of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is Jesus would invite John the Baptist into a place where He was not offended by, with and because of Him. The words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto John the Baptist seemed to suggest that not only was he wrestling with doubts concerning whether or not the Lord Jesus was the Messiah but was also struggling with finding himself offended with Jesus—not only in his being shut up in prison but also in his hearing of the works of Christ outside the prison walls and yet not experiencing the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus made it perfectly clear that in this world we will face many trials and troubles and that we can and will be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Jesus made it perfectly clear that we can and will walk through and experience persecution and the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are those who will remain steadfast, unmoving and always abounding in patience and endurance in the midst of the suffering, persecution, affliction, trials and troubles we face in this life.

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