OK, I finally have some time here. I see Robert has answered everything: I have little to add.
John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7-18):
As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
‘ Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘ He has a demon!’
· So John was a herald of sorts to pronounce/prepare the coming of the Messiah as prophesied?
I can’t improve on Robert’s answer.
· The kingdom of heaven suffers violence? Meaning the prophets that came before that were killed by Israel? In these contexts what IS the kingdom of heaven?
Adding to Robert’s good answer— I draw from Vincent: "Christ ... graphically portrays the intense excitement which followed John's ministry; the eager waiting, striving, and struggling of the multitude for the promised king. ... This was proved by the multitudes who followed Christ and thronged the doors where he was, and would have taken him by force (the same word) and made him a king (John 6:15) ... Christ speaks of believers. They seize upon the kingdom and make it their own."
· Was John actually Elijah from the OT? Further, the phrase that accompanies this is 'who was to come.' Was this referring to an OT prophecy that stated Elijah would be coming in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah?
No, John was not Elijah himself but one in the spirit of Elijah … the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary says this plainly in Luke Luke 1:17. (In fact read from Luke 1:13-17 for a full description of what God says John’s ministry would be.)
The final book of the Old Testament contains the prophecies (Malachi 3:1; 4:5). Jesus confirms they referred to John the Baptist in Matthew 17:10-13 and Mark 9:11-13.
· Passages state 'this generation is like children...' What is the point? Is the meaning that since the Jews were spiritual children or infants even, they were incapable of recognizing what was of the Lord or was the Lord and what was not?
Robert’s answer is on target. It seemed you just couldn’t win with the Jews.
Listing of Cities (Matthew 11:20-24):
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “ Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
· Is Christ stating that these peoples, through unbelief and subsequently no repentance, have stored up terrible judgment for themselves in the time to come? Is this a case of the Jews having turned away from the word of God and therefore do not have an intimacy with the Lord's word? Subsequently, they cannot discern that the man before them, Christ, is the Messiah as promised by the Lord?
Robert’s answer is very good. To add a little: Jesus had wrought great miracles in those cities of Judah— the deaf heard, the blind saw, the lame walked, the possessed were delivered. Sidon, Tyre, and Sodom were in no way given such miraculous demonstrations of God’s presence and power as were those Jewish cities Therefore these Jewish cities who rejected Christ would suffer a worse fate than those pagan cities. This was a terrible and repulsive thought to the Jews who believed they were special above all nations on earth. (They were special, in the sense that God had chosen Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob to bring forth Messiah and bless the world. They just thought it meant they were superior human beings who would rule the world.)
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
“ Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
· Is the first part of this passage a good example of how Christ would pray to or praise God the Father? Subsequently, would this be a good example of how we should pray?
I cannot add to Robert’s excellent answer.
Matthew 12 - Plucking Grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12: 1-8)
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘ I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
· Christ is that something greater than the temple...correct?
· Christ desires compassion??? As in keeping with the new covenant that will be established soon (at that point in time)?
Nothing to add to Robert’s answers here. He is spot on the money.
Jesus Heals the Man with the Withered Hand (Matthew 12:9-14):
Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “ Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “ What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
· Is this getting at the type of relationship we are to have with Our Father in Heaven? Meaning, He is accessible anytime...sabbath or not?
Again Robert’s answer is, as I always expect, on the mark. I might add that when you are ready for a deep Bible study, the Andrew Murray study on Hebrews is online in the Bible Q&A section of this forum. I highly recommend it to those who are ready to move on to a VERY “meaty” study of what Christ did for us, what He is doing for us now, and how we should walk that out in our daily lives.
But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
18 “ Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;
My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased;
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 “ He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “ A battered reed He will not break off,
And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
Until He leads justice to victory.
21 “ And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
· I am having trouble with this passage. Christ ordered those he healed not to make it known who he was in order to fulfill what Isaiah has prophesied. And that prophesy is about Christ is it not? He is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham by the Lord...correct?
Robert’s answer is, again, good. But I would add this: At this point, Christ was still preaching the Kingdom of God. He was manifesting the works of Messiah (how could He not?) but it was not yet time for Him to be offered as the sacrifice for man’s sin. He was well aware that the Jews would seize Him and attempt to make Him an earthly king over Judea, because that is who they were expecting: a super hero leader who would throw off the yoke of Roman oppression and make the Jews the rulers of the earth. This, of course, would have totally derailed God’s plan as we know it now to be. So it was important, as much as possible, that the word of these miracles not spread too far, too fast. Christ could neither afford to be caught up in a revolt, nor afford to spark one that would bring down the wrath of the Roman Empire on Judea.
Read Robert’s article— The "Unforgivable Sin": What to do if you think you have committed it. It is one of the best I have read on this topic. It will clearly explain the passage.
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:22-32):
Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
“ Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
[INDENT]· Would blasphemy against the Holy Spirit = Rejecting the conviction of the Holy Spirit that Christ is necessary and true?
Good/Bad Fruit (Matthew 12:33-37):
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
· I understand the concept of fruits and what not. My question revolves around the following. If we are in Christ, then our hearts are good and that is what will come out of us...good fruit. Correct? Further, if someone is not in Christ, then their heart is bad. Correct? Therefore, is it even possible for a person in Christ to even deny Christ before others given that their heart is in Christ and they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit? In a similar fashion, is it even possible for a wolf in sheep's clothing to pronounce to be in Christ when they...at their core...are not?
I’ll just tack a bit more on to what Robert has said. If we are truly Christ’s, then yes, our hearts are good and what will come out of us will be good fruit. But bear in mind that we have both the old nature with which we were born and the new nature which is implanted in us when we were reborn (ie: born again.) In order to kill the old nature we need only to feed the new nature. That new nature will kill the old all by itself. Some without that new nature can imitate it for a while; but, as Jesus said in Matthew 7:18, a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Therefore, “By their fruit you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16-20).
Signs (Matthew 12:38-42):
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “ An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
· Is this saying that the because that generation had forsaken or left the Lord in favor of legalism/man made things that they were not capable of recognizing the things that the Lord was completing in accordance with His will and promise?
Robert’s answer is good. I would only add that, as you can see from the context, the scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied with all of the miracles he was doing: healing the sick, delivering the demon-possessed, etc; they wanted to see some huge sign to prove to them who He was. He said that the only sign they were going to get was the sign of Jonah … which pictured, in type, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection three days later. In other words, He was saying that the real sign of His Messiahship would be His death and Resurrection.
He then states that the pagans in Nineveh will condemn the religious leaders of Judea in the Judgment because the people of Nineveh had more wisdom than did the Jews: namely, they repented at the preaching of Jonah and Jesus was far, far greater than he, yet they would not heed Him. Then He adds to that by saying the pagan Queen of Sheba would condemn the Jews at the Judgment because she traveled so far to hear Solomon’s wisdom and they could not be bothered to hear Christ’s wisdom offered right in their midst.
“ Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
· Is this passage speaking about Israel and the Jews?
I hope this helps. Robert is a good teacher and a man who loves God and understands His Word. I just wanted to expand a little on a couple of his points.
Yes. I agree with Robert … with one exception: I fail to see how what he says (and what Christ said) “sinks OSAS”. As Robert himself said, they are “those who only show outside conversion and were never serious about repentance.” Based on that, then they were never saved in the first place.
We should not forget that while this passage speaks about Israel it applies not just to that nation but to individuals. We cannot refuse both Satan and God. There is no middle ground. If we ask God to clean us up but do not want the Holy Spirit to live in us with His influence (dare I say “demands”?) on how we should live, we are much worse off than if we had never been cleansed in the first place. Only God living in us can preserve us from the power of the evil one. And God will not live in us if we do not want to heed Him.