Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 11:15

The context of Matthew 11 is a question that John the Baptist sent to Jesus through some of his followers after John had been put in prison and kept hearing about the things the Messiah was doing. John wanted to know, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (v3 NLT)

John knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. He had known it from his mother’s womb, (See Luke 1:39-45). And one day after they were both grown men when Jesus approached him at the place John was preaching, John recognized him instantly as the Lamb of God, the Savior, (See John 1:29). When Jesus asked John to baptize Him, and John humbly agreed, God confirmed again the identity of Jesus, and John declared, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God”, (John 1:34 NLT).

John had heard God’s voice His whole life, but now he was in prison for speaking the truth. He heard what was happening on the outside, but he couldn’t be there, it must have been maddening. It is impossible to say what he was feeling or thinking, but he wanted to hear it again, the voice of God, from Christ Himself. “Are You the One?”

Jesus told John’s followers, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor”, (v4 NLT). That is, everything you (John) said I would be doing, I am doing. And then Jesus adds a curious statement, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me”, (v6 NIV). That is, blessed is the one who has faith even when I’m not exactly as you expected Me to be, the one who has faith even when I don’t fit into the box made of your best intentions. Jesus may have been communicating to John, and all the rest of us, to have faith in Him, to hear His voice and understand that He is Messiah, even when His ways, His timing, His decisions, or His will, doesn’t fit our viewpoint or paradigm. Don’t stumble, just trust Him. Believe.

Then, in the passage in Matthew 11, Jesus began speaking to the people about John, first from Old Testament prophecy of the one who would come before the Messiah, preparing His way in the spirit of Elijah, (See Malachi 4:5-6). Here Jesus explains the Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist. The coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the focus of the Old Testament. He is the substance of all the ritual, symbol and shadow, foretold in the Old Testament, everything pointed to Jesus. He is the “Yes” and the “Amen” of God the Father. 

1. Hearing His voice is, in part, understanding the past, the Old Testament, through His life and work. 

Then, in Matthew 11, Jesus moves from the past, the prophecies about John, to the present, and the reception of John, and of Himself. The ways people, culturally, had received God’s messenger, and how they had received the Messiah Himself. The crowds viewed John as demon-possessed, and as for the Messiah, they claimed, “He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!” (v18-19). In this, Jesus is speaking the truth about a generation, about the present condition of mankind, and He tells the people in no uncertain terms that the multitudes have it wrong about John and Himself. Then he adds, “But wisdom is shown to be right by its results”, (v19). That is, truth is truth, no matter how the culture filters it. Results confirm wisdom. 

2. Hearing His voice is understanding our current culture in light of what Christ has said and done. His words then, explain our circumstances now. His Word is timeless and true.

Finally, Jesus speaks of the future. Based on the rejection of His Love, judgment would be swift and harsh. He compares the current culture with Old Testament stories of cities that fell under God’s wrath for their disobedience.

3. Hearing His voice also includes trusting Him to hold the future. When we view the world from a sacramental perspective and see God at work in all of creation around us, His loving image reflected from the human soul, and His voice speaking all around us, we listen, repent, and trust Him to finish the work He has begun.

Jesus closes the passage in Matthew 11 with a prayer and admits that not everyone can hear God’s voice. Unfortunately, this is true. For the Father has hidden it from some and revealed it to others. Now that may not seem fair, but it is, for God is always speaking, but His voice is only revealed to those who are childlike in their faith. Those who come to Him honestly, like John the Baptist, and reveal their heart. To those He will lovingly respond, “Just look, I’m doing all I told you that I would, just believe, don’t stumble.”

But to those who are wise in their own eyes, the people that think they’ve got it all figured out, even the religiously and theologically keen and clever, sorry. You won’t hear His voice and you won’t understand, for He has hidden His Word from you, until such time as you repent and humble yourself, let go of your cares and opinions, and drop the baggage of your past. Then Jesus offers to reveal His voice to you. He says:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT.

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