Heaven & Hell

A second type or group of people Jesus introduces us to here in Matthew 11 are those who are Indifferent. The Indifferent has no particular interest, sympathy or concern for the Lord, His church, or the world in need. (Matthew 11:20-24) Jesus turns to the crowd and asks do you remember the unrepentant cities? Matthew 11:20~Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. (ESV) Woe to you, Chorazin! Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. (Matthew 11:21) Jesus is referencing for us a town so close it’s like saying Newport, and then He references a town that’s really important to some of the disciples because they have family who lives in Bethsaida. Bethsaida is the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (John 1:44; 12:21). 

This is the region where Jesus performs many miracles, including the only miracle recorded in all four gospels—the feeding of the 5,000. God’s judgment on Bethsaida, the location of this miracle (Luke 9:10), is so severe no one knows where it was located, except it was close to the Sea of Galilee. Chorazin has also ceased to exist. Jesus says if the miracles He performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in wicked cities, people would have turned to repentance. (Matthew 11:21) Tyre and Sidon were ancient cities between the mountains of Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Isaiah 23 records a prophecy against them for they were infamous in wickedness and immorality. God destroyed those cities because they just refused to turn. And now, Jesus says if His miracles had been performed there, they would have responded as Nineveh. Jonah 3:5~The people of Nineveh believed in God, and they declared a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. (NET)

Jesus’ use of the phrase more bearable makes it clear there are degrees of eternal punishment in hell. Matthew 11:22~ But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (ESV) He also makes it clear those who know the most about Him and yet reject Him, will receive the most severe punishment. Listen to the list given in Revelation 21:8~But the cowardly (δειλοῖς δειλός), the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (NIV) And first on that list is (δειλοῖς δειλός) the cowardly, fearful. Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. We are either one or the other. 

Each time we see a list in the Bible, we should always take notice of what comes first on the list. In a list of sins, the worst, or most offensive is typically listed first. First in this list are people who know about Jesus, know He is the Messiah, the only begotten of the Holy Father, but are too spineless to take a stand for Him, vacillating. That is the worst kind of sinner. Don’t be a coward! Stand for Jesus Christ. 

Today, I want you to pray about taking a stand for Jesus Christ. For you, this may be calling a family member or loved one and telling them about Jesus. Even if you have done it before. Perhaps you need to pray with a co-worker who keeps coming to you and you listen, but do not share your faith. Maybe you will meet someone on the isle of the grocery store, standing in the checkout line, or it could be your server. I want you to be proactive, be bold, not pushy, and allow the Lord to lead, He will give you the words to say. Try Him, today.

The Castigate

In Matthew 11, Jesus says there is a group of people among us that are the toughest people to please. We are calling them simply the Castigate. Jesus compares them to children who, no matter what was being played, the people just refuse to participate. Notice the word used in verse 17. Matthew 11:17~We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. (ESV) What Jesus is referring to is both John the Baptist and Himself, Jesus. Both of their ministries were entirely for the Lord, and yet they were both different in their approach. Jesus says in Matthew 11:18~For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! (ESV) John lived a very solemn life. He didn’t go to parties, his diet consisted of grasshoppers and honey, living out a visual proclamation against materialism and self-indulgence. (Matthew 3:4) saying to us in Matthew 3:2~Repent, for the kingdom of heaven, is at hand. (ESV) 

John’s message and lifestyle were like a funeral song, calling for us to mourning over our personal sin, which leads to repentance. However, Jesus says most responded to John the Baptist by saying he is just deranged or has a demon. (Matthew 11:18) In contrast, Jesus came as one who eats and drinks celebrating life (Matthew 11:19), and they call Him an overeating drunk. How do you celebrate Thanksgiving or even a wedding? Do you gather for funerals and tell stories as you reminisce and celebrate the life that was lived?

So, if I am reading this correctly, John gets rejected by his generation because he doesn’t have enough fun and Jesus gets rejected by the same generation because He has too much fun. Wow, seems Kenny Loggins was wrong, it’s not your momma and daddy, but the boys don’t dance and the girls don’t rock-n-roll. Jesus said the Jews just would not play. Anyone who takes the time to look and consider the righteous lives of John the Baptist or Jesus Christ will see two men who love the Lord with all of their hearts and wanted everyone they met to get to know Him as well.

If we were to look through the picture window of your life, like looking into a store, or a restaurant and witnessed all of the activity and controlled chaos, of what would we take note? Would you be all business-like John, or celebrating life like Jesus? Neither is wrong. Moreover, would your love and passion for God be self-evident? In both the lives of John and Jesus, many people were coming to hear what they were saying about God. This says to us that people took notice of how the Lord was working on in and through them to draw people into a relationship of repentance that leads to salvation. Today, why not take a quick inventory of how you live, of who the Lord has brought by your fruit stand and how you can better serve the Lord, just by taking time for them.

Those with Ears

In Matthew 11:15, Jesus says,~He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (ESV) This tells us Jesus demands a response. If you have ears, you are included. This week, we are going to consider the three different responses people have to Jesus as we look at the topic of people who have ears.

The first group ate the Castigate (Matthew 11:16-19). By definition, it is to reprimand one severely. Do you know anyone who always seems to respond critically, even raising their voice to be emphatic? When they speak, it’s like a reprimand. They seem to know better than everyone else and these individuals are faultfinders. No matter what Jesus says or how many miracles He performs, many people are still so critical. Therefore, Jesus looks to his audience, asks what should we compare His generation to. Almost in the same breath, He answers His own question. Matthew 11:16~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: (ESV) Like kids playing in the park. 

Listen, there is a big difference between being childish and being childlike. The Bible never says be childish. Though Jesus does teach us that we are to possess faith like a child. Matthew 18:2-3~He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV) This does not mean that we are to be childish. The point is, faith is meant to be simple, and not calculus. Matthew 19:14~Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV) 

Because Jesus and John’s generation is being childish, or immature, they are disobedient. Like a spoiled willful child, Jesus says in Matthew 11:16-17~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children…calling out to others: We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. (ESV) As a parent or grandparent, do you remember trying music, games, even new stuff and the attitude returned was just simply awful. I know Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1~To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (KJV) But I don’t remember this on the list.

Children of that day often played wedding and funeral games. It’s not as bad as it sounds. You may remember playing Red Rover, a game in which you ask a different king to send you a soldier, Blindman’s bluff, or Ghost in the graveyard. Moreover, you probably never consider those nursery rhymes where tails were cut off, babies fall out of breaking trees or a really catchy one about the bubonic plague, all because you have a pocket full of posies. In Jesus’ day, weddings and funerals were the two major social events of their culture. The children would mimic adults by performing mock weddings and funerals. In your adolescence, Prince got in on the action when you were searching for Purple Rain. Saying Dearly beloved…we have gathered…to get through this thing called life. I bet the beat of that song let you get crazy. 

Why not take a page from both our text and our youth and just go crazy as you worship the Lord today. Put on that toe-tapping music and worship the Lord while no one is looking. I bet He gets right in there with you. May the Lord bless you today with His presence.