On Sunday, I am preaching on Matthew 11, when John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is the Messiah Israel has been waiting for. Jesus doesn’t answer this question with a simple yes or no, rather, he refers to an important prophecy that describes the kind of transformation the Messiah will bring.
In essence, Jesus is proving he is the Messiah by pointing to the miracles he’s done. His reference to the prophecy is important; it’s not like a fortune-teller making a lucky guess, Jesus has performed some amazing, inexplicable miracles that can only be attributed to God.
It was not only the Pharisees who misunderstand who Jesus was, but so did those who knew him. These questions are a direct result of how the scriptures were being taught. Israel had long been a subjugated nation, and that was read into the prophecies. Promises of deliverance were understood from a political perspective, that the Messiah would come and lead a defeat of the Roman Empire.
It is quite easy to read our own wants, desires, and situations into the scriptures. For example, if I were hungry, and the pantry was empty, it would be easy to read, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35), and then think that Jesus was going to provide my lunch. Now, while it is true that everything we have (including lunch) comes from God, what Jesus is actually talking about is eternal life, and he is doing it through a very clever reference to both the manna the Israelites were given by God during the exodus, as well as to the bread of presence that was in the temple.
When we come to the Word, we do well to ask some basic questions:
- Who is this about (God, me, someone else)?
- When and Where did this take place and what was going on at the time?
- Why is this important?
- What is the principle this passage is teaching?
- How do I apply this passage to my life today?
Finally, one of the most important things we must realize is that we are finite people. How we understand a particular passage might not be accurate, or even wrong. And there is always the possibility that God will answer his Word in ways we haven’t even thought of.
May God bless all of us as we study his Word and grow in our knowledge and understanding of our faith and our God!