THE KINGDOM SUFFERING VIOLENCE
Matthew 11:7 ¶ And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Let us first interpret the meaning of the words in verse twelve used in our title. The Greek word here translated, “suffereth violence” is the exact same Greek word translated “presseth” in Luke 16:16. Strong’s Exhausted Concordance defines it as, “to force; to crowd oneself (into).” It is as if you have the elevator doors open and there is a wall of people. But you are late for an appointment, so you push yourself into the wall of flesh, forcing them back into one another so that you can get on. You have violently forced yourself on to the elevator. So the elevator people have “suffered violence” due to your action! This is the same response to the Holy Spirit revealing their lost condition to those sinners previously under the laws strict commands.
Consider these verses for a farther interpretation, for in them is listed those who ‘violently’ force themselves into the kingdom of god. Matthew 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
These confessed, realized sinners pushed past the traditional morality of the pride-filled religionists, determining not to miss the redemption of grace offered to them in both John’s and Jesus’ preaching! So they went into the kingdom before the self-righteous religionists. Here is another example of this:
Luke 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! He both seeks them and saves them! Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. But those who refuse to admit to themselves that they indeed, are sinners have no such benefit from him! John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Just as a person who refuses to go to the doctor because they fear that they had cancer, so they would not admit it. Therefore they die of cancer! Only confessed, realized sinners shall be saved by the Lamb of God! Take note of the three “If’s” in this following verses: 1 John 1:8 ¶ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Now in verse seven of our context we see the words, “And as they departed.” To whom does this refer? In verse two of this chapter we see that it was two of John the Baptist’s disciples. And being sent by John to the Lord drew a great “multitude.” Therefore the Lord took this occasion to curb the fleshly excitement concerning John in order to sober the minds of those with “inordinate affections,” which religion commonly involves. Therefore he asks them the question, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see?” And he gives three answers before he instructs them in verse fourteen exactly what they did see!
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken in the wind? – There were many reeds in the “much water” where John was baptizing. John 3:23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. Therefore as his custom, the Lord used the visible things of nature to reveal the invisible matters of the spiritual. Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
But what did he mean? He was instructing them that John’s preaching was the unchangeable truth! His was not the “every wind of doctrine, by which the immature are “tossed about!” Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
His was the consistent, unwavering truth! Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. 2 Corinthians 1:17 When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? 18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
The sheep of God are warned against this. 2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 ¶ And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. The Lord wanted all to see that the true gospel minister does not aspire to the elite. He does not ever use his spiritual calling to “feather his own nest!”
How did the Lord Jesus just identify himself to John’s disciples? He identified himself by his ministry to the poor! Matthew 11:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. – that is, rich in grace!
1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Here is how the entire army of gospel ministers, throughout the entire gospel age are described to the Apostle John: Revelation 11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. Ezekiel said he sat in the same condition as those to whom he ministered. Ezekiel 3:15 Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
And you only have to read Amos 7:10-17 to see this confrontation between Amaziah, the “White House priest,” and Amos, the truly called man of God. Amos 7:10 ¶ Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. 12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court. 14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: 15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. 16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
John the Baptist is said to be “more than a prophet.” For the ‘personality’ and mission of the Old Testament prophet ended with the appearance of John. He was more than them as his ministry was prophesied by them. The Lord Jesus even quotes the passage of Malachi’s prophesy of John in verse ten of our Matthew eleven text. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. He was quoting Malachi 3:1. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
And he was more than any other prophet as he was the one man in the entire world who, being chosen as the Forerunner, could look at this Human form and say, this is very God! And it was by a unique and very special revelation of the Holy Spirit given exclusively to John! John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. John 1:31 And I knew him not: (that is by personal acquaintance), but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Then the Lord stated that John came to fulfill the prophesy of Elijah coming to reconcile the old fathers with the new borned again believers. For in verse fourteen of our text we read, “This is Elijah!” For Elijah was not to appear in person, but John appeared in the “spirit and power of Elijah!” Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
But dear Reader, it is just as unique for the present day believer to believe as it was for John to say, “This is the Lamb of God!” For to do so still requires a revelation of the Holy Spirit to the soul of the sinner! V.11 notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Christ is revealed unto those “babes” born into the kingdom by the new birth! Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Matthew 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
John was the “porter” to open up the way for the sheep to come to the Great Shepherd. See John 10:1-3.
Pastor Gene Breed
September 23, 2022