Advertisement

For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Bible Difficulties)

posted by Mike Nappa

When John the Baptist was in prison and heard that Jesus was nearby, he sent his disciples to ask of Christ himself: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

Why did he ask this question?

Legendary preacher John Wesley explained John’s question as a manipulative teaching exercise. John sent his disciples to ask this question of Christ, Wesley decided, “Not because he doubted himself, but to confirm their faith.”

Huh.

I suppose that contrived explanation could be true; after all John Wesley has been right on many other counts. But it appears that there was really only one (obvious) reason why he asked the question: John wanted to know if Jesus was the one who was to come.

Advertisement

You see, John the Baptist was, in some ways, a victim of his own mistaken expectations. Jews of his time—John included—expected a militaristic Messiah, a political power who would rain judgment down on enemies of righteousness. John himself had preached that the Messiah’s “winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). John’s faith in the Messiah was defined by his expectation of God’s judgment on evildoers—especially folks like Herod Antipas and all his minions. But Jesus didn’t fit those expectations, and meanwhile John sat decaying in prison, waiting for Christ to wreak his wrath.

Theologian George A. Buttrick explains John’s predicament this way: “The waiting fretted his soul…Doubt grew chiefly on the fact that Christ did not fulfill either the hope of the Messiah as nationalistically interpreted, or the picture that John himself had drawn.”

Advertisement

Bravo for John that, instead of stewing in doubt and frustration, he decided to go directly to the source of faith to find out for himself the answer he needed. When he heard that Jesus was nearby, he sent his disciples to ask of Christ: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). I wonder if you and I would have the courage to do the same with Jesus today.

 

Works Cited:

[GSM, 104-106; CBC, 925; IB7, 379]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 11:2-3 reported that, while in prison, John the Baptist heard about what his Jesus was doing, and wanted to know more. What Matthew didn’t report was the conditions John endured in prison.

Historians tell us that John the Baptist was imprisoned in the castle fortress of Machaerus, located just east of the Dead Sea in Judea. King Herod Antipas (also known as Herod the tetrarch) had committed sins of marital corruption and John the Baptist preached publicly against the king’s immorality. Antipas exacted vengeance, locking John up indefinitely in the dungeon of his fortress.

Although we don’t know exactly what John’s prison cell in Machaerus was like, we can make a reasonable guess about this kind of “Roman hospitality” based on the Tullianum prison in the center of the city of Rome (where Simon Peter would later be jailed). The only prison in Rome proper, Tullianum was “a conical, windowless chamber of rough-hewn tufa, the only entrance to which is a hole in the floor of the room above.” According to historians, “Prisoners were flung through this hole into the prison, and on occasion left there to starve and rot.” A Numidian king named Jugurtha was imprisoned here in 104 BC, and his first comment was that it was unbearably cold.

Advertisement

In Machaerus, it’s likely that John’s prison cell was comparable to Tullianum—and the Baptist suffered more than a year imprisoned there, until he was unceremoniously decapitated in his cell simply to please the whims of Antipas’ cruel wife, Herodias (Matthew 14:1-12).

 

Works Cited:

[GSM, 101-102; ZB1, 71; ARF, 78]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Bible Difficulties)

posted by Mike Nappa

 

Matthew 10:23 quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This appears to be a reference to the second coming of Jesus—and it clearly didn’t happen. So…how do we make sense of that? Theologians offer several theories:

  • Jesus was promising to appear to his disciples after he raised himself from the dead. This interpretation assumes “Jesus was promising that the disciples would witness the eschatological coming of the Son of Man…at his resurrection.”
  • Jesus was promising to return to his disciples as the living presence of his invisible Holy Spirit, a promise which was fulfilled dynamically at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13).
  • Jesus was indicating a “continuing mission” to Israel over the ages, and was offering “comfort to the mission-disciples about their ultimate salvation unto the end…the mission to Israel will not conclude before the Son of Man returns. There will be a continuing mission to Israel alongside the mission to the Gentiles.”
  • Jesus was referencing his future second coming, millennia away, but “he was not saying that the Twelve would personally see this. Rather, he means to instill a sense of urgency in the mission to Israel by stating that it will not be complete by the time of his return.”

 

Advertisement

Works Cited:

[HAC, 78-79]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues…”

Don’t gloss over Jesus’ promise of flogging that’s recorded in Matthew 10:17—you can be sure his disciples didn’t. Here’s what happened when one of Jesus’ disciples was flogged in a synagogue:

  • Any person—man or woman—deemed guilty of entering the temple while unclean would be subject to the punishment of flogging. After Acts 10:9-16 happened (when God lifted the ban on eating certain meats), synagogue officials would have deemed most Christians guilty of being unclean.
  • After the synagogue officials had passed judgment, Jesus’ disciple was stripped to the waist and made to lie down, or crouch low to the ground. His or her hands were tied to a pillar for the duration of the flogging.
  • Four people were required to conduct the flogging. A hazzan (“administrator”) did the actual whipping. A second person counted the number of blows. A third person gave the commands. And a fourth person read aloud Deuteronomy 28:58-59 while the beating took place.
  • The hazzan would use a sturdy leather whip for the flogging. This was usually a whip made of four plaited thongs attached to a handle.
  • The standard number of lashes was 40, though most often one of Jesus’ disciples was whipped 39 times (known as 40 less one). This was done just in case the hazzan and/or the counter lost count sometime during the bloody delivery of punishment.
  • One-third of the lashes (about 13) were delivered to the disciple’s chest, and the remainder (about 26) were delivered to the back.
  • If Jesus’ disciple appeared near death as a result flogging, the hazzan was supposed to stop. In spite of that, “there are records of people dying” from a synagogue flogging.

 

Advertisement

Works Cited:

[ZB1, 69]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Bible Resource Spotlight: Matthew: A Theological Commentary on the Bible
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible teachers Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: B+   It seems strange that asking a theologian to write a Bible commentary would be considered, well, strange. But in the “academic silo” world we live ...

posted 12:00:18pm May. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: After Acts
Reader Appeal: Bible teachers, students, Bible Study Nerds Genre: Christian History FBSN Rating: B   Dr. Bryan Litfin is a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He also holds a Ph.D. in the field of ...

posted 12:00:16pm Apr. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Teachers, Seminary Students Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: A   The risk with Christian history and theology is that voices from our shared past are often drowned out by the voices of today’s popular ...

posted 12:00:14pm Apr. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Inductive Studies)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” It’s interesting that John asked an academic question, recorded in Matthew 11:3, and Jesus responded with a legal answer (Matthew 11:4-6). John’s question really ...

posted 12:00:44pm Apr. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Bible Difficulties)
When John the Baptist was in prison and heard that Jesus was nearby, he sent his disciples to ask of Christ himself: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Why did he ask this ...

posted 12:00:43pm Apr. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.