4) Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5) The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6) And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matthew 11:4-6
Notice what Jesus didn’t say: “the poor are given money,” or “the poor are given new garments or shoes.”
Seems to me Jesus could have been a little more CONCRETE, doncha THINK, regarding people who struggle to get their daily needs met?? Couldn’t he at least have said, “the poor are FED” ?
Let’s put it in context. Matthew shares with us how Jesus went about “preaching the Kingdom and healing diseases” (and collecting disciples); then he sent his disciples out with a bunch of special instructions in Matthew chapter 10 to do the same. And Jesus went out again with them also – they blanketed the area around the Sea of Galilee with preaching and healing.
To all except the poor He gave temporary relief – vision, locomotion, even life again for just a while – a short respite from the fleeting discomforts of this earthly existence. These are good things, merciful and kind, and we should emulate these good, though not best, gifts.
But to the poor, the possessors of few resources and very little influence, the hopelessly STUCK, are given the Gospel; they are given HOPE, Good News, Promises of real, permanent, and substantial CHANGE and Renewal, Promises of a Rest from painful labors, Promises of Goodness that comes naturally and a Freedom from enslaving passions and addictions, Promises of God’s Favor and Grace upon them! Promises of Everlasting Rewards! They are given the best remedy – the Best Gifts of All!
Do you think John caught that distinction? Do you think he gained courage from the message to him hidden between those lines? The message that Jesus proved he had authority to promise the eternal remedies, because Jesus had the power to deliver the temporary remedies. Thus, John could stand unashamed in his promotion of Jesus as “The One Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
But all was not roses. Notice on one hand in Matthew 11, though we see the beauty and attraction of this Gospel, on the other hand we hear Jesus berate with three sober “Woes” the cities of northern Galilee for refusing to believe both Him and His Gospel message. He warned them that it was not good that they refused to receive Him in the face of all the mercies He gave them.
I am not embarrassed by a faith that reminds me that “God is good” Mark 10:18 “and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
I have heard this view of heavenly rewards disparaged and ridiculed as a “pie in the sky by and by” religion.
The hope of eternal redemption as promised in Jesus’s gospel is indeed a lovely pie in the sky! And I do not find it offensive to eagerly watch and patiently wait for Jesus to return to raise the dead and change the living and give us all new bodies and a whole new righteous society in His new Kingdom!
Jesus said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Jesus arrived poor, and plain, and common, and He gives His Gospel to the poor and the plain and the common, for that is what we are.
During Advent we are reminded that we WAIT. The anticipation is delicious!
Jesus is the Gift Giver, AND He is also the Gift Himself. May you choose to receive Him – and have a Merry Christmas!