Kingdom Suffers Violence  
     
 
This is the third study (Matt. 11:12-19; Luke 7:29-35) in our series about John the Baptist. The series began when the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist, sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Expected One or the Messiah. In a sense, John and Jesus were team members. God had commissioned John to announce the coming of the Messiah (Mal. 3:1; Luke 1:16-17) and Jesus was the Messiah (Matt. 1:1). John had been in prison for about twelve to eighteen months when he sent the two disciples to Jesus. It appears from the question that was asked in Matt. 11:2-3 that John had started to have doubts that Jesus was the Messiah. So Jesus performed many miracles to demonstrate that he was the Messiah, and the two men returned to John to report what they saw. John may have lost focus. Certainly his situation blurred his understanding of what he thought was to occur. Jesus’ miracles were reminders that He was the Expected One.
The Setting. There were five groups of people present when John’s two disciples asked their significant question. The first team included Jesus and His twelve disciples. John the Baptist and his disciples were the second team. Some in the third team - Jesus’ faithful followers - may have been critical of John for doubting Jesus and some may have wondered what was happening. Those who were curious, the fourth group, would have been clueless as to what was occurring. The last group would have been the Jewish religious leaders who probably rejoiced that John’s disciples had asked the question. It appears that Jesus praised John so that everyone could understand who he was, explain why John was in jail, and what was occurring in the kingdom of heaven.
We saw in our last study that first Jesus reminded the crowds that they did not come out into the desert to see a reed blowing in the wind or a man dressed in soft clothing. They had come looking for a prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah.

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” (NASB) Matt. 11:9-10

Jesus also told the crowds that John was the greatest of all the prophets since the creation. He was greater than Moses. Matthew 11:8-10 is about John the Baptist. Matthew 11:11 described John’s importance. In verse 11 Jesus told the people that John was not more important than those who were in the kingdom of heaven. It was better to be in the kingdom of heaven than here on earth.
The Kingdom Suffers. This study starts with a difficult statement Jesus made about the kingdom of heaven suffering violence,

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (NASB) Matt. 11:12-13

John the Baptist In Prison
John the Baptist In Prison
 
The meaning of this passage is not clear, since the phrase “suffers violence” is either a present passive or middle verb. Both Greek words are the same. Therefore, the meaning of the phrase could be that the kingdom of God suffers violence from an external source or the kingdom is aggressively pushing itself forward. In the first statement the kingdom of heaven is passively receiving the action. In the second statement the kingdom is acting upon itself. Both are true. Let’s look at both closer.
External Violence. By saying that all the prophets had prophesied until the time of John, Jesus declared that the divine plan of the ages was coming together. God’s great plan for Israel was near completion. The Apostle Peter tells us that the prophets had prophesied about Jesus, and the angels of heaven desired to know more about when Jesus would appear and what would occur.

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. (NASB) 1 Pet. 1:10-12

The time had arrived for the Messiah to come; therefore, the forerunner appeared. The long wait for the prophets and angels was over. The crowds were standing on the threshold of sacred history. John the Baptist and Jesus had been announcing that the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, was near, and it was. The phrase "kingdom of God" describes who controls it, and "the kingdom of heaven" tells us where God’s kingdom is. All the Law and the Prophets had pointed to the time of John. He was the forerunner of the Messiah.
But there were those who did not want the kingdom that Jesus offered. The Jewish populace had been looking for an earthly kingdom. They wanted to be liberated from the Roman Empire. The people had a different concept of the kingdom. They were looking for a king and kingdom, not one who would die for their sins. The Jewish leaders wanted liberation from the Romans whom they hated. They probably assumed that they would be leaders in the Messiah’s kingdom.
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