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Jottings

The teaching of the Lord recorded in the four Gospels is most profound, yet, at the same time, has a beauteous simplicity. The truths that He touches upon descend to great depths, like the roots of some trees which descend to great depths and spread far and wide.

Matthew chapter 11 is one which touches upon a number of subjects. First of all in verse 1 the Lord came to an end of commanding his twelve disciples (the apostles), and He departed to teach and preach in the cities. By this time John the Baptist was confined to prison by Herod Antipas, because of John's rebuke in regard to his relations with his brother Philip's wife. John heard in prison of the works of the Lord, and he sent his disciples to Him with the question, "Art Thou He that cometh, or look we for another?" It seems strange to us that this great servant of the Lord should ask such a question. Some have sought to explain the reason why John should ask such a question, having seen the sign which was divinely given to Him by God, that the One upon whom he would see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, that this One was the Messiah, the Son of God. This He had seen at the Lord's baptism, and this He had testified. Then, we ask, Why should he ask such a question now? The late Mr. Geddes's remark on this incident was, "It was bad enough for John to get into prison, but it was worse for the prison to get into John." This may not carry us very far in search for the reason for John's action, but it conveys the thought of the despondency of John's mind.

The Lord told John's disciples to go back and tell John what they heard and saw, that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. John was a great gospel preacher himself, and I would think that he would be glad to hear that the preaching of the gospel was going on.

The last words of the Lord to John were solemn, "And blessed is he, whosoever shall find none occasion of stumbling in Me." Soon after this John died a martyr's death. When John's disciples left the Lord, the Lord began to speak to the multitudes about John, and this, I think, is the only time that He spoke about His great servant. He asked them what they went out to see in the wilderness, a reed shaken with the wind, or a man clothed in soft raiment? John was neither. Was he a prophet?, yes, and much more than a prophet. He was the Lord's messenger, as spoken of by Malachi the prophet, the last of the Old Testament prophets. Then the Lord makes the remarkable statement about John.

"Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women

there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that

is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (verse 11).

This verse has presented a difficulty to many, and perhaps, what we may say may not solve its meaning. So what we are about to say is not stated dogmatically, but for consideration. We have two planes or grades of life in the Lord's words, those who are born of women, and those in the kingdom of heaven. Of those born of women of the seed of Israel, John was one. In the past dispensation God raised the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob above all other races of men. They were His by election. When the males were circumcised they could enter upon all that was the privilege of that people. John was one of these. And though a nobody in the eyes of chief men of Israel there had been none born of women greater than he. But we have a higher plane in view in those who were in the kingdom of heaven, persons who traced their birth not to natural descent, but to spiritual. The lesser of such was greater than such as were born of women.

Having stated briefly our view in our previous contribution, that what we have in the Lord's words about John the Baptist, in Matthew 11.11, was his being viewed amongst such as are born of women, of whom there was none greater than he, and of those in the kingdom of heaven, we have the difference between natural birth and spiritual. And we may say further, that a change in the dispensation is in view, from Israel after the flesh to a spiritual Israel, which is referred to by Paul in Galatians 6.16; "As many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." This is not the people of Israel in the past, but the spiritual Israel of today.

After saying that the lesser in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John, the Lord says, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force" (verse 12). Dr. Marshall in his interlinear New Testament renders the words of this verse, "The kingdom of heaven is forcibly treated, and forceful men seize it." This does not mean, as we used to hear some interpret these words, the murder of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas (he was not yet murdered by Herod), and the opposition to the Lord by the Jews. There was no seizing of it by Herod or by the Jews. It rather shows, in my opinion, the spirit of many in their impetuousness in accepting or seizing the word of John and of the Lord, without weighing up what it would cost them later on. There is always this in times of revival; some sing and shout, but when trials come they fade away, like those whom the Lord compared to seed sown in rocky places. When we think of multitudes that came to John to be baptized by him, and the many that believed on the Lord in the days of His ministry, and consider the few that were in Jerusalem waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit (about 120 names were together) we can see the great difference between the multitudes that came to John and also the many that believed on the Lord during His ministry. However, not being dogmatic as to the view I here express, I ask friends to consider what I am saying.

The law and the prophets were until John, the Lord said, which means, I judge, we have in the Baptist's ministry a new message concerning Christ who was then on earth. John had come with an Elijah's ministry of repentance and restoration to Israel, to make ready a people for the Lord's manifestation.

The Lord uses children in the market places to illustrate the generation of His day. If they piped, as at a marriage, the others would not dance, and if they wailed, as at a burial, they would not mourn. John's ministry was as at a burial, he came neither eating nor drinking, and they said that he had a demon, and the Lord's ministry was cheerful and joyous, as at a marriage, and they spoke of Him as being a gluttonous man and a winebibber. They would respond to neither the one kind of ministry nor the other.

The Lord then thanked His Father that He had hidden the things of which He spoke from the wise and understanding, and had revealed them to men whom He called babes. He also said that the Father had given all things to Him, and that no one fully knew the Son save the Father, nor did any one fully know the Father except the Son. Then He turns to the labouring and burdened men and calls them to come to Him and He would rest them. Such as came to Him could then take His yoke upon them and learn from Him, and they would find rest to their souls.