Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 14 Logos since 31 July 2017 . The greatest among giants (Part 2)

. The greatest among giants (Part 2)

THE GREATEST AMONGST GIANTS (PART 2)

Matthew 11:1-11 (ESV): When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Introduction.

We continue the sermons on John the Baptist who according to Christ was the greatest man who ever was born of women. For this reason we have no choice but to look at this man and to see what we can learn from him. There is another reason to look at this man. Jesus said that those who are least in the Kingdom are greater than he. Now what did Christ mean by this? The context shows that the difference lies in privilege, because in human terms John was not greater that Moses or Elijah or Isaiah or Jeremiah, but he had a privilege which none of them had and that was to proclaim the immediate presence of Christ. John had the privilege of saying: “behold the Lamb”, while all others could only say that He is coming some time. Those in the Kingdom have a greater privilege as we proclaim that the Christ has come and we are also proclaiming that the King is coming again.

Now it seems like the crowd might have had an issue with the question John the Baptist had his disciples ask from Jesus, namely ‘was He the one or should they expect somebody else?’ Jesus now addresses the crowd with a threefold question regarding John the Baptist. We saw the first one of the three part question of Christ last week which I have turned into three statements regarding John.

1. John was a witness marked by heroic firmness.

 

This was derived from the question in verse 7: “As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”

We concluded that John was not a reed shaken by the wind as so many theologians and Christians are today, but he was marked with heroic firmness. But also we see that:

2. John was a witness marked by impeccable integrity.

Well, what more can those who are least in the Kingdom learn from him who was the greatest announcing the Kingdom? This was seen in two areas. We can learn an indifference towards material ease and a lack of compromise, self-denial and integrity. Now you are not going to sell books on self-denial, but for Jesus this is part of John’s greatness. Truly great people are the people who can deny themselves. True greatness understands self-denial.

Matthew 11:8 (ESV) 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.' Now they were there. They travelled all the way to the wilderness to see what? A man dressed in fine linen, soft clothing, and the latest fashion of the day. Did you go out to see just another aristocrat that you would find in kings houses? Did you go to find a man who lives a life of luxury and self-indulgence who seeks the favour of those who line their pockets and who will say anything they want.

According to Mac Arthur the background to this statement is possibly with reference to the many scribes who were attracted to Herod and would take of their usual dress which was the mark of a scribe and they would dress in a way that would impress Herod. For them it was all about self-seeking. John the Baptist would not have functioned well in the modern day Word of Faith movement. How can you compare him with men like Kenneth Copeland with his planes and gas wells and his magnificent dwelling next to the lake? How do you compare him with men like Benny Hinn who lives in a 10 million Dollar home and can afford to spend $10000 per night to stay in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world in Italy?

John the Baptist never tasted the presidential suite of his time; his cause was not comfort and self-indulgence. He lived in the wilderness and we are all well aware of his dress code and diet. His cause was not comfort or self-indulgence. He was a man so consumed by a greater cause in his own mind that he couldn't be attracted to the system.

Now we live in an area where there are many people who eat Mopani worms, now I am not into that. Now in John’s day ‘locusts with honey’ as a food was not uncommon, but it was not luxury either. His lifestyle and message by the way was a statement against self-indulgence and self-centeredness. Great people are concerned with a God glorifying goals and therefore their mission always supersedes self-indulgence. The issue is not owning stuff, of having belongings in abundance, the issue is when stuff owns you and you only feel you belong when you have abundance.

Do we have something to learn from it? Do we as those who desire to be the least in the Kingdom have an over fixation with comfort?  While nobody will deny our right to comfort, there are so many who claim to be Christian who live in this world as if they will always be in this world. Remember that John took a Nasserite vow like Samson and Samuel did which means according to Luke 1:15 (ESV) “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”

So for John, he did not care too much what he looked like, or what he owned, no his main purpose was his cause. For John it was the high road or nothing.  John’s piety was not a self-righteous piety. He was not beating himself up to demonstrate false self-denial which in the end produces pride. He did not have an attitude of ‘I’m more humble than you.. .’ No John had real character to the point that some people thought he was the Messiah. Luke 3:15 (ESV) “As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.” So for John it was about the message first and comfort and the opinions of man last.

It is not just that John is not a reed blown by the wind  and that he is not a man dressed in soft clothing that makes him great but there is a third issue here.

3.  John was a witness marked by a clear calling.

 

Matthew 11:9-10 (ESV) 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’”

 

I am astounded at John’s lifestyle and humility when we realize that here we have the man who had the greatest privilege that any man could ever have and that is to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ. In the order of procession, the King came in last and was first, but the one who walks just in front of the sovereign has the greatest honour. That honour was John’s. Now I do not want to water down our privilege of announcing the soon coming Saviour who will return again to fetch His bride, but think about it, what greater privilege can any person have than pointing to the Lamb of God in person.

 

So Jesus asks again for the third time, ‘what then did you go out to see?’, and for the first time a ‘yes’ answer can be given. We did not go to see a reed blowing in the wind, we did not go to see a man dressed in soft clothing, but yes we did go to hear a prophet. Again Jesus refers to the greatness of John. Look at His next statement. John is more than a prophet. Now try and get your mind around it. Pastor Nicki Coertze is more than a pastor. It doesn’t make sense does it, but Jesus explains; 10 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

 

Now they all perceived him to be a prophet. We see it in Matthew 21:26 (ESV) “26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”” Now there were great prophets in the past, but John was without equal.

John was more than a prophet, because he was the most dynamic, articulate, confrontational, powerful spokesman God ever had and his joy was not only to pronounce the coming King, but the present King. True greatness always matches the right man with the right position. A man could have potential greatness but if he never got into the right field he will never know that. That's why it's so marvellous when a person is a Christian because God knows what your strengths are and God through His expressed will and the Spirit of God can lead you into that which is the greatest fulfilment of that ability.

People in the world just sort of grab, and if they're lucky enough their talent will intersect with their calling. But as Christians we have God to give us that direction. So in John we see the man and his mission coming together. It was 400 years since they last had a prophet so when John came they knew they had a prophet. He spoke with power and conviction and people were changed, and there was a tremendous amount of excitement. They didn't all believe his message but they all saw he was a prophet.

John was more than a prophet because not only did he prophecy, but his own existence was prophesied about. His own coming was prophesied in Malachi 3:1 (ESV) “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

John was more than a prophet as he not only announced the Messiah. He actually baptised the Messiah.

John was more than a prophet because he did not just predict the coming of the Messiah; he actually prepared the hearts of the people for the very event, which we will see more of in a later sermon. Luke 1:16-17 (ESV) 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he (John) will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

So we have the right man with the right character. He was single minded and a man of integrity and he was a man with calling from God. Jesus presents him to us as the greatest man that ever lived that was born of woman.

What are the implications for us?

Implications

Firstly, do not take your privilege for granted. John was a man, given by God for the purposes of announcing Christ. But those who are the least in the Kingdom are greater. So John is the greatest in one epoch, but in comparison he is less than the least in another. John was the greatest as far as privilege is concerned. Do not take the privilege of being in the kingdom for granted. All of what John had, does not match up at all with what we have in Christ in the Kingdom. It is the closeness to the King of Glory that determines greatness and today it is Christ in us the hope of glory. The King has risen in our hearts and we are in the Kingdom. How much closer can you get? Do you realize that Sunday School teachers should know more than what the prophets ever knew? True greatness is being in the Kingdom, because even the least inside the Kingdom are greater than the greatest that were outside the Kingdom.

Secondly, let’s mimic the characteristics of him of whom Jesus says was the greatest man ever born of women.

Don’t bend in the wind under trials, don’t bend in the wind when all kinds of teaching come our way, don’t be double minded. Focus, focus, focus on the words of Christ, believe it and be settled in your mind that if He said it it’s all you want. Be single minded in what you believe. Guard against who you listen to and what you read. The pulpit is protected in this place; let’s protect the pulpits in our lounges as well.

Don’t exchange your scribal garment for soft clothing. Two thoughts here: Let’s beware of an over fixation with the things of this world. Those things don’t make us great, being great is being in, and when we seek first the Kingdom that we are in, God will add the rest. Secondly, let’s not be obsessed with how others view us. Let’s not like the scribes change the garment to suit the King. We have one King and it is how He views us that matters.

Let’s find our rest in the word of God. Do we realize that we have all the prophecies in our hands? We need no new prophets. God the creator of the universe has written one book and it is in our hand. We have all the prophecies not only until John but beyond John. As the least in the Kingdom we know how to live because He has given it to us. So in one sense we are more than prophets because in our hands we have that which none of them even knew, but it is all by grace.

Thirdly, be careful where you worship in the Kingdom. Wherever you go – I have one question for you. Why then did you go to wherever you have gone and what did you go to see? Ensure that in your selection of a place of worship and under whose ministry you sit that you did not go out to see a reed blowing in the wind, that you did not go out to see a man dressed in soft clothing, but that you have gone out to see a church and leaders that are single minded as far as the Kingdom is concerned, that are not into public opinion and an obsessive desire for worldly goods and who speaks the voice of God from the Word of God.

I close with an illustration from the life of Martin Luther. We would all agree that he was such a man. He was no read in the wind, he was not concerned with public opinion and the things of this world, but he changed society and the papacy in the most radical way possible. Towards the end of Luther’s life as he has lit a match in 1517 it spread to the continent, it spread across the English Channel into Scotland and England as they were infected with this reformation as people were coming back to the Scriptures. They asked Luther this question: How, did you bring about the reformation, how have you turned Europe upside down.  His answer: “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s word, otherwise I did nothing. When I slept, the words so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor inflicted so much damage upon it. I did nothing, the Word did it all.

That’s life in the Kingdom.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 11 February 2018