With what kind of news headlines might the tabloid press have reported Jesus’ ministry?
‘Jesus’s Former Publicity Manager in Doubting Dungeon’ (Matthew 11:2-15)
John the Baptist was bothered. Incarcerated in Herod’s prison, he had plenty of time to brood on what visitors had told him (Matthew 11:2-3). Had he perhaps mistaken Cousin Jesus for the long-awaited Messiah just because of that spectacular descent of the Spirit of God upon him from opened heavens right after John had reluctantly baptised him in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17)? From what his own disciples were telling him, Jesus didn’t fast regularly as they did (Matthew 9:14) but dined frequently with the sort of disreputable characters that John had denounced (Luke 3:12-14), such as tax-collectors, and had healed a servant of a Roman soldier (Matthew 8:5-13). So, John sent them to ask Jesus directly (Matthew 4:23-25; 9:35-3 8). He replied: ‘[T]ell John what you hear and see ’ (Matthew 11 24-6).
As they left, he again addressed the crowd. Three times he asked them a question about
John: ‘What did you go out … to see? ’ (Matthew 11:7-9). His questions implied that: (i) John’s
auditorium was rough (‘into the wilderness ’, not a palace); (ii) John himself was tough
(not ‘a reed shaken by the wind who had worn ‘a garment of camel’s hair and his
food was locusts and wild honey ’, Matthew 3:4); and (iii) John’s message was gruff (like ‘Elijah ’,
Matthew 11:14). But what truth did they really ‘hear’ in his preaching ( Matthew 11:15)?
‘Not Child’s Play’ (Matthew 11:16-l9)
Jesus went on to compare ‘this generation’ to children playing weddings and funerals!
‘lt’s my turn to be the bride. Why am I always the corpse?’ and ‘lf you don’t dance when
I play the Wedding Waltz, l’m taking my flute home right now!’ Jesus said that they had
dismissed John as too mournful and austere, but they might also react to himself as a
mere party-goer. However, he comments, eventually ‘wisdom is [vindicated] by her
deeds’ (Matthew 11: 19). So how will they respond to what are they now about to hear‘?
A thunderous denunciation (Matthew 11:20-24)
Jesus immediately launched into a John-type denunciation of the cities of Galilee that had
failed to understand how his miracles demonstrated that he is the Messiah ‘who is to
come ’ and that ‘the kingdom of heaven ’ that John had foretold was ‘at hand’ (Matthew 3:2) had
now actually ‘come upon you ’ (Matthew 12:28) Pagan cities such as Tyre, Sidon and Sodom
would have ‘repented in sackcloth and ashes ’ if they had witnesses such miracles.
Sodom’s only testimony to God’s rule had been Lot’s exemplary conduct; but
Capernaum had seen lepers cleansed, the blind, deaf and lame healed, demons expelled
and the dead raised. So, they’d better beware for there still is ‘wrath to come ’.
Only the childlike can be trained (Matthew 11:25-30)
Straight after this oration, Jesus ‘closed in prayer’: ‘I thank you, Father ,… that you have
hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed then to little children’
(Matthew 11:25-26). Then he ‘gave an appeal’; since only he can ‘reveal the Father ’, so ‘Come
to me Take my yoke and learn from me’ (Matthew 11:27-29). To the childlike his pace of
partnership training will be ‘gentle’ – provided that with ‘violence ’ they ‘take it by force’