FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS MUST PRECEDE ENJOYMENT OF KINGDOM EXALTATION – NO BYPASSING THE CROSS
Grant Osborne: Matthew 11:2 indicates a turning point in Matthew. There has been sporadic opposition (mainly 9:3–4, 11, 14, 34), but primarily a positive atmosphere as Jesus showed his authority and called for faith. The success of his ministry caused astonishment (7:28; 8:27; 9:8, 33), and the news went everywhere (4:24–25; 8:34; 9:26, 31). In the Mission Discourse he prophesied great trouble for future missions (10:14, 17–22, 25, 28, 35–36), and that begins here as the opposition intensifies in chs. 11–12. Of the nine pericopae in 11:1–12:50, six deal with rejection and judgment (11:2–19, 20–24; 12:1–8, 9–14, 22–37, 38–42), and the section begins with the doubt even of John the Baptist (11:3). Then Matthew adds to the parables of Mark 4 the parables of the weeds (13:24–30, 36–43) and of the net (13:47–52), both centering on the harvest that leads to final judgment. The section ends with Jesus rejected even in his own hometown (13:53–58).
I want to quote the mindset of the great Apostle Paul – what was his great passion in life:
Phil. 3:10-11 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to his death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
He suffered greatly throughout his ministry and had many opportunities to be frustrated and doubt his calling – but he was in strong in faith – knowing that his call to ministry had included the promise of fellowship in the sufferings of Christ – remember God’s instructions to Ananias to help him overcome his hesitation to commission the former persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ:
Acts 9:1-16 “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel, for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Today we are going to look at the frustration of an OT prophet whom Jesus himself labeled as greater even than the prophet Isaiah —
[Many other comparisons and contrasts in this deep passage –
- Comparison between John the Baptist and Elijah – the prophecied prophet who must come before the day of the Lord
- Comparison between John the Baptist and Christ – the people rejected both – different style of presentation, but same message of repentance from sin
- Comparison between the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of Christ – a new era has dawned in God’s program of redemptive history
- Comparison between the wickedness of past cities like Sodom and Gomorrah and the wickedness of this present generation who were privileged to witness the very miracles of Christ – they had the King Himself present to preach to them and convict them of sin and offer salvation — and yet still rejected Him]
We are going to focus on what this passage teaches us with respect to the frustration felt by John the Baptist
Richard Gardner: Outline
- Who Is Jesus? 11:1-6
- Who Is John? 11:7-15
- How Were They Received? 11:16-19
Donald Hagner: In chap. 11, the glorious character of the kingdom of God comes into view and then in turn the reality of judgment for those who reject it, a theme that will become increasingly prominent. John’s question enables the summarizing description of Jesus’ deeds, which corresponds to the sketch of chaps. 8–9 and to the commission given to the disciples in their missionary activity (cf. 10:8).
I. (:2-6) WORRISOME QUESTION FROM A FRUSTRATED SERVANT OF GOD
A. (:2-3) Frustrated Confusion in the Question of the Imprisoned Prophet
“Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples,
3 and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’”
Donald Hagner: John’s doubts should not appear unreasonable, since he was obviously expecting an imminent end of the age involving the judgment of the wicked (3:12). And though he had heard rumors of messianic-like deeds performed by Jesus, his wicked captors had not yet been judged and he had not yet experienced the fulfillment of the messianic promise of “liberty to the captives” (Isa 61:1; and even more vividly, Isa 42:7). He continued to sit in the prison of Herod Antipas (in the fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, according to Jos. Ant. 18.5.2) and thus could only send his disciples (cf. 9:14; 14:12) to Jesus with his question.
Grant Osborne: Jesus had come to be the suffering Servant who conquered sin, not the conquering King who came to destroy the enemies of God’s people. Neither John nor Jesus’ followers were ready for this type of Messiah.
If anyone deserved to be frustrated in ministry, it was certainly John the Baptist. If anyone was ever justified to have his faith overshadowed by troubling doubts, it was certainly John the Baptist. [You know the Scriptures never teach that the doctrine of Eternal Security – once saved always saved – means an experience of Zero doubts.] No one had sacrificed more or shown more commitment to the cause of Christ than that great forerunner who announced the message of Repentance in preparation for the ushering in of the great kingdom of God.
But where was that kingdom? John found himself in prison for courageously delivering God’s message to King Herod like a faithful prophet should … condemning him for his immorality to take his brother Philip’s wife. Matt. 14:3-12 recounts his upcoming execution. John had been in prison for about a year. John certainly felt like he deserved better. Do you ever feel that way? Do you feel that your little service for Christ … insignificant by contrast to the prophet John the Baptist or that great Apostle Paul … yet nevertheless very painful .. Do you feel that you deserve better?
John Walvoord: John had been imprisoned in the fortress of Machairus, the royal house of Herod, facing the Dead Sea, because of his fearless attack upon the immorality of Herod, who was living in adultery with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Mt 14:3-4). Significantly, the Jewish leaders had been silent concerning this public scandal. . . It is most significant that Jesus did not attempt to answer the real question of John, of why judgment on the wicked was not being inflicted and why the people of Israel had not yet been delivered. Instead, Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who would not be offended by the apparent delay in fulfilling predictions of divine judgment.
John wanted Christ to ascend to the throne and usher in the kingdom. He wanted His Savior to come and deliver him from prison and exalt him for his loyal service. He wanted vindication before his enemies. He wanted to see proud King Herod judged and rendered speechless before the righteousness of the King of Kings. Yet Jesus seemed to be going about His ministry with no concern for his desperate plight. So in his frustration, John sends a couple of his disciples with this very sad question.
You can imagine how Christ must have felt upon hearing these words of doubt and self-pity. What about the suffering that lay ahead for the sinless Lamb of God? No one knew better than Christ that the road to the Cross could not be avoided. No one knew better than Christ that there were no shortcuts to kingdom exaltation.
John Nolland: It is not clear how we are to relate John’s confidence about Jesus’ identity implicit in 3:14 with the present questioning, but a certain discomforting tension between John’s expectations and what Jesus did is common property to Mt. 3:14, 9:14, and 11:3.7 John needed to come to terms with the fact that the one of whom he had now been hearing such remarkable things was, despite the quite unexpected form of his ministry, the one whom he had heralded as eschatological judge and deliverer — ‘the one coming after’ John (Mt. 3:11).
B. (:4-6) Focused Certainty in the Response of Jesus Regarding His Messianic Identity
- (:4) Eyewitness Testimony to the Identity of the Messiah
“And Jesus answered and said to them,
‘Go and report to John what you hear and see:’”
- (:5) Extensive, Irrefutable Proof from the Ministry of Jesus
“the blind receive sight and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear,
and the dead are raised up,
and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Look at how Jesus responded to John’s disciples. The Messiah is busy doing the will of God as prophecied in the OT. We will study some of these prophecies as we get to them in the book of Isaiah. You haven’t picked the wrong horse. You got it right. My miracles speak for themselves. How could you even raise such a question about my identity? And if you understand Who I am .. then how can you question the timing of what I am doing or the ultimate fulfillment of all of the promises? But we question those two things all the time:
- “How long, O Lord?” . . .
- “Is your grace really going to prove sufficient for me in my present difficult circumstances??”
- (:6) Exhortation Not to Make Any Mistake about the Identity of Jesus
“And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.”
Jesus here seems to be less than sympathetic to the plight of John the Baptist and his concerns for his own deliverance – Instead He delivers what sounds like a mild rebuke and a warning: “make sure that you don’t stumble or be offended by your association with Me;” it’s not all about your situation and what you want to see happen to improve your lot in life
R. T. France: [John the Baptist] has heard much in Jesus’ favor, but he would have liked to hear more. Jesus’ reply does not change the agenda, but offers further evidence along the same lines (“the deeds of the Messiah”), with the additional element of a clear echo of OT prophecies of eschatological salvation. He expects such evidence to convince John, and the “rebuke” of v. 6 does not require us to believe that John’s expectation was on the wrong lines, but only that he was slow to read the evidence.
Richard Gardner: Speaking to all potential followers and not merely to John, Jesus urges persons not to stumble over the fact that he doesn’t fit their preconceptions of messiahship: Blessed are those who do not wait for another, but who in faith accept what God is doing through Jesus.
Donald Hagner: In short, John is meant to understand that he was correct in his recognition of Jesus as the promised one but that he must also be prepared to accept the fact that the kingdom Jesus brings does not, for the time being anyway, entail the judgment of the wicked. Indeed, on the contrary, the message of the kingdom goes precisely to the unrighteous (cf. 9:13). The personal consequences for John were to be significant: not only continued imprisonment but eventually a martyr’s death. These too were not incompatible with the reality of the kingdom brought by Jesus.
II. (:7-10) WORD OF COMMENDATION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST FOR HIS FAITHFUL FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS
R. T. France: [These verses] define John’s position as the last and greatest of the prophets, fulfilling the role of the eschatological forerunner foretold in Mal 3:1 and 4:5–6, and as such ushering in the time of salvation to which he himself nonetheless remains to some degree an outsider. It is a role of high honor, but it remains that of a herald. . .
Verses 7–9 present a series of three matching questions with suggested answers which clearly belong together and build up to the climactic declaration of John’s prophetic status. Verse 10 undergirds that declaration with a scriptural text more closely defining John’s role as the eschatological forerunner. Verse 11 then summarizes the paradox of John’s salvation-historical position.
(:7a) Balancing Word of Commendation Introduced
“And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John,”
But now Jesus wanted to balance his soft rebuke with words of appreciation for John the Baptist
Jesus defends the character and ministry of John the Baptist before the crowd – correcting their possible false conclusions . . .
But this message is delivered after the disciples of John the Baptist have left; this message was delivered to the crowds – Why wasn’t this commendation delivered to John himself? It’s not all about John …. Jesus agreed with John’s assessment that John must decrease and Christ must increase – it is all about how people respond to Jesus Christ
3 CATEGORIES ON THE SCORECARD FOR FAITHFUL SERVANTS OF GOD –
3 ESSENTIALS FOR THE MESSENGER OF GOD —
(cf. Mike Preston grading the Ravens after each game – let’s grade ourselves as we study these three characteristics – How faithful are we?)
Both John the Baptist and Christ grade out with A+s in these 3 categories —
A. (:7b) Man of Conviction – Not Shaky or Wishy-Washy –
Faithfully taking a stand for what is right and pleasing to God
“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?”
See, look at, behold
D. A. Carson: “A reed [probably a collective singular referring to cane grass, found in abundance along the Jordan] swayed by the wind” suggests a fickle person, tossed about in his judgment by the winds of public opinion or private misfortune. Figure of speech to suggest vacillation.
Spoke strong, bold words of the necessity of repentance; he did not back down from the Jewish religious leaders; nothing spineless about John the Baptist; even difficult circumstances should not shake our confidence in the Word of God and His promises; should not cause us to question or alter our message of biblical conviction
Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
Matthew 12:20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory.”
James 1:6 “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind”
Ephes. 4:14 “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”
Our culture does not value a man of conviction; they tar him with derogatory characterizations: narrow-minded; intolerant; etc.
The more I study … the more convictions I develop; the more I follow my convictions, the more isolated I become … so why study??
John MacArthur: He was a man who knew what William Penn said, William Penn said: “Right is right even if everyone is against it and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.” That’s simple but true. He was a man of great conviction. He was so great because he faced his weakness and overcame it and because he was strong in his conviction and nobody could intimidate him. He knew what was right and he would do it.
Phil Newton: Convictions are strong, unbending positions that one holds because of his understanding of truth and law.
Thomas Carlyle: Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.
Eleanor Roosevelt: When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.
Martin Luther: Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason. I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
How do you grade yourself in terms of following biblical convictions??
Or do you live your life based on the decisions of expediency – what do I think will work out the best for me?
Look at how Christ spoke with such authority and conviction that people marveled; so different from the other rabbis of the day
Sometimes even those closest to you will counsel you to abandon your convictions … why pay the price? Do what is convenient … Does God really care? Why study the Scriptures if we are not going to commit ourselves to obedience – regardless of the cost
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
B. (:8) Man of Calluses – Not Soft and Indulgent – Toughness
Faithfully living a life of discipline with his priorities in line with his mission
“But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear
soft clothing are in kings’ palaces.”
John the Baptist was not found enjoying the life of ease in the palace of the king; he was locked away in the dungeon on Death Row
Soft, luxurious, effeminate – by way of contrast to his rugged attire
Not an advocate of the Dress for Success mantra
No valet dressing him in fancy clothes for dinner as on Downtown Abbey
Matt. 3:4 “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist”
Knew how to live a life of discipline and self-denial; lived in the wilderness, not in the palace; a rugged man’s man; would have made a good soldier
2 Tim. 2:1-4 “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”
John MacArthur: Did you go out there just to see another typical guy who is a courtier, who operates in the palace, who favors the king, who does whatever you need to do to get the royal favors? A man who lives a life of luxurious self-indulgence … did you go out there to see a guy who plays to the court, who seeks the favors because he wants to pad his seat?
We live in a soft society – probably this point of evaluation strikes home with us more than any other
C. (:9-10) Man of Commission (of Calling) – Not Self Appointed or Self Willed – Forerunner faithfully announcing the coming Messiah and fulfilling his calling
“But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than
a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before
Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’” [Quote form Mal. 3:1]
John 1:6 “There was a man sent from God whose name was John”
Barclay: The prophet is the man with God’s wisdom in his mind, God’s truth on his lips, and God’s courage in his heart.
Amos 3:7 “the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets”
Phil Newton: There had not been a prophet in Israel for several hundred years.
How are we doing in terms of obeying the Great Commission?
How are we doing in terms of aggressively using our spiritual gift for the kingdom of God?
III. (:11) WORD OF CONTRAST BETWEEN THIS DAY OF ANTICIPATION WHICH INVOLVES SUFFERING (EXEMPLIFIED BY THE MOST FAITHFUL = JOHN THE BAPTIST) AND THE DAY OF FULFILLMENT FOR GOD’S KINGDOM PROMISES (EXPERIENCED BY THE LEAST OF KINGDOM SAINTS)
Contrast between John the Baptist and his disciples and the disciples of Christ
R. T. France: The contrast is between two eras, that of preparation, culminating in John, and that of fulfillment, the arrival of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus has now inaugurated. John had proclaimed it (3:2), but he apparently remains outside while even the less important (cf. 5:19 for “least” and “great” in the kingdom of heaven) of those whom Jesus has now welcomed into the kingdom of heaven enjoys a privilege beyond that even of John himself.
Michael Wilkins: The contrast is not between human accomplishments but between eras. The arrival of the kingdom of heaven ushers in an incomparably greater era than any preceding it.
A. Greatness of John the Baptist
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist;”
- Arrived on the scene in fulfillment of prophecy
- Filled with the Holy Spirit
Luke 1:15 “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
- Preached a message of repentance from sins
Luke 3:7-8 “He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ’We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
- Identified Jesus as the Messiah
- Exemplified Humility – “He must increase but I must decrease”
- Leadership ability to continue to motivate loyal disciples even while in prison
B. Exalted Greatness of Kingdom Believers – Privileged Position
“yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
A new era dawned with the completed work of Christ on the cross and the beginning of the church on the Day of Pentecost; a new day yet even greater will dawn as Christ returns in victory to judge His enemies and rule from the throne of David over His kingdom on earth
Would you rather be living under the OT law or with the full realization of grace and truth that came with Christ?
Do you understand the privilege of being a kingdom of priests with direct access to God through the one Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ vs. living under a religious system with strict guidelines for Levitical priests?
Do you see the limitations of living in the days of types and shadows rather than in the blazing light of the fulfillment of God’s promises in the person of His Son?
Heb. 1:1-2 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son”
S. Lewis Johnson: I’m more inclined to think that what is meant is that the position of John, before the time of the cross and before the institution of the kingdom of God, that John’s position is less than that of the position of the simplest believer who is in the kingdom of the heavens. There is going to come a kingdom of God upon the earth, and compared with the position of John outside the kingdom at that time with the position of the person who is in the kingdom, the state or position or that man is greater than John the Baptist. And every man who has believed upon the Lord Jesus and who eventually reaches the kingdom of God will be in a situation or in a position that is greater than John the Baptist’s position at the time this was spoken.
Phil Newton: And so we see that the greatness of the kingdom citizen is not found in some achievement of that particular believer but it is found in the greatness of the King, who has bestowed His great love, favor, and relationship upon the most insignificant person. Can we find the world’s applause to count anything in light of the greatness belonging to a kingdom citizen through Christ?
William Barclay: So John had the destiny which sometimes falls to an individual; he had the task of pointing men and women to a greatness into which he himself did not enter. It is given to some people to be the signposts of God. They point to a new ideal and a new greatness which others will enter into, but into which they will not come. It is very seldom that any great reformer is the first person to toil for the reform with which his or her name is connected. Many who went before glimpsed the glory, often laboured for it, and sometimes died for it.
IV. (:12-19) WISDOM IS VINDICATED BY HER DEEDS
A. (:12-15) Understand the Times
- (:12) Context of Violent Opposition against God’s Kingdom
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now
the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
R. T. France: If, however, we translate harpazō in its more normal sense of “seize,” it might refer to a take-over bid aimed at the Jesus movement by people with an agenda of violence (against Rome?) rather than of spiritual salvation. The phrase remains obscure. . .
Michael Wilkins: Since the announcement of the kingdom of heaven in John’s ministry, it has received opposition from the religious establishment of Israel. Now John has received opposition from Herod Antipas, a violent man who will put John to death violently.
William Barclay: It is likely that we will get the full meaning of this difficult saying by putting together the recollection of Luke and Matthew. What Jesus may well have said is: ‘Always my kingdom will suffer violence; there will always be antagonism and people will try to break up the kingdom, and snatch it away and destroy it; and therefore only those who are desperately in earnest, only those in whom the violence of devotion matches and defeats the violence of persecution, will in the end enter into it.’ It may well be that this saying of Jesus was originally at one and the same time a warning of violence to come and a challenge to produce a devotion which would be even stronger than the violence.
Donald Hagner: For all its greatness, the kingdom suffers violence and violent men plunder it. The kingdom involves suffering. In the same way, Matthew continues, so must the Son of Man suffer.
- (:13) Crescendo Point of God’s Historic Revelation
“For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.”
R. T. France: Until the time of John the Hebrew scriptures (with the prophets unusually placed in the foreground) were pointing forward to a time of fulfillment (“prophesying”); after John that fulfillment has come. We noted in the comments on 5:17 how this little statement helps to explain the “fulfillment of the law” as it is expounded in 5:17–48. It was not only the prophets who pointed forward to what was to come; the law too had this function, preparing the way for a fuller revelation of the will of God which was to come in the time of fulfillment, and which Matthew now finds present in the ministry of Jesus. Thus not only the prophets but even the law itself “prophesied.” With the coming of John, the last and greatest of the prophets, that forward-pointing role is complete.
- (:14) Comparison to Elijah
“And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.”
Richard Gardner: In any case, the advent of the kingdom begins with John, who sets in motion the events that fulfill the hope of all the prophets and the law. More specifically, John fulfills Israel’s hope in the return of Elijah (vv. 14-15, cf. 17:10-13; Mal. 4:5-6; Sir. 48:10). Elijah’s role was to call the people back to covenant relationship with God. To accept John as Elijah requires an act of faith (just as faith plays a part in receiving Jesus as the Christ). And Jesus calls for such faith when he appeals to the crowd to hear what he has revealed (cf. 13:9; 19:12d).
- (:15) Challenge to Listen Carefully
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
William Barclay: The old proverb has it that you can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink. God can send his messenger but men and women can refuse to recognize him, and God can send his truth but they can refuse to see it. God’s revelation is powerless without our response. That is why Jesus ends with the appeal that those who have ears should use them to hear.
B. (:16-19a) Unrepentant Will Always Find Excuses to Reject God’s Truth
- (:16-17) Inconsistent Complaints about Ministry Methodology
“But to what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”
William Barclay: The plain fact is that when people do not want to listen to the truth, they will easily enough find an excuse for not listening to it. They do not even try to be consistent in their criticisms; they will criticize the same person, and the same institution, from quite opposite grounds. If people are determined to make no response, they will remain stubbornly unresponsive no matter what invitation is made to them. Grown men and women can be very like spoiled children who refuse to play no matter what the game is.
- (:18-19a) Inconsistent Complaints about Personal Behavior
“For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, ‘He has a demon!’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’”
Donald Hagner: John and Jesus, central figures in the salvation being effected by God, are nevertheless rejected by the populace. The mystery becomes even greater when, as the Gospel proceeds, each is killed. Those who oppose God will always seem to have reasons to resist. At one level the arguments can seem plausible. But at bottom they reflect unreceptive and unbelieving hearts. John is too holy; Jesus is not holy enough. And Jesus in particular does not conform to the accepted standards of righteousness. Can either be what they claimed? The opponents of John and Jesus will in fact accept fulfillment of the promises only on their own terms. Whatever fails to match that preconception, regardless of all other evidence and arguments, is automatically rejected. Yet ultimately John and Jesus, the forerunner and the Messiah, can only be vindicated, for they constitute the turning point and heart of salvation-history.
C. (:19b) Ultimate Verdict Will Vindicate Christ and His Followers
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
John Nolland: ἐδικαιώθη then refers to the vindication of Wisdom over against those who make the accusations of vv. 18-19. The process of vindication is perhaps best illustrated by returning to vv. 2-6: for those prepared to see, what is going on points transparently to its significance. (In the Lk. 7:35 parallel, Wisdom is vindicated, rather, by the impact of the ministries of John and Jesus on those who see that God’s marvellous purposes are here being worked out.)
William Barclay: Then comes Jesus’ final sentence in this section: ‘Wisdom is shown to be right by her deeds.’ The ultimate verdict lies not with the cantankerous and perverse critics but with events. The Jews might criticize John for his lonely isolation, but John had moved the hearts of men and women to God as they had not been moved for centuries; the Jews might criticize Jesus for mixing too much in ordinary life and with ordinary people, but in him people were finding a new life and a new goodness and a new power to live as they ought and a new access to God.
It would be well if we were to stop judging people and churches by our own prejudices and perversities, and if we were to begin to give thanks for any person and any church who can bring people nearer to God, even if their methods are not the methods which suit us.
Richard Gardner: Whether by deeds done or disciples made, Wisdom leaves a witness that vindicates God in spite of Israel’s unbelief.
Grant Osborne: It seems clear that Jesus identifies himself with the work of Wisdom, so that Wisdom’s deeds are Jesus’ deeds (and those of his followers). So this means that Jesus himself is ἐδικαιώθη, “justified” or “vindicated” on the basis of the deeds named in 11:1, 5. In other words, Jesus is proven right by his works (both word and deed) as well as the works of John the Baptist and his disciples in ch. 10, so that the indifference and outright rejection of Jesus’ contemporaries will simply bring divine judgment on them (see the next section). . .
God’s Vindication of Truth: God’s messengers should never seek popularity and acceptance. We need the boldness of John and Jesus and must allow God to justify our ministry; we must refuse to play the numbers game of worldly popularity. John and Jesus did not worry about what people thought or even how people reacted. They proclaimed truth the way God led them, and so must we. Will our vindication come from the world (even from members of our church) or from God? We need more fearless proclaimers and fewer shallow popularizers!
Back to the mindset of the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3 – keep pressing forward – seeking after a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ and a richer experience of the power of His resurrection working in me right now … so that I don’t live in a state of frustration … Yes, I experience fellowship in His sufferings in fulfilling my calling of following Jesus … but His grace and power are sufficient for now and we will reign with Him in the coming Kingdom … There are no shortcuts to kingdom exaltation!
Acts 14:22 “encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
“violent men take it by force”
James 5:7-11 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. . . As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord …”