- Sermon Notes
When His Ways are Higher
Illus. Where is the exit?
In Matthew chapter 11, after heading out to teach and preach, Jesus is met by two disciples of John the Baptist. John had been put in prison (Matthew 4:12)
and was stuck, with no way out. He had heard about all Jesus had been doing, but he himself was stuck in a prison cell. While in prison, he began to
question why he was stuck when Jesus the Messiah was on the move.As many did then and throughout history, John had an expectation as to what things
would be like when Jesus came along. His expectations were unmet, so He sends two of his disciples to meet Jesus and ask Him an important question.
Read: Matthew 11:1-6
John the Baptist had been placed in prison by Herod Antipas, who was ruler in Galilee. John had spoken out and rebuked him because of his marriage to a woman named Herodias, his brothers’ wife.
While visiting his brother on a trip to Rome, Herod Antipas, who was ruler in Galilee, had an affair with his brother’s wife, Herodias. Upon returning home, Herod divorced his wife and married his sister-in-law whom he had lured away from his own brother. John the Baptist heard about it and rebuked Herod sternly and publicly. Neither Herod, nor Herodias liked being called out in their sin.John was immediately thrown in prison. Still, him being thrown in prison was not enough for Herodias, who wanted John dead and would eventually get her way (More on that to come; Mt. 14:6-10). Herod himself wanted to put John to death, but he feared the people (Mt. 14:5).
After being thrown in prison, perhaps John thought that it would only be a matter of time before he was set free and released. After all, the promised Messiah would bring liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners (Is. 61:1). Yet after what was perhaps a year in prison, it seems that he understood that he would be executed eventually. Things weren’t going the way he had hoped. His way and plan for exit from that prison did not line up with Jesus’ way and plan…He was stuck.
We too, find ourselves in situations we never thought we would find ourselves. Asking questions that we never thought we would have to ask, in the midst of extended, unwanted seasons for no apparent reason. Knowing Jesus is on the move yet stuck personally.
The Bible says His thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are His ways your ways (Is 55:8), but how do you reconcile that today? I encourage you to do as John did, to pursue Jesus in the midst of it all.
Isaiah 55:8-9, For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
I.Check In, Not Out
Matthew 11:2-3, Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- Many in that day had an expectation of what would happen when the Messiah came, that He would lead the people in an armed revolt against the oppression of Rome.
- John’s disciples were reporting to him all that Jesus was doing, calming storms, healing the afflicted, raising the dead, and casting out demons.
- Yet as all these reports were coming to him, he remained in prison.
- Hearing about many who were being healed, touched, and changed. Jesus was on the move, but John was stuck.
- The expectations John had of what, when, and how the Messiah would operate in that day and in his situation hadn’t been realized.
- It is easy for us to have unrealized expectations as well, or to come to Jesus thinking that He should do things a certain way.
Illus. The Jewish leaders, many of which who had the Old Testament memorized, were surprised by and often in opposition to Jesus’ approach to ministry.
- John himself had already announced Jesus was the:
John 1:29, Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:27, The one who comes after (him), the straps of whose sandals (he was) not worthy to untie.
And when Jesus came to John to be baptized:
Matthew 3:14,16, John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.
- He knew who Jesus was, but his predictions didn’t line up with his affliction.
- Do you ever feel that way? What you see is quite different than the way you mapped it all out, now you are left with a bit of doubt?
Illus. I don’t know about this.
Illus. Moses and Elijah.
- When your prediction isn’t lining up in with your affliction, check in with Jesus, not out.
- Let His truth drive out doubt
- John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was truly the one they were expecting, if not, they would start looking for another.
Matthew 11:4-5, Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive 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.
- Jesus responds by telling them to report to John what you hear and see.
- Jesus quoted scripture to John that was confirmation of what the Messiah would do to ensure they needed to look no further, Jesus was indeed the Expected One.
Isaiah 35:5-6, Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
Isaiah 61:1a, The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
- John had seen it all, but he hadn’t seen it applied to himself and his situation. He began to doubt.
- Yet in getting to Jesus, he is pointed toward the only truth that can truly set him free.
John 8:31-32, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
- Faith often comes with questions, the things we all face bring us to a reality that Paul wrote about:
1 Corinthians 13:12, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
Illus. As we know them today were not around until 1835. Up to that point, what was used was polished stone or metal, that’s how a person saw their own image.
1 John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
- Through it all, there are times where doubts begin to come, with questions, and it is important to see that in the midst of doubt, we are not rejected, talked bad about, or push away; rather we are pointed back to His Word.
- Accept His invitation to trust
Matthew 11:6, And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.
- Jesus knew that the focus of His ministry was not lining up with the expectations of the Jewish people, who were longing for political deliverance from Roman domination.
- So too, there are times when His ways are not your ways, nor are His thoughts. There is so much that we long for in our lives, some of that will remain unseen in this life, but we have an eternal hope.
- Jesus’ last words to John were, blessed is the one who does not take offense at Me.
- Many, however, did take offense at Jesus.
- “Take offense” (skandalizo), is also translated “stumble over.”Here it is referring to those who stumble over Jesus because He did not meet their personal, or messianic expectations.
- John brought his doubt the Jesus, and Jesus extended an invitation to trust Him.
- There is a difference between doubt, and unbelief.
- Doubt is the struggle to believe, the journey filled with asking questions and sincerely seeking answers.
- Unbelief is a refusal to believe. An avoidance of information that might pose a problem or go against our desire.
Illus. What is in those things?
- John was struggling with doubt, and that doubt led him to Jesus, ultimately strengthening his belief in the One he knew to be true.
- Ours is a day that says, “Believe your doubts and doubt your beliefs.” I encourage you to live differently than this, to start by “doubting your doubt and believing your beliefs.”
Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.