TODAY’S READING: Matthew 11
Jesus yet commands us to teach and preach (Matt. 11:1). We are to teach the full counsel of God and resist the temptation to end up with a sum zero effect (a neutral, even neutralized, Jesus) by so combining His complementary characteristics that we in effect have a nothing God. We can be so offended at who Jesus actually is that we adjust our message among the nations so we don’t offend anyone (v. 6), so that we don’t irritate those from other religions. For example, what is trendy is to focus on the parts of Jesus we like (v. 29) and blur the problematic (vv. 20–24).
In explaining John the Baptist’s role, Matthew quoted Malachi 3:1 which predicted an Elijah-esque prophet who would prepare the world for the advent of the Messiah (v. 10). This Messiah will come authoritatively in glory and power to judge all the nations and forcibly set up His eternal kingdom. Matthew essentially said that John was that Elijah; Jesus will make the same comparison later (17:11–13). Matthew’s point was that John and Jesus both appear in eschatological context: the coming of the Messiah, the setting up of a kingdom that will include all nations, the fiery judgment on all peoples who resist the rule of King Jesus, and the violent establishment of the Kingdom on that day. We must remember that neither John nor Jesus viewed the Kingdom in terms of something earthly or even as kingdom influence (as many do today). John and Jesus viewed the Kingdom as that literal great day of the Lord when the Messiah comes in wondrous power, coercing all to worship (that have not yet bowed the knee), slaying all enemies before Him, fire in His eyes and sword in His hand, literal death, literal judgment, literal hell, literal heaven, real, tangible, physical, and violent.
We cannot make the mistake of moralists and liberals who confine Jesus to a gentle iteration of a benign deity that accepts all peoples on their terms. The message of John and the destiny of Jesus is a violent, physical coming of the Messiah to earth, a forcing of all to worship Him, and the establishment of a kingdom will include from all among the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). Just as John the Baptist was rough and unpolished, just as he met a violent end, so history will unfold before us in violent fashion and will culminate in a violent Jesus ending all violence with the greatest act of violence in history. It is not reverent to remove violence from the character of God, nor the future actions of Jesus. The Kingdom of heaven will come violently, and Jesus will establish it by force (Matt. 11:12). This was why Jesus warned Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum of judgment and woe, the very fires of hades (vv. 20–24). Because the King will come with violence.
Yes, Jesus beckons the weary and tired (v. 28). Glory to His Name! He is gentle and lowly. Praise be to God! We can and will embrace that reality without relinquishing that He is coming to violently judge the wicked, coerce all to worship, and cast those who reject Him to eternal, literal hell. A violent view of Jesus enhances our wonder of His gentleness. A gentle view of Jesus enhances our view of His violence. To have Him as He is, we must have both, and so must the nations. All peoples, including Saudis, must bow in reverent worship at the feet of Him who is both astoundingly gentle and authoritatively violent.