In His journey, Jesus went to other places to pass on by teaching and preaching, the message of the kingdom of heaven. From place to place people heard of their need to repent and believe the Gospel. That news reached into the prison where John, the forerunner was being held for his faithful preaching. He must have been wondering when the Lord Jesus Christ would take control of the nation’s government and free them from the power of Rome. There are times when we have to be reminded of the big picture of God’s dealings with men. By our own nature we want, and kind of expect, all the changes needed to be done, to happen right now. The fact of having the whole scriptures in our hand helps us to see things going on in the world from God’s perspective.
The Lord Jesus does understand the needs that are linked with our humanity. He knew what John was looking for and He gave him a message that would assure him God was working; that his call to repentance was reaching people. The Lamb of God was dealing with sin and its consequences. John had the nation, the corporate body in mind. Jesus was changing the hearts and minds of those who made up the nation. The work of the kingdom of God was going on in the individuals. John’s vision was limited to a small nation and a small number of people. The kingdom of heaven is composed of multiplied millions of people who will all be a permanent part of the work of God and will be actively involved in that for ever. John had his call and work that was effective. He fulfilled the purpose for which he was chosen. He was greater than other prophets in that he saw the result of his prophecies fulfilled while he was still alive. He was the true forerunner, the Elias who was promised. We each have a calling. The people of God have been gifted by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit is within us; the Father and the Son are with us. So the work God intends from us is being done effectively when we do not doubt what God is doing through us. John didn’t know all the things that would take place by the Lamb of God he proclaimed to the people. People in the kingdom know Christ and also have experienced the value of His finished work on the cross. Those entering the kingdom are not taking a casual stroll into it. There must be faith and courage, determination and endurance to enter the kingdom of heaven. There will be obstacles to overcome. The Lord Jesus evaluated John and his work as a prophet and as one taking on Elijah’s role. He boldly confronted sin and he pointed people to the Lord, fulfilling his work as a prophet effectively.
The Lord then evaluated the people of that generation. Whatever He said or did, they opposed. Like children who play weddings or funerals, the Pharisees took the opposite view from His. Their cynical, skeptical attitude was because His message challenged their comfortable, self-centered lives. It is necessary when we are confronted with truth, to evaluate ourselves and see if there are changes we must make in our lives to be consistent with our message and our Christian testimony.
As I followed in my mind the activities of the Lord in that area where He did so many miracles, it became very clear to me He sees beyond the external affairs of people and looks on their hearts. Even though God has blessed us with many things, people take them for granted and before long think they deserve them. Self-satisfied and self-centered people often overlook the God of heaven and think they are a god to themselves. The phrase, “I am a good person even though I make a few mistakes,” is quite common among those we meet. Many do not like grace because they feel capable of meeting all their own needs and do not want to be dependent on anyone. Not too many every ask for mercy – not even convicted criminals. They look for others to blame for the things that have happened to them. God draws near to those who know their need and admit their guilt and accept responsibility for their own sin. When there is genuine repentance for sin and faith in Christ, God extends His mercy without hesitation or any qualifying actions.
The Lord Jesus also evaluated the need of those who are burdened down with the cares of life and have a sense of guilt for sin. His words revealed the extent of the interest and unity of the Father and Son as they act on behalf of those who are willing to come as children to Him. The self-sufficient people who are well learned in the ways of the world will usually miss the eternal blessings of God that are understood and received by faith. Those who are humble and admit their need of God, are the ones who will come to Him and find the rest they seek. He knows in an intimate way every issue and event of life we face. The Father and the Son know each other completely. When we are yoked to Him, we too can learn the intimacy of personal fellowship and communion with our Lord. He frees us from oppressive burdens and helps us to learn what His meekness and lowliness is like. He doesn’t take away the obligation and privilege of labor with, and for, Him and is able to accomplish the purposes He has for us. The yoke and burdens the Lord allows us to bear is not something that is oppressive. It is a great joy to share in the work of the kingdom with the King of kings Himself.