Matthew 11:1-6 “Shall We Look For Someone Else?”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 25 Mar 2012


11:01 And so it was that Jesus finished orienting His twelve disciples.

He transitioned from there to teach and preach in their cities.

11:02 Then John, having heard while in the prison about the works of Christ,

sent [word] through/two of his disciples 11:03 [and] said to Him,

            “Are you the Coming One, or shall we anticipate another?”

11:04 But answering, Jesus said to them,

            “After your trip, report to John the things which y’all are hearing and seeing:

            11:05 Blind men are seeing again, and lame men are walking around,
            lepers are being cleansed, and deaf men are hearing, [and-MT]

            dead men are being raised up, and lowly men are getting good news,

                        11:06 so who ever is not scandalized by me is blessed.


Mat 11:1  And so it was that Jesus finished orienting His twelve disciples. He transitioned from there to teach and preach in their cities.

και εγενετο οτε ετελεσεν ο ιησους διατασσων τοις δωδεκα μαθηταις αυτου μετεβη[1] εκειθεν του διδασκειν και κηρυσσειν εν ταις πολεσιν αυτων

Diatassw – Strong’s definition: to thoroughly arrange, organize, appoint, set in order

In Chapter 10 we saw Jesus’ orientation session:

·         The pairing up of the twelve disciples,

·         Instructions about what to do and say,

·         How to interact with receptive and unreceptive people in each town,

·         Warnings about the hardships and what to expect,

·         Reminders of how precious they are to God, and of the blessings that would follow,

·         And how they need not be afraid to confess Christ.

Now, He’s done instructing them, and there is an interlude as the disciples go out on their first tour.

Jesus apparently goes with certain disciples –

Why use two words, “teach” and “preach?” After studying extensively the use of these two words throughout the Bible, my conclusion is that teaching was done with those who are familiar to you – friends and students, whereas preaching was done before public audiences who are not close to you relationally. I think that what I’m doing here in the pulpit is best described by the Biblical word “teaching,” since I know you all, but if I were to stand on a street corner in Aggieville and yell out a gospel message, that would be “preaching.” Both are part of a healthy expression of faith.


Mat 11:2  Then John, having heard while in the prison about the works of Christ, sent [word] through/two of his disciples

‘ο δε ιωαννης ακουσας εν τω δεσμωτηριω τα εργα του χριστου πεμψας CTδια MTδυο των μαθητων αυτου

·         It’s been a while since we’ve heard about John the Baptizer. He introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God and baptized Jesus back in chapter three, then in chapter 4, he’s thrown in jail by King Herod because Herod didn’t like the way John publicly denounced the king’s many sins.

·         In 9:14, we see disciples of John asking why Jesus’ disciples go to feasts with ungodly people while they – the disciples of John – fast.

·         Now John himself seems to be having second thoughts about Jesus being the Christ.

·         Back in Luke 3:15, the people asked John if he was “the Christ,” which is a Greek phrase meaning “the anointed one,” and, since prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil in the Old Testament, this title of “the Christ,” amounted to calling him the ultimate religious and political leader; it is the equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.”

·         John however had said, “No, I’m not the Christ; the Christ is still to come.”

o       He used another title which meant the same thing to him as the title “Christ;” this title is “the Coming One” – the one who is characterized by coming.

o       This title, “The Comer” is closely paralleled by Isaiah’s title “Emanuel” – “God with us”

·         In John’s mind, however, Jesus has not done what he expected the Messiah to do. John had a ministry of pointing out people’s sin and calling people to turn away from their sin, so he figured that the “Coming One” – “the Christ” would do the same thing, but to an even greater degree.

o       We saw John’s prophecy back in Matthew 3:11-12 “…the One who is coming after me is more powerful than me… He will baptize y’all in the Holy Spirit and in fire, to where the winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor, and He will gather together His grain into the storehouse, but the chaff He will burn in an unquenchable fire.”

·         So John is saying, “Where’s the hell-fire, Jesus? Man, I thought you were here to wipe out all the sinners with the mighty power of God! Why haven’t you done that yet?!!”

o       Jesus had not overthrown wicked King Herod who had thrown John into prison -

o       He had not even freed John from prison;

o       Instead, Jesus had been travelling around proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is near.

o       Does that mean that Jesus was some kind of second fore-runner to the real Messiah, and that the real Messiah was yet to come?

·         Matthew, mind you, does not support John’s doubts. Matthew does not say that John heard about the works of “Jesus” while he was in prison, but that John heard about the “works of the Christ” while he was in prison. Matthew was convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, even though John was having second thoughts.

·         Now, since John is in prison, he can’t exactly go and ask Jesus himself about his doubts, so he sends word through some of his disciples who were free to travel and ask his question for him.

o       If you have a KJV Bible, it reads that there were exactly two disciples sent by John, and if you have a NAS, ESV, or NIV, it doesn’t say how many disciples were sent. This is due to a difference among the Greek manuscripts. The later copies of the Greek New Testament have the word “two” (duo) before the word “disciples,” but the Greek word for “two” is only one pen-stroke different from the Greek word for “through” (dia), which is what most of the older manuscripts have. The context supports both meanings: the word “disciples” is plural so there were probably two of them, and John was sending a message “by/through” his disciples, so I don’t think either manuscript tradition is wrong[2].

Mat 11:3 [and] said to Him, “Are you the Coming One, or shall we anticipate another?”

 ειπεν αυτω συ ει ο ερχομενος η ετερον προσδοκωμεν

·         John asks Jesus if Jesus is “he that should comeKJV/the Coming oneNKJ/the one who is(was) to comeESV,NIV  (I think the NAS steps too far out of line by translating the Greek participle erchomenos as “expected” instead of “coming.”)

·         As I showed earlier from Luke 3, this title “The Coming One” was the same in John’s mind as the title “Christ” or “Messiah.”

·         Why does John call the Messiah “The Coming One”? (Word Study)

o       A thousand years previously, King David wrote a psalm prophesying about the Messiah and calling Him “the One who Comes,” saying “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. This has been done by the Lord; and it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made: let us exult and rejoice in it. O Lord, save now: O Lord, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who Comes in the Name of the Lord...” (Psalm 118:22-26 LXX)

o       Then a few hundred years later, the prophet Daniel prophesied from Babylon about the coming Messiah, saying, “I beheld in the night vision, and, see, one coming with the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man …” (Dan. 7:13 LXX)

o       So later on when the crowds in Jerusalem wanted to hail Jesus as the Messiah, they used this title that David and Daniel had used, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLES­SED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna/save us…!” (Mat. 21:9)

o       Coming and interfacing with people on earth is a characteristic of Jesus:

§         He came as “the angel of the Lord” many times throughout the Old Testament and spoke with Abraham, Joshua, Moses, Hagar, Baalam, Gideon, Manoah and his wife, Elijah, David, and Zecheriah.

§         He then came in the form of a man when he was born of the virgin Mary and made disciples and died and rose again and ascended into heaven. But that coming ended around 30AD.

§         Yet the scriptures written after that time indicate that He is still coming: “…in a little while, the coming one will come, and will not delay. (Heb. 10:37 NAW)

§         And so the archangels in heaven in the Apostle John’s Revelation proclaimed Jesus, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty One, the One who Was and the One who Is and the One who is Coming.” (Rev 4:8 NAW, cf. Rev 1:4-8)

·         If Jesus is not this One who is Coming, then our thoughts should naturally turn to another. John asks, “Shall we look for/expectNIV/anticipate someone else?”

·         The Greek word translated “look for/expect” is προσδοκωμεν which is a compound the two words “pros = to/toward” and “dokew = to think.[3]

o       In Psalm 119:166, David used this word, saying, “I looked forward to your salvation, O Lord…” (LXX)

o       and Luke 3:15 uses this word to describe the people in Judea “looking forward” to the coming of the Messiah.

o       It was part of the faith of the Old Testament believers to look forward to God’s coming:

§         to that “seed” of the woman who would “crush” the serpent’s head (Gen. 3),

§         to that descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who would “bless… all the families of the earth,” (Gen. 12)

§         to the greater “prophet” that Moses said would come after him, (Deut. 18:15)

§         to that descendent of David who would reign as king forever, (Isa. 9:7)

§         to the one that Zechariah (9:16) prophesied would “save” His people

§         and that Micah (5:4-5) promised would “be our peace.”

o       It is part of Biblical faith to mentally engage with expectation for God to provide deliverance from evil, and blessing, wisdom, leadership, salvation, joy, and peace – because God promises to deliver on these things.

So How does Jesus answer this man John who so boldly confronted sin and yet now is having second thoughts about believing in Jesus?


Mat 11:4 But answering, Jesus said to them, “After your trip, report to John the things which y’all are hearing and seeing:

 και αποκριθεις ο ιησους ειπεν αυτοις πορευθεντες απαγγειλατε ιωαννη α ακουετε και βλεπετε

·         Most English translations render Jesus’ first word merely, “Go,” but since it is a Greek participle, there’s a lot to it that’s hard to bring across in English. It indicates a personal concern for these par­ticular disciples. With this word, Jesus recognizes that they have given of themselves out of love for John and out of love for the truth of God to travel from Jerusalem up to Capernaum, find Jesus, and ask a question for John, and then that they would have a long trip back home after­ward in order to report back to John. This kind of consideration is characteristic of the love of Jesus.

·         Jesus does not directly answer the question with a “Yes I am” or “No I’m not.” He instead says, “Tell John what you hear and see.”


 What were they witnessing?


Mat 11:5 Blind men are seeing again, and lame men are walking around , lepers are being cleansed, and deaf men are hearing, [and-MT] dead men are being raised up, and poor men are getting good news,

 τυφλοι αναβλεπουσιν και χωλοι περιπατουσιν λεπροι καθαριζονται και κωφοι ακουουσιν [καιCT] νεκροι εγειρονται και πτωχοι ευαγγελιζονται

·         Jesus wasn’t saying anything that John didn’t already know, for v.2 tells us that John had already heard about the kinds of works (or miracles) Jesus was doing.

·         Do you ever ask God for wisdom and get no answer? Could it be that the answer is obvious to you and God doesn’t want to insult your intelligence by treating you like a baby and explaining things to you that you already know?

·         I remember a story by a popular preacher named Ken Davis where he was on a bus, and somebody sat down next to him and started crying. Ken’s first thought was, “God, should I try to talk to this person and share your Good News with him?” No voice came out of the sky to tell him that he should, but Ken still felt that he probably should talk to the guy. “God, if you really want me to talk to him,” he prayed, “have him pull out a handkerchief.” Out came the handkerchief. “Oh wow, this is getting serious,” Ken thought, yet he didn’t really want to talk to this person, so his next thought was to pray, “God if you really want me to talk to this person, please turn the bus driver into an armadillo!” It should have been obvious. God did not have to do any miraculous sign to get Ken to talk to this grieving person, all Ken needed was to be in fellowship with God and respond to what God was doing around him.

·         Jesus, in effect, said to John, “Look, cousin, you’ve heard that Blind men are seeing again, and lame men are walking around, lepers are being cleansed, and deaf men are hearing, dead men are being resurrected, and your disciples have seen this with their own eyes. Isn’t that confirmation enough that I am the One you’ve been looking for?

·         The fact that marvelous miracles happened was a pretty strong reason, but these miracles in particular were prophesied hundreds of years in the past to be signs by which the people of Israel could recognize the man who would be their Messiah. These key words (underlined) are found in the Greek Septuagint translation of the prophet Isaiah’s book which Jesus and His disciples had access to:

o       Isaiah 26:19 The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall be raised, and they that are in the earth shall rejoice: for the dew which comes from You is healing...

o       Isaiah 29:16-20 Are you not considered as the potter’s clay? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, You didn’t form me? or the work to the maker, You didn’t make me wisely? Is it not yet a little while, and Lebanon shall be changed as the mountains of Carmel, and Carmel shall be reckoned as a forest? And in that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and… the eyes of the blind shall see, and the poor shall rejoice with joy because of the Lord, and they that had no hope among men shall be filled with joy. The lawless man has come to nought, and the proud man has perished, and they that transgress mischievously have been utterly destroyed…

o       Isaiah 35:2-10 …my people shall see the glory of the Lord, and the majesty of God. Be strong, you limp hands and feeble knees. Comfort one another, you fainthearted; be strong, fear not; behold, our God renders judgment, He will yet render it; He will come and save us. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall speak plainly; for water has burst forth in the desert... There shall be there a pure way… a holy way; and there shall not pass by there any unclean person… but the ones redeemed by the Lord shall walk in it… and come to Zion with joy, and everlasting joy shall be over their head...

o       Isaiah 42:3-24 A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench; but He shall bring forth judgment to truth. He shall shine out, and shall not be discouraged, until He has set judgment on the earth: and in His name shall the Gentiles trust. Thus says the Lord God… I have given you for the covenant... a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring those bound and those who sit in darkness out of bondage and prison. I am the Lord God – that is my name.  I will not give my glory to another, nor my praises to graven images. Behold, the ancient things have come to pass, and so will the new things which I tell you... I have been silent, yet shall I always be silent and forbear?… be utterly ashamed, you who trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, ‘Y’all are our gods.’ Hear, you deaf men, and receive sight, you blind men… pay attention to the things which are coming to pass. Didn’t He give to Jacob up to spoil, and Israel to them that plundered? Did not God do it against those who sinned?

o       Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of judgment…”

o       It was part of the calling of the Messiah to cleanse/purify – not only lepers but – all sinners, for leprosy was a symbol or type of sin: Ezekiel 37:23-28 (LXX) “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols. I will deliver them from all their transgressions whereby they have sinned, and I will cleanse them. And they shall be to me a people, and I the Lord will be God to them. And my servant David [speaking of Jesus, the promised descendent of David] shall be a prince forever in the midst of them: there shall be one shepherd for them all, for they shall walk in my ordinances… and do them... And I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them... And the nations shall know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them...” (cf. Malachi 3:1-5)

·         And as we look at the Gospel accounts, Jesus clearly did these things:

o       Jesus healed two blind men, as recorded in Matthew 20:34

§         Mark records two more who were healed (8:24 & 10:51),

§         and in John 9, Jesus heals another blind man, saying (v.39) “I came into this world in order to judge, so those who do not see might receive sight, and  those who see may become blind.”

o       In chapter 9, we saw Jesus command the paralyzed man lowered down through the roof to walk, and that man got up and carried his bed home!

§         Still later, in Matthew 21:14, Jesus heals another lame man in the temple of Jerusalem. (See also the paralytic healed in Jerusalem in John 5)

o       Throughout the Old Testament, lepers were sent away to live apart from the people of God, but Jesus instead cleansed lepers and brought them among the people of God – we already saw Jesus do that in Matthew 8. (Jesus healed ten more lepers in Luke 17.)

o       In Matthew 9:33, a deaf/mute man was healed by Jesus so that he could hear again

§         and in chapter 12 we’ll see Jesus heal another demon possessed man who was both deaf and blind.

§         Mark 7:32 records another one who was deaf, but could speak a little, who was healed by Jesus.

o       In Mat. 9, we saw Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter after she had died.

§         Jesus later resurrected Lazarus from the dead after he had been put in a tomb for 3 days (John 12).

o       And Jesus also preached good news to the poor and lowly in the beatitudes: (Mat. 5:3) “Blessed are the ones who are lowly in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

o       Just before the feeding of the 4,000, in chapter 15, Matthew testifies that, “large crowds came to Him [Jesus], bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute (deaf), and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. (NASB)

o       Those of use who grew up on Bible stories might be tempted to think of this as ‘ho-hum’ because we’ve heard it so many times, but really, this is staggering that a man named Jesus did all these things in fulfillment of prophecy. There can really be no doubt that Jesus is the one referred to by Isaiah’s messianic prophecies. Nobody else has ever done all this.


·         Did you notice, however, that there were things in Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus didn’t do?

o       He has not transformed the physical landscape of the earth (Turn Lebanon into a mount­ain and Carmel into a forest, exalt every valley and make every mountain and hill low),

o       He has not brought all law-breakers to justice and destroy all the proud and sinful people,

o       He has not released all captives,

o       He is not ruling as the only shepherd, the princely king forever.

·         These were the things John had not seen Jesus do, and that’s what was shaking his faith. He’s really asking Jesus, “Can I trust you even though you have only half-fullfilled the Messianic prophecies?”

o       Are you my Lord if all you did was make some blind people see… but you haven’t released me from prison?

o       Are you worth following if you raised some dead people… but you haven’t fixed my nation’s corrupt government?

o       Are you good enough for me if you are gentle with humble people… but you haven’t put the evil people in their place?

·         We could go on to ask things like:

o       Should I worship a God that forgives my sins… but leaves me with a debilitating disease?

o       Can I align with a God who reveals truth to me, but allows me to barely eke by financially?

·         Jesus’ answer to these questions is to say,” Hey, look what I’ve already done! Now, connect the dots into the future, and trust me!”

o       If Jesus has begun to fulfill the work of the Messiah by healing several deaf, blind, leprous, and dead people in such a spectacular way, then we can be assured that He is indeed the Messiah and that He will complete the work of the Messiah in the course of time.

o       You can trust Jesus to bring perfect justice to everyone who has wronged you – if not now, then by judgment day.

o       You can trust Him to make a new heaven and new earth where everything is right again.

o       And You can trust Him to run the perfect government and fix every problem you are currently experiencing; you just wait and see!

Jesus follows up and says:


Mat 11:6 so whoever is not scandalized by me is blessed.

 και μακαριος εστιν ος εαν μη σκανδαλισθη εν εμοι

The Greek word in this verse is σκανδαλισθη, and it’s where we get the English word “scandalize.”

·         It’s original meaning was a “tripping hazard” – something that people might trip and fall over.

·         Figuratively then, it represented something that presented a relational barrier, a stumbling block, something that people might take offense at, or, as the NIV puts is a reason to “fall away” or back off from a relationship and keep some distance because you think you might not like it or you might get hurt.

·         That’s exactly what John was struggling with, and, if we’re honest, most of us struggle with how much we can trust Jesus ourselves.

·         “Blessed/happy is whoever is not scandalized” over the way Jesus has chosen to operate – who is not tripped up by the fact that He hasn’t yet finished fulfilling everything that the Messiah is promised to do yet.


1 Be Patient during the time of God’s grace

Are you like John? Did God wire you to be able to notice when people break God’s laws? Do you have a passion for calling people to do what is right and bringing justice against what is evil? Does it bother you that God doesn’t immediately punish people when they do wrong? To all you “John’s” out there, one application of this passage is to make room for God’s grace – don’t be scandalized by it.

·         Whenever I would drive through downtown Denver or down I-70 through Missouri, I used to pray that God would send lightning to destroy the so-called “adult” bookstores I saw on the side of the road. How could God allow such filthy places to exist? Girls are being exploited and men’s hearts are becoming twisted in these establishments, and marriages are being destroyed! Why doesn’t God just end them right now? In only one case did I ever see one of those establishments struck by lightning and put out of business. I’m afraid I was being impatient like John. In more recent years I’ve changed my prayers to pray for God to save someone every time I pass by one of those places. I think this prayer is in line with God’s will, but I’ll have to let you know when we get to heaven what kind of results I’ve been getting, because I can’t see the results of these more recent prayers very easily here.

·         Whatever it is that makes you impatient for God’s justice to come, don’t let it trip you up. Pray and make room for God’s grace. The fact that He doesn’t destroy the earth with intense heat today means He is saving someone else today, for “He is patient… for all [who] come to repentance,” says 2 Pet. 3:9.

2. Don’t imagine that anybody is better than Jesus.

·         Of course we who are Christians know that Jesus is the Messiah and that He really is the One sent by God to save us from our sins and that He is coming back, but, remember, we are also supposed to still be looking forward to His coming!

o       How often do we find ourselves looking forward to someone or something else to help us and give us joy or comfort?

o       How often do we find ourselves in the position of John, thinking, “Man alive, I have not seen as much deliverance from evil and blessing and leadership and joy and peace as I’d like to have, maybe there is somebody else I should turn my attention to who could give me these things.”

o       Oh don’t turn your eager gaze away from Jesus, brothers and sisters!

o       In 2 Pet. 3:12-13, the Apostle Peter commands us to be “looking forward to and hasten­ing the coming of the day of God, when the heavens [and earth] will be destroyed by burning, and… looking forward to new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness resides.” (NAW)

o       We are to be looking forward to Jesus’ second coming and anticipating the joy and peace and freedom from wickedness and wonderful leadership that will be ours then when His righteousness dominates.

[1] Matthew’s variety of vocabulary in describing Jesus’ movement with ekeithen is interesting:

[2] In Greek, the words for “through” and “two” are very similar, both words being three letters long, starting with “d” followed by a vowel composed of one or two vertical strokes, and ending with a round vowel, so confusion among hand-copied manuscripts is understandable. According to Nestle-Aland, “two” is the reading of the majority of Greek manuscripts and of the Vulgate, and “through” is the reading of א, B, C, D, P, W, Z, Δ, Θ, and f13. The KJV, which followed the Textus Receptus, which followed the Byzantine majority, therefore reads “two” while the NAS and ESV follow the UBS critical text which closely follows א & B, and therefore read “by.” The NIV omits the word entirely.

[3] Strong’s and Thayer’s Lexicons trace the root of προσδοκωμεν to a different Greek word dokeuw, which Strong says means “to watch,” but I cannot find that word anywhere in the LXX or GNT, or even Strong’s or Thayer’s or Perschbacher’s or Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek-English lexicons, so I’m skeptical.