What Do You See and Hear? (Matthew 11:2-5)
You can leave a Yelp review for any business under the sun. I hadn’t used Yelp much before I couldn’t get a dentist to take out my fractured tooth. I really liked the first dentist I saw, but he wasn’t in my insurance network, so I needed to find someone else.
I found a dentist in my network, but this outfit was just interested in money. When I went in, the dentist said I needed specialized work, I’d be in pain until it was done, but it would be a while before I could see a specialist. She didn’t offer any help and then walked back to her little cubby hole where she resumed her solitaire game. On my way out, I insisted that the front desk refer me out of that practice for my root canal, and they reluctantly did.
When I saw the endodontist, he told me I needed my tooth pulled that day. But again the my primary care dentist gave me the run around. You should read the Yelp review I left for them!
I changed dentists yet again and went in for a consult on a Monday morning. I had my story all prepared about how I needed my tooth pulled ASAP. I didn’t get my spiel started until the dentist told me I had to have my tooth pulled immediately and she’d extract my tooth after I had grabbed lunch. She was as gentle as possible; she even apologized that she had to take the root out piece by piece, which was very unpleasant, to put it mildly. She also received a Yelp review, but I told folks to see her and not waste time with anyone else.
Whether or not you’ve ever used Yelp, you’ve used word of mouth. Maybe you’ve seen a dentist or a doctor or an optometrist because a friend highly recommended him. Maybe you’ve used a product because a family member found it useful. Maybe you bought your brand of car because you heard good things about the company. Maybe you found this congregation because a friend highly recommended it.
John the Baptizer wanted a Yelp review of Jesus. He was starting to doubt whether or not Jesus was truly the Christ. He sent some of his disciples to find out, and Jesus told them to take John his Yelp review, to tell John what they had seen and heard.
Jesus’s response to John teaches much about how to reach other people with his truth. Jesus’s interaction with John’s disciples demonstrates: “Witnesses dispel the doubts of others.”
Scripture (Matthew 11:2-5)
We have no idea how long John was in prison, but while he was incarcerated, he began to doubt Jesus’s identity. He sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Many think John became discouraged because he was in prison so long. That’s possible, but text says John began to doubt when he heard “about the deeds of the Christ.” That statement leads to two better alternatives:
- Like most Jews of his day, John may have anticipated the Christ as a revolutionary leader. They thought the Messiah would overthrow the Roman Empire and establish his own kingdom instead of healing and teaching.
- John, you recall, correctly taught that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and judge (Matt 3:11-12). Maybe John anticipated the baptism of the Holy Spirit and judgment during Jesus’s earthly ministry.
Jesus’s disciples were to return to the Baptizer and tell what they heard and saw. They weren’t to tell John what Jesus taught or said, but they were to return with eyewitness testimony.
Their eyewitness testimony would be that “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” The Lord used wording from Isaiah 35:5-6 where Isaiah described the coming Messianic age. Jesus’s message was clear: Let John know that the Christ is here; I may not be all that John expected me to be, but I’m fulfilling prophecy.
“Witnesses dispel the doubts of others.” Jesus made John’s disciples witnesses of his mighty deeds and his preaching; they would thus dispel John’s doubts. You, as a modern witness of Jesus, can dispel the doubts of others.
God has often used witnesses. Jesus met a woman at the well, and he told her that he knew of her marital situation (Jn 4:18). She then went into town and said, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (Jn 4:29); the people in town went out to Jesus (Jn 4:30). Jesus told the Twelve that they would be his witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:8), and they faithfully fulfilled that role:
- At Pentecost, Peter proclaimed, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).
- After Peter healed a lame man, he said, “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15).
- Peter told the Sanhedrin that he and John needed to obey God instead of men, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
- About the Transfiguration Peter wrote, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet 1:16).
How can you be a witness and help others with their doubts?
You take people to the SOURCE.
When John had his doubts, he sent his disciples to Jesus—the source of his questions; he didn’t seek his answers anywhere but with Jesus himself.
If you want to help people come to the Lord, send them to Jesus. Jesus’s words can change the most hard-hearted soul; Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). The disciples understood that truth; when many folks turned away from Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
The Gospels were written that people might have faith in Jesus and eternal life through him: John 20:30-31. If you want to lead people to Jesus, get them in the four Gospels. Help people to see Jesus’s compassion and forgiveness, help people hear Jesus’s words of eternal life, help people see Jesus’s great deeds, help people see Jesus’s death for their sins, and help them see Jesus’s resurrection for their life. You cannot improve on what Jesus taught and did. If you want to convert your friends and neighbors, tell them to read the Gospels.
You tell people your STORY.
Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they had seen and heard. In the New Testament, people often told what they had seen and heard. When the shepherds found the Christ lying in the manger as the angels had proclaimed, “they made known the saying that had been told them concerning” the Christ (Lk 2:17). In the Temple, Anna, an old widow, saw the Christ Child and “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). When the Lord healed a leper, Jesus told him to tell no one about the healing (Mk 1:43-44), “[b]ut he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news” (Mk 1:45). In the region of the Decapolis, people brought a deaf man with a speech impediment to Jesus, the Lord healed the man, and “Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mk 7:36). When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the night of his resurrection, Thomas was not present. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord’” (Jn 20:25).
You obviously cannot tell others that you’ve seen Jesus give sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf or life to the dead. But there is much to which you can testify.
- You can tell how the Lord has answered your prayers.
- You can tell how the Lord has strengthened you in your darkest days.
- You can tell how the Lord has empowered you to put away sin.
- You can tell how the Lord has strengthened your marriage.
- You can tell how the Lord has walked with you as you raised your children.
- You can tell how the Lord has blessed you over and over and over.
You weren’t there when Jesus physically walked this earth, but you can still share much with others. Share what Jesus has done for you this week—with a friend or a family member or a stranger. In essence, leave Jesus a positive Yelp review for all his glorious deeds.
If Jesus left your spiritual life a Yelp review, would that review be positive or negative? Do you need to claim a positive spiritual life as we stand and sing?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.