Singleness and The Sex Conundrum

puzzle pieces

There’s a real conundrum in the life of single people in Christianity. A sex conundrum. Yep. A sex conundrum.

The church doesn’t like to talk about it.

They pretend that people don’t struggle.

But singles in the church are struggling.

Most singles are experiencing the conundrum of sexual frustration or guilt and inability to be open about it in the Christian life.

The church will talk about sex when they have someone who’s already married and has a great testimony to share regarding their past. But never do we hear from any single person who is actually struggling with sexuality at the moment. I wish they would let that kind of person preach to the singles. That’s relatable.

Or they say broad generalizations like “singleness is a gift” and to just “wait for marriage” as if it’s easy as riding a bike. The church can make single people feel like it’s not okay to be sexual at all, when there is nothing that human beings can do about the way their bodies were designed by God.

I’ve heard so many sermons on singleness and dating and not once have I heard anyone talk about the difficulties of being single and wanting to have sex.

Single people in the church are really struggling.

At least I am.

And countless other people who I know.

And no one knows who to talk to about it.

I think someone needs to start talking about it.

So I guess I’m just dang crazy enough to talk about it. : -)

This isn’t meant to be a rant! I’m just trying to process this for my own self and I know lots of others who feel the same way about this. So I hope it helps to stir thought.

The human body was designed by God to be sexual. Not only does it contribute towards procreation but it builds intimacy between two people that is crucial to a marriage relationship. Without it, married people would find it challenging to cultivate lasting attachment and affection. It rekindles intimacy between two people and subconsciously primes those 2 people to need each other and belong to each other. Thus, fostering their overall relationship. God is really smart to have designed it.

The problem is that the same body designed for this kind of sexual intimacy with a marriage partner is the same body that experiences sexual desire and arousal at an age where marriage is not culturally accepted anymore.

So if I’m single and I have sexual feelings what am I to do with that?

I know what I could do with that. I can think of a lot of things I could do with that. That’s the problem.

The church tells me I’m supposed to wait. But how do I stop my body from feeling aroused when it feels aroused?

I’ve had people tell me to get over it.

I’ve had people tell me to go exercise.

I’ve had people tell me I’m not following God enough.

I’ve had people tell me I’m not reading my Bible enough.

Let me just say…Reading a bible verse is not the antidote to sexual arousal. It’s just not. If that works for you, then that’s great! Praise God. But I’ve never experienced that to work. I just haven’t.

All I know is I’m really trying to follow God… and I know I fail all the time and am far from where I need to be… but I’ve never felt closer in my relationship with God than I do right now…I go to seminary even…the most Christian environment I could be in…and yet, my sexuality plagues me more now than it ever has in my entire life.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s my age and my hormones.

Maybe it’s other things.

But it’s still an issue I have to deal with.

So what is the antidote to sexual arousal and sexual frustration?

If the Bible tells me that I’m supposed to restrain myself until marriage, what does God expect from me?

Let’s look at the 2 hypotheticals in the Christian life: Even if a person is to follow God to the best of their ability and restrain themselves from not having sex until marriage, that person will still experience the feelings of arousal and subsequent frustration from it. They can’t escape it. On the flip side, if a person gives in and has sex, that person will feel guilt when I don’t think God wants to shame us for something He created us to feel. There just isn’t a perfect path in this. It’s difficult for everyone. And I guess each person has to figure out how to handle their sexuality while asking for a lot of grace.

Look, I know what the Bible teaches about sex and I’ve heard it my whole life. But I’m just trying to think practically about this.

I’m not here to offer up a neat perfect answer… because I don’t think there is one.

But I do know that, as a single person, there is a difference between naturally being aroused and making yourself become aroused so that you can feel what you want to feel.

I’m not going to condemn anybody for anything because I know my own self and I have to deal with my own issues regarding it. So this should be left up to each person to think through in correlation with your own time with the Lord. We need to go to God about it because He’s the one that designed our bodies to begin with. I’m sure He has something that can help us. I hope so.

The only thing comforting is knowing that God gives endless grace in the midst of sexuality.

All those who want to condemn people for their sexuality must not be very akin to their own…because that is the MOST hypocritical thing you can do it to blast somebody else for their sexuality when we know 100% that you deal with it too.

Why?

Because you’re a human being with a pulse that’s why.

Please remember that you were saved from your sin just like anybody else. Read Ephesians 2:8-9.

The good think about being single is that is most definitely contributes to a person’s maturity.

God often uses one’s time while single to refine him or her and grow us spiritually.

God does a lot in our hearts.

It’s true.

But we really need to be careful about saying “singleness is a gift.”

That is dangerous to say.

Saying singleness is a gift pretends that there are no difficulties accompanying one’s singleness.

When in fact, there are many difficulties – sex being one of them.

Singleness can be one of the most difficult phases of life.

But singleness is just a season for most.

It’s a season of life where you learn necessary and crucial lessons that you need to know before you can enter the next season of life.

And those lessons can be gifts.

Sure.

But I would be hesitant to call singleness in itself as a gift.

Rather, it’s more like preparation.

I like to look at it this way → it’s like going to get your hair done at the salon…it’s exciting and thrilling while you sit there in the salon chair. You watch the stylist while she works and you know she knows what she’s doing…that’s comforting…but what you’re really excited for is the finished product when you get to see what your hair looks like when’s it all done. But you still have to wait and sit in the salon chair and see hair fall and see the scissors cutting and you worry if it’s really going to look good when she’s all done. But when she’s done you don’t stay there in the chair. You take off the smock and you leave and you go on with your life. You weren’t meant to stay in the salon chair. It was just preparation for the final product.

So it is with seasons of singleness.

Or any other season of life.

Because, ultimately, all of life here on earth is really one big preparation for the return of Christ…the wedding supper of the Lamb…with His bride, the church.

God is working in your heart and my heart and He has things He needs to do to prepare us.

For some people, marriage happens sooner and that in itself can be preparation, which has been discussed in much of the feedback I received after publishing this blog. So I have edited this section.

My friend Jacob Jones with some great insight said this,

“I would say that the one thing I have a hard time with is the idea of singleness as preparation. It definitely helps some people to think of it that way, and it did for me at one point, so I think it’s a good perspective–just not the only conceivable one you could take. For me, when it started to sink in that marriage might not happen at all, and that people a lot younger and more impulsive than me get to be “prepared” for later life THROUGH their marriages, I started to experience some dissonoance with the idea that singleness is preparing me for something, as if God is holding out on letting me be married until I’m “ready.”

“Now, I acknowledge that the present is ALWAYS preparation for the future, but it is also what we’ve been given NOW. That frustration and pain we experience is definitely not fair, definitely not good or right, but in a Gestalt sense, the whole story of my-life-in-this-moment is good. Every instant is a complicated tapestry of joy and pain. The way God works in me through that pain is good–even though He could just as easily teach me the same lessons through joy. Why does He choose to give some of us more pain in certain seasons? I don’t think we’ll ever get the answer to that. But He is definitely good, and He is wise, and He is glorifying Himself, and we can feel great about that.

“It also helps me to think about sexual tension as a natural part of the human experience–nothing to be embarrassed about. Pain is so much less potent when you don’t resent it.”

I thought his words were too good to not include here. Thank you, Jacob.

It seems that God does very specific things through each person when it comes to singleness and marriage. Each of us has our own story and our own process of growth over our lifetime. I’m glad God is in charge of it all.

And marriage is of course a big step of faith and cultivates faithfulness and loyalty in a person that is very necessary in God’s process of making us into His image in this life.

And no matter when marriage happens for 2 people, it’s going to be a lifetime of learning and growing in the Lord.

Especially in sex, as well.

James Hibbs, another friend of mine gave some great feedback regarding sex and marriage saying this,

“People get married, and things are great, and they even have some awesome sex. Then one partner is feeling aweful, has a bad day, gets stressed out and upset, or is seriously ill. The healthy happy partner is just going to probably be doing without the awesome sexual experiences, maybe for a long time…”

Thanks for your thoughts, James. Great input. Especially relevant to real life and reminding us to love one another above ourselves like it talks about in Philippians 2:1-11. Sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want out of care and concern for the one we love and their well-being.

Marriage surely fuels those 2 individual’s spiritual growth. And teaches us what it looks like to love someone like Christ loves us. How beautiful is that.

Now there are some people who choose a life of singleness because it’s what they want – and for them, they would say singleness is a gift.

That’s great.

I’m glad for them.

But that is that person’s assessment of their own singleness.

And we can’t use that as a theological precedent for other people.

However, I do not believe that God gives certain people “gifts of singleness.” I just don’t. I believe people choose that lifestyle on their own based on their own life experience and their desires.

This is why I believe this: Paul is the one everybody cites as support for the “gift of singleness” argument because he said it’s better to be like him (i.e single) in 1 Corinthians 7:8, after he became a follower of Christ. However, it is likely Paul was married at one time, since he wanted to be a member of the Sanhedrin (Galatians 1:14) which required a member to be married. Scholars have suggested he became a widower just before his conversion. But we are forgetting one VERY important experience of the apostle Paul → he saw Jesus Christ in person!!!! Are you serious!!! If any one of us had seen the risen Lord in person, I’d say we would be fine with being single too!! Nothing would compare after seeing Jesus in person. And Paul was so on fire with a mission that God gave him to reach the gentiles that marriage at his age became not as important and that boldly comes out in his writing. This is Paul’s story. Not yours. Not mine. No one else will see the risen Lord on the road to Damascus the way Paul did and so be sent to preach to 1st century gentiles. So I think using Paul as basis for this “gift of singleness” theology is just not appropriate.

God gives everybody a choice when it comes to finding a marriage partner and if someone defers that choice then that’s, again, their own choice.

And God is kind to let us choose.

Any season of life, whether single, married, widower not anything else is ALWAYS used by God to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

Christ will use that time in your life to prepare you, draw you closer to Him, teach you wisdom and use you to help other poeple.So I have to learn to be okay with singleness right now because of the preparation it is doing for my heart.

And I’ve seen God really soften my heart over the past year. I wouldn’t want to be who I was a couple years ago. I didn’t know how to relate to people very well. I didn’t know how to show emotion or affection. I was not open whatsoever. I would never have written a post like this back then! No way. I was very guarded and insecure. God has blown that up over the past year. And it’s hurt like hell. But I’m very glad. I’m very thankful for how God is changing me. I feel like I can finally be myself and I’ve never felt more free and joyful.

So all in all, this is what I have come to in my thoughts about singleness and the sex conundrum. I still have a lot to process and each person has their own unique thoughts and experiences to bring to the table in this kind of topic. But I know that I’m going to keep fighting this fight as best I can and ask the Lord to help me when I’m weak.

God’s kindness towards us to give us a pass and help us in the midst of this conundrum is called grace. Receive it. Ask Him to help you.

I believe God is very personal.

So there is no 1 answer to this issue of sexuality.

Talk to God about it.

Talk to others.

Ask God to help you with this problem in relation to where you are at in life and what steps can be taken.

I pray for everyone and your sexuality, that God would help you and that you would know God does care and He knows it’s difficult. He’s not here to condemn you. He made you to be sexual for a reason. And He loves you no matter what. I pray God would give us strength to follow Him in a way that is honoring to Him and when we are weak, that He would give us grace. Praise God for His kindness towards us.

 

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Questions for Today:

  • How am I struggling in my sexuality?
  • Do I have anybody I can talk to about it?
  • Why is it important to believe that God is a personal God?
  • Do I believe that God cares about my sexual frustration and/or guilt?
  • Am I willing to always receive God’s grace and believe that He wants to help me?

 

Seasons of Life

seasons

Life is full of seasons.

Seasons of health.
Seasons of sickness.
Seasons of pressure.
Seasons of ease.
Seasons of excitement.
Seasons of disappointment.
Seasons of joy.
Seasons of despair.
Seasons of contentment.
Seasons of frustration.

These seasons, or cycles, of good and bad perpetuate in my life. And I’m starting to see that it’s the case for others as well.

Seasons that cultivate happiness and joy are a wonderful part of life.

I’ve experienced seasons where I felt content in the Lord, not needing anything but Him. Feeling full of peace and free from anxiety…

But as soon as I start to experience the consistency of a season of contentment, God allows difficulties into my life.

Why would God do that?
Why would God allow me to be jolted out of a season of contentment?

Wouldn’t He want me to remain content in Him?

It’s got me thinking…
There must be something in my season of contentment that is not pleasing to God.

There must be something in me that God needs to change.

And that can only be done through allowing difficulties into my life.

Thus, God ushers me into a more challenging season.

Philippians 1:6 says this:

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God is doing a work in you and I.

And that involves work in our hearts, souls, and minds because those are the parts of us that controls us.

So maybe difficult seasons are necessary to overall contentment, because God is maturing my heart, soul and mind.

Why?

Because I discover significantly more about God, about myself, about others, and about the world when I’m in a season of difficulty than I do in a season of temporal contentment.

God wants me to reach eternal contentment…in Him. And that is not possible now. But one day it will be. When we see Christ, we will have eternal, permanent contentment in the Lord and His work in us will be complete (Revelation 21-22).

So seasons are necessary.

But it’s hard to transition out of one season to the next.

Whether it’s transitioning to a season that’s comforting or transitioning to a season that’s challenging, the change in itself can frighten me.

*If I’ve been experiencing a season of happiness and contentment… and then I enter into a season of trials… I can get really overwhelmed and discouraged in that transition…

It takes me a while to receive what God is wanting to teach me and be happy about it, because of my own fleshly disappointment about what’s not going my way.

*If I’ve been experiencing a season of difficulty and depression… then I enter into a season of relief and comfort from the Lord… I can feel very skeptical and cynical at first…

It takes me a while to receive God’s invitation to find rest in Him, because of my own fleshly disbelief that anything good could happen now.

So the transition between seasons of life can almost be the hardest part in our growth with the Lord.

Because our flesh comes out in that moment of uncertainty and confusion.

And our trust in God is tested.

And we really have to depend on Him by the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:6 is one of my favorite verses. It says this,

For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.

And as we transition into a new season, we are forced to cling to the Holy Spirit for comfort and guidance because we have no way of knowing where God is taking us.

So it’s in the transition that we go to a deeper level with God.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a good season/bad season transition, or a bad season/good season transition…

Both seasonal transitions test our faith in God.

Both test our allegiance to Him.

And in the transition God teaches us something new and remarkable that we never would have been able to learn had we not been in that initial season to begin with.

Because as we look back, we gain something like 20/20 vision and our former season of life all the sudden makes sense and becomes meaningful.

Necessary actually.
It becomes necessary.
So seasons of life are necessary.
Seasons of life are unavoidable.

We cannot remain in one season of life forever.

It’s inevitable that things will change.

So how do we deal, though, in the middle of a less than favorable season?

Sure, everyone loves the season of peace and blessings…

But how do we cope in a season of difficulty?
How do we make it until we get out?
Maybe it’s not about “making it until we get out.”

Maybe it’s about letting that season run its course.

And letting God be in control of it.

As long as He wants it to last.

I’m trying to ask the Lord from now on to reveal beauty to me within a season of difficulty. 

For me I’ve been experiencing a very low season of life, which has got me thinking a lot about the ups and downs we face.

It’s been a season of discouragement, crisis of purpose, and questions of why am I here. Confusion about what God is doing plagues me almost every day. And I’ve never been more restless in my relationship with the Lord as I have in the past few months. Anxiety and pressure of everything in my life made me feel so overwhelmed that I started skipping classes. I didn’t know how to handle the way I was feeling. And I don’t like feeling that way. I don’t like feeling out of control of myself and my emotions. It got so bad that by October I stopped going to all my classes but 1. I stopped turning in my assignments. I wanted to drop out. I didn’t want to be in seminary anymore. And I will have to face the consequences of that. So I decided to change my program but I still feel discouraged about it. I just don’t know what God wants from me.

But God has used this time to really grow my dependency on Him in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

God needed to work on my soul in a lot of areas.

God needed to rip a lot of things out of me and make me deal with issues.

God needed to humble me.

God needed to remind me who He is to me.

God needed to show me how futile my life is in light of His holiness.

God needed to teach me a lot.

And I’m very thankful for His grace on me in that. But it’s hard experiencing a low season.

I feel like a complete failure.

And I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life. Now I fear that this season will never end yet I’m scared about what the next season may bring. I don’t really know how to feel. I have no idea what God is doing.

Yet I believe God allowed this season in my life for a purpose. 

I’m very thankful for what He’s taught me.

So I’m not going to keep exhausting myself trying to escape this season anymore. I need to let God leave me in the place He wants me for however long He wants. For I know that He is changing my heart for the better. And I pray He will strengthen me in the moments I’m weak.

I’m seeing now how God weaves together all the seasons of life we experience to grow us, humble us, prepare us, and pour out wisdom into our lives.

And through that, we will start to appreciate the difficult seasons.

For we learn so much more in the difficult season than we do in the easy season.

God is so smart to paint seasons here in this world.

It’s beautiful in nature.

But it’s more beautiful reflected in our lives.

Things grow in season…
die in season…
regenerate in season…
bloom in season…
…So it is with the way God cultivates the hearts of His people.

John chapter 15 says if we remain in Christ, we will bear fruit in season.

In SEASON. Not before season. Not after season. But IN season.

And each season has certain fruit God wants to produce in you.

Whether it’s humility, openness, confidence, trust, faith, generosity, discipline, surrender, etc…

…different seasons bring along unique experiences, lessons and challenges that God uses to produce fruit in us.

Despite your season of life, you will be GLAD once you see how God has changed you for the better!

So if you are discouraged right now in a difficult season, know that it won’t last forever.

Something is dying, yes, but He will regenerate the seed He planted.

Let Him.

God is good at growing things.

For He is the One in charge of seasons. He is in charge of everything. And His desire is to grow you and make you into His image.

Let Him.

I pray for you that God would remind you how actively involved He is in your life and how intentional He is about growing you into His beautiful son or daughter. I pray that you would find meaning in whatever season you are in. I pray we would all ask God to reveal to us boldly by His Spirit all that He is doing in our lives to implant wisdom and prepare us for what’s next. May we find joy in all the various seasons of life. For our God is at work. And He is good at what He does. Thank You, God, for Your kindness to move in our lives.

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

-2 Corinthians 3:18-

Questions for Today:

  • What does God want to teach me in this season of life I’m in right now?
  • How does God use seasons in our lives to grow us in maturity? to prepare us?
  • As I look back on my life, how do I see God’s hand at work through various seasons of my past?
  • Why is it difficult to transition between one season to the next?
  • How can I appreciate the seasons of life that God allows into my life?

“Shine A Light” by Elevation Worship

 

 

Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 11

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Continuing in our study of Matthew, we see this week in chapter 11 how Jesus handles confusion from John the Baptist, how He handles unrepentance in this 1st century generation, and how He cares for the broken.

Last chapter, Jesus began equipping the disciples with all they needed to begin ministry teaching, preaching, healing and performing miracles.

Now in chapter 11, they are headed out to various cities to preach when Jesus is interrupted.

John the Baptist, the one who we met in chapter 3 proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and calling people to repent, is having a crisis of belief.

Ironically, John’s crisis of belief pertains to the One whom he prophesied about: Jesus.

In verses 2-6, John the Baptist sends his own disciples to ask Jesus a question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Wow.

That’s pretty bold of John to ask that. Especially considering all He knew about Jesus. John’s even the one who baptized Him! But John is skeptical about Jesus’ identity. He wonders if Jesus is actually for real. Why? Because John is in an unfortunate situation and He doesn’t see Jesus coming to save him. Jesus isn’t restoring Israel like John expected. Jesus isn’t taking political office. Jesus isn’t reclaiming the throne. Jesus isn’t ushering in the kingdom of God the way John thought He might.

As one whose sole mission was to prepare the way for Christ, the coming king, the Messiah, it’s no wonder that John is a little confused.

He doesn’t see what he anticipated happening when the Messiah finally showed up. He thought everything would get better for Israel and that judgment would reign on the earth. But it’s not.

Not only that, but John himself is imprisoned at this time. He is in captivity under Herod Antipas, one of the 4 tetrarchs in the region who rules over Galilee. John scolded Herod, telling him it was wrong to have his brother’s wife for himself. Herod didn’t like that and threw him in jail. This is mentioned later in chapter 14, as Matthew recounts this scene in retrospect.

John had every right to be frustrated.

It’s not his fault he doesn’t understand.

No one in the story fully comprehends what Jesus is doing, nor will they until Jesus has died and been resurrected and we see the church emerge in the book of Acts.

So put yourself in John’s shoes and imagine what it would have been like to be completely in the midst of uncertainty about this whole kingdom of God stuff.

Jesus knows this.

That’s why He is so kind and gracious to John in his skepticism.

Jesus tells John’s disciples to report to him all the miracles that he is doing.

Then Jesus tells them to say, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

That’s interesting.

What does Jesus mean by this?

Why would anyone be offended?

Well, I think this just reveals Jesus’ own discernment and empathy of human weakness…Jesus can tell that John is frustrated that His methodologies have not matched what John expected…thus, Jesus can tell where this is going…Jesus can see that John, if not gently warned, will end up being offended by Jesus and how He is doing things. Jesus doesn’t want that to happen. So he tells him gently, even though you don’t understand, don’t be offended by me and you will be blessed.

This gentle warning gives John some room to struggle with his confusion but to also have peace that God will not forget about him.

This is very kind of Jesus to do.

John’s disciples go on their way and then Jesus turns to talk to the crowds of people.

In verses 7-15, Jesus begins to highly esteem John the Baptist in front of all the people.

Jesus declares in verse 11, “Among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”

Wow.

That’s pretty great of Jesus to say about John.

So I’m a little confused.

Why didn’t Jesus just tell John’s disciples to tell John all of this really encouraging affirmation that He just said?

Wouldn’t He want John to know how He feels about him?

I don’t have a good answer for this, except that Jesus apparently didn’t want John to have that encouragement at this point of time. Maybe it wouldn’t make sense to John to be affirmed. Maybe that’s not what he needed to hear. Maybe he just needed to hear the gentle warning that Jesus gave.

And I get the sense that Jesus didn’t want John to know how great he was, because he wanted John to wait for that gift of hearing that encouragement from God the Father Himself, in heaven. Jesus knew -*spoiler alert* – that John would be dying soon. We will read about this in chapter 14.

So maybe Jesus wanted John’s suffering to produce a greater moment of relief with God the Father when he met Him in heaven.

Jesus goes on to talk about heaven in the next few verses, saying that even the least person in heaven is greater than John the Baptist is on earth. So John does in fact have a far greater life ahead of him in heaven. Jesus just told us that. So maybe Jesus wants something far better for John than John even knows is possible. So Jesus doesn’t give him affirmation just yet. Only the gentle warning John needs right now.

In verse 14, Jesus also conveys to the people how John the Baptist fulfilled the prophesies of Elijah found in Malachi 4:5-6:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 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.”

Matthew is characterizing John the Baptist, literarily and symbolically, as a type of Elijah who would come to prophesy to the people before the arrival of the Messiah. The Jewish people would understand this Old Testament reference made by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel and would start to see the connection between the two, and also better understand John’s significance. Jesus wants the people to see how influential John is to the story. And so does Matthew. So he includes this passage in his narrative.

This is very smart on Matthew’s behalf because he’s aiming to reach a Jewish audience with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So he uses references from the Old Testament to weave in to his story in order to help them better understand and say “Oh, Wow! Jesus really is the One!”

Going back to verse 10, Matthew also includes a reference to Malachi 3:1 in Jesus’ dialogue:

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

Who will prepare your way before you.”

This is brilliant.

The last book of the Old Testament before we get to Matthew’s gospel is Malachi.

It leads right into Matthew.

Silence for hundreds of years.

Then Matthew begins.

And John the Baptist comes on the scene declaring the arrival of the Messiah and calling people to repentance.

So by referencing Malachi here, the reader notices that John the Baptist was indeed the one who had been prophesied about to come and also prophesy about the Messiah, who we are finding out is Jesus.

Such a great connection.

Very smart on behalf of Matthew as the writer.

In verse 15, Jesus repeats an idea we’ve already heard before: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

In chapter 5, Jesus constantly articulated “You have heard it said to you, but I say…”. In chapter 7, Jesus tells the crowds that those who “hear these words of mine will…”.

Jesus emphasizes “hearing” a lot in Matthew’s gospel which is a literary tool Matthew uses to remind the reader to pay attention, while also communicating Jesus’ desire for people who want to listen to what He is saying. Not everyone will truly hear what Jesus is saying. Only those who want to hear it. Only those who repent. Only those who are humble to admit they need saving.

Then Jesus shifts his dialogue from talking about John to talking about their generation as a whole.

In verses 16-24, Jesus first evaluates and critiques their generation and then starts to denounce places of unrepentance.

He talks about their ambivalent reaction. He talks about their disbelief. He talks about their suspicion. He talks about their wicked hearts. And Jesus is disgusted by it. He doesn’t give them grace like He did John.

Jesus gave John grace in his skepticism because it was rooted in a misinterpretation of Jesus’ methodologies and a discouraged heart based on his circumstances, but not a distrust in God.

The people who are unrepentant, however, not only distrust God but also dishonor Him.

Therefore, Jesus doesn’t handle unrepentance the same way.

When Jesus rebukes the people for their unrepentance, He does not give them a pass.

He says “woe to you!” in verse 21, concerning 2 cities and then rebukes Capernaum, His home town, in verse 23. Even His own home town, He does not give a pass when it comes to unrepentance.

Jesus cannot help an unrepentant heart.

Only those who hear him and come to Him broken and in need of Him to heal them.

In verses 25-27, Jesus gives thanks to God the Father in heaven.

Jesus thanks God that He reveals Himself to little children instead of those who think they are wise and full of understanding. Jesus always draws near to lowly people throughout the gospels, and this passage clearly communicates that. Jesus calls this God’s “gracious will” in verse 26. God in his grace makes Himself available to all people, regardless of who they are.

Jesus goes on to thank God for the authority that God has given Him. Matthew includes this monologue here for the reader to understand a little better how the Father-Son relationship works between Jesus and God. Jesus says that nobody knows Him except the Father. Jesus also says that nobody knows the Father except Jesus and also anyone that Jesus reveals Him to.

This is interesting.

Ultimately, God is in charge and gives Jesus authority. But Jesus is in charge of revealing God to humans. And nobody right now is able to fully understand who Jesus is yet. So Jesus is giving people a glimpse of God through Himself. Then later, they will understand who Jesus is after his death and resurrection, like we established before.

So it’s Jesus’ decision at this point in the story who He reveals God to. And from what He has said already about “hearing,” He is inviting all who will hear. All who are open. All who listen. All who want Him.

We know this because in the next 3 verses, 28-30, Jesus invites all who would come to Him.

Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest…Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…my yoke is easy…”.

I’ve read this passage so many times.

And I’ve never fully understood the whole “yoke” thing.

Researching more, it seems that a yoke is something that was used to pull oxen or other animals. So Jesus is using this metaphor of a yoke, while saying that His yoke is light in order to help us understand both what this looks like and what it feels like to be under a yoke.

But why would I want to take Jesus’ yoke upon me?

I’m already overwhelmed with my own.

I’m already overwhelmed with what I’m carrying in life.

That’s what I would be thinking if I were hearing this message as a 1st century Jew.

It seems that Jesus is suggesting an alternative isn’t He? The whole time He’s been preaching He’s been offering people a new message, a new way to think, a call to repentance, and a call to change our hearts. It’s obvious that Jesus has come to offer hope to people.

So if Jesus is in fact suggesting an alternative to the old way of living, then maybe His yoke isn’t about taking upon an additional thing to carry.

Maybe He’s suggesting that we drop every other yoke that we were carrying and decide to carry His instead…one that’s easy.

Maybe God wants us to stop carrying our own yokes and start carrying His.

Jesus goes on to invite the crowds to “learn from Me…and you will find rest for your souls…” in verse 29.

Key point: “learn from Me.”

Jesus wants us to learn from Him.

And in learning from Him, we will find rest as we begin to live and think in a new way.

Jesus really desires to bring rest to the people. He’s not offering them some extra thing to be believe in or extra rules to follow. He’s inviting them to come to Him. With everything. To come to Him! Only Him! And He alone will be what they need. All that they need. Life with Jesus will be a life where the people find rest.

This is what Matthew wants the reader to understand about Jesus at this point in the story.

Especially since Jesus is communicating many ideas and doing many things and offering so many viewpoints on what He sees happening around Him, it can be easy for the reader to get tired at this point.

It can be easy for the reader to be subconsciously exhausted at all that’s been articulated in the narrative that they start to disconnect with Jesus out of fear that His message is too difficult and too challenging.

But Matthew is a brilliant writer.

Matthew uses this passage to put the reader at ease.

Matthew includes this dialogue of Jesus to, yes, communicate who Jesus is – but also, Matthew includes this dialogue right here at the right time, to ease the reader and remind them that Jesus really is one who can soothe them and give them rest.

Seeing this is probably my favorite part of studying this chapter, realizing how timely this passage is to Matthew’s storytelling.

Next time, we will dive into chapter 12 where Jesus faces conflict with the Pharisees. One of my favorite passages is in this chapter when Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath even in the company of religious people who condemned Him for it. I love the heart of our Savior. He is a Savior of justice and compassion. May we not forget it.

As we close out chapter 11, we are left with Jesus’ words: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

May it put your soul at ease and remind you of Jesus’ ability to be all that you need. Praise God for our compassionate Savior. Praise God for the story we get to read about Him through the eyes of Matthew.

 

 

Summary of Matthew 11

Jesus finishes equipping his 12 disciples with instructions; Jesus goes on mission to His disciples’ cities to teach and preach there; Jesus is interrupted by John the Baptist’s disciples; John the Baptists’ disciples find Jesus and ask Him some questions on John’s behalf – John wants to know if Jesus really is who is says He is; Jesus tells them to remind John of all the miracles He has done and is still doing; Jesus affirms John the Baptist to the crowds around Him, saying there is no greater prophet then John; Jesus evaluates their generation; Jesus critiques their generation; Jesus denounces many unrepentant cities; Jesus thanks God the Father for His authority and bestowal of authority in Him; Jesus invites the people to come to Him.

 

 

Jesus in Matthew 11

Jesus finishes instructing the disciples (v. 1)

Jesus goes to the disciples’ cities to preach and teach (v. 1)

Jesus is constantly on mission (v. 1)

Jesus is dedicated and passionate about His purpose (v. 1)

Jesus is in charge (v. 1)

Jesus is doubted by John the Baptist (v. 2-3)

Jesus tells John’s disciples to encourage him in all the miracles Jesus is doing (v. 4)

Jesus is healing the blind (v. 5)

Jesus is healing the lame (v. 5)

Jesus is cleansing lepers (v. 5)

Jesus is making deaf people hear (v. 5)

Jesus raising the dead (v. 5)

Jesus is preaching good news to the poor (v. 5)

Jesus is a miracle worker (v. 5)

Jesus desires to see people healed (v. 5)

Jesus cares for people (v. 5)

Jesus calls “blessed” the ones who are not offended by Him (v. 6)

Jesus does not rebuke John for His skepticism and confusion (v. 6)

Jesus gently warns John (v. 6)

Jesus is kind to John (v. 6)

Jesus speaks to the crowds about John the Baptist (v. 7)

Jesus affirms John even though John doesn’t know it (v. 7)

Jesus calls John the Baptist “more than a prophet” (v. 9)

Jesus references a prophecy found in Malachi 3:1 which foretold about John the Baptist (v. 10)

Jesus was prophesied about by John the Baptist (v. 10)

Jesus says there is no one born of woman greater than John the Baptist (v. 11)

Jesus declares the least in the kingdom of heaven as greater than John the Baptist (v. 11)

Jesus clarifies the magnitude of heavenly existence compared to earthly existence (v. 11)

Jesus declares the kingdom of heaven is suffering violence from the time John the Baptist arrived until now (v. 12)

Jesus says that the violent are taking the kingdom of heaven by force (v. 12)

Jesus points to how the Prophets and Law (books of the Bible) prophesied until John (v. 13)

Jesus reveals how John the Baptist fulfills the prophesies of Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6) (v. 14)

Jesus exhorts them to hear what he is saying (v. 15)

Jesus always talks about “hearing” (v. 15)

Jesus evaluates this generation (v. 16)

Jesus talks of this generation by means of analogy (v. 16)

Jesus compares this generation to children calling to their friends, whom do not answer (v. 16-17)

Jesus points out how they disbelieved John the Baptist and ridiculed him (v. 18)

Jesus reveals how they did not honor John the Baptist the way he deserved (v. 18)

Jesus reveals how they do the same to Him (v. 19)

Jesus is perceptive (v. 18-19)

Jesus is bold to call people out (v. 18-19)

Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man” (v. 19)

Jesus denounces the cities where He had performed many great miracles (v. 20)

Jesus reveals the unrepentant heart of a city (v. 20)

Jesus calls out Chorazin (v. 21)

Jesus calls out Bethsaida (v. 21)

Jesus says woe to both of them (v. 21)

Jesus talks of how Tyre and Sidon were destroyed and yet would have repented faster than them (v. 21)

Jesus says Tyre and Sidon will face more bearable judgment than them (v. 22)

Jesus condemns Capernaum for unrepentance (v. 23)

Jesus says Sodom will face more bearable judgement then them (v. 24)

Jesus is very harsh on cities with people who will not repent (v. 21-24)

Jesus does not give a pass for unrepentance (v. 21-24)

Jesus shifts his discourse (v. 25)

Jesus stops talking to the crowds (v. 25)

Jesus starts talking to God the Father (v. 25)

Jesus prays to God giving Him thanks (v. 25)

Jesus thanks God for hiding things from the wise (v. 25)

Jesus thanks God for revealing things to little children (v. 25)

Jesus acknowledges the Father as ultimately in charge (v. 25)

Jesus recognizes God’s gracious will (v. 26)

Jesus gives credit to God the Father as the one who has handed all things over to Him (v. 27)

Jesus has been granted authority by God’s initial authority (v. 27)

Jesus clarifies that no one knows Him, the Son, except the Father (v. 27)

Jesus clarifies that no one knows the Father except Him, the Son, and anyone the Son chooses to reveal Him to (v. 27)

Jesus is saying that nobody truly knows who He is yet– only the Father does (v. 27)

Jesus is in charge of revealing the Father to humans (v. 27)

Jesus invites the people who labor to come to Him (v. 28)

Jesus invites the people who are heavy laden to come to Him (v. 28)

Jesus promises that He will give them rest (v. 28)

Jesus invites the people to take His yoke upon them (v. 29)

Jesus invites the people to learn from Him (v. 29)

Jesus assures the people that He is gentle (v. 29)

Jesus assures the people that He is lowly in heart (v. 29)

Jesus assures the people that they will find rest for their souls if they come to Him (v. 29)

Jesus assures the people that He is comforting if they would just trust Him (v. 29)

Jesus assures the people that His yoke is easy (v. 29)

Jesus assures that people that His burden is light (v. 29)

Jesus wants to comfort his people (v. 28-29)

 

“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;  yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.”

-Matthew 11:25-26-

 

Questions for Today:

  • Why did John’s disciples come asking Jesus if He was who He said He is?
  • Why did Jesus not tell John’s disciples all the encouraging affirmation He said about John?
  • What is the significance of the Malachi references in this chapter?
  • What does Jesus use the yoke metaphor?
  • How does Matthew use the passage about Jesus’ yoke being light to help the reader?
  • Why does nobody fully understand who Jesus is yet in the story?

 

“Great is Your Faithfulness” by Hillsong Worship