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Approaching the Judgment of God | Matthew 11-12

As preached by Zach Thompson.

1) Don't ignore the work and warnings of God (11:1-24).

2) Instead, come to Jesus and find rest (11:25-12:21).

3) There are no other options (12:22-50).

Matthew 11-12 | Approaching The Judgment of God

Good morning everyone. If you have your Bible, and I hope that you do, we will be in Matthew chapters 11-12 for our sermon today.

For our public reading, we’ll read chapter 11, verses 1 to 24. If you are able, please stand in honor of the reading of God’s word.

“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. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

19 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Let’s Pray

When my dad was in middle school, he did a bad thing. We don’t have to go into the details, but it involved his fist and someone who pulled what at the time was his long blond hair. The end of the semester was only a few weeks away, so they let him know that he didn’t need to come back to school for the rest of the year, and my grandfather assured the principal that my dad would definitely learn his lesson. Enter what our family knows as “Camp Thompson.” The summer that we have all heard about. It was an entire summer of hard labor where my dad was required to wake up before 6am and work until about 6pm.

My grandfather woke up early to go to work, and he would wake up my Dad and give him a task like hauling piles of wood from one side of the yard to the other side of the yard. No particular reason for moving it. Just because. They regraveled their driveway that summer, and the gravel guy said that he could spread it across the driveway for free, but my grandfather said, “No, I’ve got a guy for that.” And he handed my dad a shovel.

Every day, my dad knew that if the task wasn’t done when my grandfather got home from work, then it would be a fearful thing.

He knew that he deserved the punishment. And he also knew that he was on a clock. There was a defined point in time when he would either be judged faithful to the task or faithless and deserving of further punishment.

The Bible paints a similar picture around the judgment of God. All throughout the Bible, we see this promise that there is a defined point in time. A specific moment in the future. When all of mankind will be judged.

We’ll stand before God and he will say one of two things. He will either say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Or he will say, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”

This is real. It’s a promise of God.

I’m not trying to be inflammatory or a hellfire and brimstone preacher. It is what it is. God promises that there will be a day of inescapable judgment.

And that is what Matthew chapters 11-12 addresses. How do we approach the Judgment of God?

This is the question I want you to ponder as we begin. On that day, when all of your sins are laid bare, how will you approach the throne of God?

We see our first point in that text that we read for the public reading. This is the point.

  1. Don’t ignore the work and warnings of God (11:1-24).

We see this demonstrated in 11:1-24.

There are a lot of things we could pull from this text. Jesus calls John the Baptist the greatest among those born of women, but in this text, we see John doubt. Even the best of us here can’t expect to be free of it. In John, we see an example of suffering for the cross of Christ. There is an example to follow here. Jesus speaks so highly of John, but he waits until John’s messengers are gone, so John probably never heard the glowing things that Jesus says about him here. It may be that you are suffering quietly, and you don’t see it, but Jesus is smiling down at your faithfulness.

But none of that is the main point here.

The main point is this. They ignored the work and warnings of God, and now there is only judgment for them. John came preaching repentance in fulfillment of the Scriptures. And Jesus came doing mighty works of God in fulfillment of the Scriptures. And they missed it. They rejected him. They acted like it was just another Tuesday. Another flash in the pan that would be done in a few weeks.

And that is a fearful thing.

Look in verses 13-14. “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

If you are confused by that, then you are normal. Why is Jesus talking about Elijah here?

He’s referencing Malachi 4:4-5. These are the last prophetic words in the Old Testament, and every God fearing Jew would have been familiar with them. This is what it says. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

That’s it. End of the Old Testament. It was the final prophetic word from God before a silence that lasted hundreds of years and was finally broken by the ministry of John the Baptist and the coming of Jesus.

The promise is that he would send Elijah the prophet and that if the people didn’t repent, then he would come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

And Jesus is pointing to John the Baptist, and he is saying, that promised one–Elijah– that was John the Baptist. And that other quote in verse 10, where it says Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” Jesus was the one that John was preparing the way for.

And they ignored him. They didn’t repent. Sure, there were crowds following him, but the cities remained unchanged. And what was the promise from Malachi? What would happen if they didn’t repent?

“lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Look down in 11:20. “Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! [these were cities where John the Baptist and Jesus had ministered.] For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” Then he goes on to say something similar to Capernaum.

They ignored him, and as a result, they were promised judgment. The one that they had waited so long for. The one who their souls hungered for. They rejected him.

Think of man walking in the desert. He has been walking for days and days. He is withered, starving, dirty, and he has used the last of his water. Over the past several days, he started seeing mirages–images of an oasis where there was water and fruit. At first, he was excited and ran toward them, but by now, he knows that none of them are real and he hardly looks at them. Today, as he walks, he looks into the distance off to his left, and he sees a caravan that isn’t too far off. He is convinced that his mind is tricking him when he sees the cool water that they are drinking and the food that they are eating for their midday meal. He is convinced, though, that none of it is real. But this time, there really was a caravan. And his salvation was right there. It was real. But he was convinced of his hopelessness, so he keeps walking without turning aside to his salvation.

Don’t be like these cities. Don’t be like this man in the desert.

Your soul is hungry for it, and it’s real.

Walking away from Jesus means walking toward death. Did you hear what Jesus mentioned when he was pronouncing judgment against those cities? He took for granted that there is a day of judgment when all of us will stand before the judgment seat of God, and we will give an account.

So don’t ignore this.

Maybe you hear this little story about the man in the desert, and you can feel it. Is your soul weary? Are you scared that if you walk toward God right now, then it will prove to be just another mirage?

Listen, don’t ignore the work and the warning of God. If you are listening to this sermon, then God is working right now. He is warning you right now.

Jesus is the promised Messiah who came to take away the sins of the world. And all who believe in him are counted as righteous in the eyes of God. They are given a real and eternal relationship with God. All that is required of you is that you rest in him. Just rest in Christ, and you will find life. Like that man in the desert, just shout out in your need, and find salvation. And that is our next point.

Don’t ignore the work and warnings of God.

  1. Instead, come to Jesus and find rest (11:25-12:21).

We see this in 11:25-12:21.

So Jesus has just finished proclaiming Judgment on these cities, but what does he follow it with? Look in 11:25.

“25 At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’”

Even as he warns of a coming judgment, Jesus is pleading with all who would hear.

Come to me. Find rest for your soul. Stop striving and hiding from the truth. Jesus will be gentle with you.

We preach about judgment because judgment is real. It’s in the Bible. We can’t ignore it.

But don’t think that because we trust God’s promise of judgment that we don’t also trust God’s promise of gentleness.

Come and find rest for your soul. I’m gentle and lowly in heart.

Are you scared that if you really open your soul to Jesus that he is going to take a sledgehammer to everything inside? Rest assured, he won’t leave things the way they are.

When we come to Jesus, he doesn’t look in our heart and say, “Oh wow, this place is nicer than I thought.” No, the whole thing needs to be torn down and put back together.

But he is gentle. He is the soul energizing rest that you were designed for.

Genesis 1. God created in 6 days, and on the 7th, he rested. He entered his sabbath rest. And he is still resting.

And the promise of Jesus is that when we trust in him, we enter into that rest. Jesus is our rest. He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

That’s the point that he makes in 12:1-8. His disciples are picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees get mad about it, and Jesus reminds them that David broke the Sabbath when he was fleeing from Saul in 1 Samuel 21. He broke the Sabbath, but you know what? God doesn’t say anything about it. And he didn’t just break the Sabbath. He ate bread from the temple that wasn’t lawful for him to eat. Bread that was made holy because it had been in the temple–in the very presence of God. But God doesn’t say anything about it. And the only way the Pharisees could have justified that is by saying that David was God’s anointed. He had a special favor in the eyes of God. And Jesus kills two birds with one stone here. Look in 12:6. I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus is saying, I am greater than King David, and I am greater than the temple. I am the Lord of the Sabbath.

There is so much here for us to meditate on. This Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. He is our rest. He is great david’s greater son. The one who God promised would have an everlasting kingdom. This Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple. The temple was a shadow, but Jesus is the substance.

The Sabbath, the king, the temple. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of them.

What does all of this come together to show us? The sabbath is the rest given by God to his people. The temple was the place where God’s presence dwelt with his people. Jesus is the person who encapsulates both. In Jesus, we have the rest of God and the presence of God.

And it’s for us.

It’s for all who would come to him. Look down in verse 20. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Friends, this is for us. Do you feel bruised this morning? He won’t break you. Do you feel like your fire is almost out? He won’t quench you.

He is gentle and lowly in heart.

So just take a moment now, and pull back from just listening. Engage with this. Let your heart feel this truth.

Jesus loves you. He really does. It’s not just a quaint thing you say to kids. And he will be gentle with you.

Several years ago, our family was at the pool. My oldest daughter Lana wasn’t able to swim yet, but she really wanted to be in the water so she would cling to the side, and I remember standing up in the water and beckoning her to let me hold her so that we could be in the water together. I didn’t even need to swim. I was standing up in the water, and I had my arms reaching out to her. But she was terrified of what might happen if she just let go and let me hold her. So she clung to the side.

Eventually, I walked over to her, and I wrapped my arms around her, and I spoke gentle and reassuring words to her, and I started to pull her away from the side of the pool, but she fought. She started to thrash her arms and shout “No! Stop it!” And I put her back where she could grab the ledge, and I remember looking into her eyes and seeing sheer terror.

And I remember a sinking feeling in my chest. My heart broke at that moment because I wanted to comfort her. I wanted her to feel just how much I loved her and how much I would do to protect her.

Are you clinging to the ledge today? Scared of what might happen if you just let him hold you?

He is gentle and lowly in heart. And my desire to comfort and love and protect my daughter is like drop in an ocean next to his love for you.

Do you think that he would be rough with you? The one who laid aside his eternal glory and took on human flesh and died for you? Do you think that he would try and break you?

Are you thrashing around in his arms because just won’t let go of that one thing?

He loves you. And if you are in Christ, then you can rest in this. You are already his. He’s holding you, and the only that you need to cling to is the one who already has you in his arms.

Our final point is this.

  1. There are no other options (12:22-50).

There are no other options. You will live in the life and rest of Jesus, or you will live in death and fear because of rebellion against God.

There are no other options. Rest and life. Or fear and death.

We are either in the kingdom of God or we are in the kingdom of Satan. That is what Jesus lays out in 12:22-30.

Jesus has been traveling through towns and cities healing everyone who comes to him and casting out demons, and then we see 12:24. “But when the Pharisees heard it [that people were wondering aloud if Jesus was the Messiah], they said, It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

And Jesus basically says, why would Satan do that? That’s so dumb. How could his kingdom stand if he did that? And if that’s what I do, then what about those Jewish exorcists? What power do they use?

Then verse 28, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of god has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus isn’t casting out demons by the power of demons. He is binding the enemy so that he can take a people for himself. Jesus is asserting his authority and making the prince of the power of the air tremble.

Jesus is binding the enemy and plundering his house. So let’s ask a question. What was in the enemy’s house? What was in the house of the strong man?

We were! Or if you aren’t in Christ, then you are still there.

There are two houses. Two kingdoms. The kingdom of the Son who has all authority and power. And the kingdom of the enemy who is doomed to destruction because of rebellion.

Jesus plunders the house of the enemy by calling people to himself. He breaks the power of sin.

That’s why he gives the warning about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in verses 31 and 32. “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

This isn’t just about speaking a rash word. This is a rejection of God. If you are already trusting Jesus alone for your salvation, then this warning does not apply to you. The Holy Spirit beckons us to come to Christ, and speaking against him is resisting that call.

There are no other options. If someone isn’t in Christ, then there isn’t hope for them. That’s the entire point of what Jesus is saying. Come to me and find rest. Find hope. Stop your striving. Stop your hiding. Stop resisting the call of God.

That’s why Jesus gives warnings all throughout this section.

  • Verses 31-32, Don’t resist the Holy Spirit.

  • Verses 33-37, Don’t ignore bad fruit. Your words reveal your heart. So when you find your words revealing sin in your heart, then repent. Don’t ignore your own sin.

  • Verses 38-42, These pharisees were acting like they wanted another sign, but people have literally been raised from the dead. The blind see. Demons are being cast out. Jesus literally just healed a man with a withered hand right in front of them. Back in the day of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented, even when Jonah didn’t offer it as an option. The queen of Shebah came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and he wasn’t even the Son of God. Don’t act like it isn’t a big deal when God is warning and working. Because your judgment will be more severe for it.

  • Verses 43-45. Don’t try to get the benefits of Jesus without the person of Jesus. Just because you act good for a little while doesn’t mean that Jesus is dwelling in your heart. If Jesus isn’t living there, then whatever was there before will probably come back with a vengeance.

There are no other options. Come and find rest.

Then in verse 46, while Jesus is still speaking, he is interrupted. Someone barges in and tells him that his mother and brothers are outside wanting to talk to him.

And Jesus captures the moment to teach the people who are around him. In verse 48, he says, “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

There are so many ways that we try to make excuses and try to trick ourselves and others. But Jesus cuts through all of it.

“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Are you doing the will of the Father? Then you belong to Jesus. Brother and sister and mother. All of us who have faith are made into the household of God. An eternal family that is bigger and better than anything our culture can fathom.

But what does it mean to be doing the will of the Father?

Think back to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus laid out what it looks like to live as one of the people of God. He showed us our hearts and our sinful proclivities.

And do you remember the starting point for all of it? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Spiritual bankruptcy. This is where we all start.

Bankrupt. You have no way to pay your debt. There is only red on your ledger. Hopeless.

We come to Jesus hopeless.

If you hear commands in scripture, and you think, “Boy, I have got it together.” Then you are wrong. You don’t understand your own nature, and you are deluded.

We can’t swim. By ourselves, we’ll just cling to the ledge and keep falling under the surface.

Don’t pretend like you have it all together. All of us will walk through circumstances in life that remind us of our deep Spiritual need. One of the reasons that God allows to walk through that kind of pain is so that we will be reminded of our need for him.

Are you struggling with some sin that you feel like you can’t overcome? You think you’ve beat it, then you find your heart seeking it again when you least expected it. Anger, lust, greed, self-exaltation. Jesus says to you, come to me, and you will find rest for your soul.

Are you wounded by some kind of grief, and the pain is still so near that every off-hand comment feels like an accusation or a thoughtless stab to your heart? Jesus says to you, come to me, and you will find rest for your soul.

Have you lost relationships? Are you scared that you would lose relationships if you listened to Jesus? Jesus says to you, come to me, and you will find rest for your soul.

We could list examples all day. Moms at their wits end because dad is being too passive. Husbands who are bitter because they feel undervalued everywhere they go. Friends who feel abandoned. Daughters who feel unprotected. Sons who feel unloved.

You’ve lost relationships. You’re tired. You feel alone. You feel like you’ll never have a normal life again. You’re scared.

To all of us, Jesus says the same. Come to me, and you will find rest for your souls.

There are no other options.

You can rest in Jesus and find life.

Or you can live in fear as you run from him and find death.

So how will you approach the judgment of God? In rest? Or in fear?

Let’s pray.


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