“Why Should You Follow Jesus?”

Matthew 11:1-19

Okay, let’s review where we are. For months we have been reading about Jesus and His mission of cruising around the villages and towns of Israel and announcing that the Kingdom of God is here. Not only has He been teaching about the Kingdom, He has brought it into reality by healing people and driving out demons. In the last chapter, chapter 10, Jesus expanded His ministry by giving the chosen twelve disciples, who were a symbol of the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, the same ability to heal, and drive out demons. Then Jesus sends them out to follow in His footsteps. Jesus doesn’t stop however, He too returns to visiting towns and villages and spreading the Gospel. At this point there was even more attention given to this new movement. People were talking. This meant that John the Baptist had heard what had been going on, even though he was imprisoned. 

Let’s go back and review John the Baptist’s role in the Gospel story. John the Baptist was a critical figure in the story of Jesus. John’s parents and Jesus’ parents were related and both mothers were pregnant at the same time with them. We don’t have a lot of information on their childhood however we do know their families were connected and they would have spent time together growing up. 

At some point, John the Baptist takes on his role as a prophet and goes eccentric. John was called to be a voice to all the people of Israel. He follows his calling into the wilderness where he eats locusts and honey and wears itchy clothes and starts calling Israelites to come out to the desert with him to confess their sins, be baptized by water and wait for the coming of the Messiah.  

Jesus even went out to John and was baptized. 

John gained lots of attention, in fact, he gained a lot of the wrong attention as King Herod didn’t like John for many reasons and so he put John in prison. It’s not clear how long John had been in prison, but regardless of the amount of time, any time spent in a Roman prison was horrendous. Prisoners were left to their own devices. They were given absolutely nothing. If your family or friends didn’t bring you food or blankets or the necessities needed, you basically starved and rotted in prison. In the meantime, John has been hearing stories of what Jesus and His followers have been doing and based on what he has heard, John sends some of his followers to ask Jesus some questions. 

Stop for a minute and before we go on to what really happened, based on what we know about John’s experience with Jesus during His baptism and based on what John already knows about Jesus, 

what do you think John’s question should be? 

Shouldn’t it be something like, 

“Wow, how exciting! How can I pray for you?” 

Instead, what does he ask? 

“Are you the Messiah? 

Are you sure? 

Or should we be expecting somebody else?

Who saw this coming? From this guy? 

One of the closest people to Jesus.

What Matthew is doing here, is putting together different responses from the people who were around Jesus. He will provide thoughts from Jesus’ own family members and from those in the religious community. For John, he hears what Jesus has been doing and rather than being excited and rejoicing, he starts questioning that Jesus was the Messiah because of what he hears Jesus was doing. Somehow, what Jesus was doing, doesn’t convince him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 

Instead it makes him wonder. 


Let’s go back and remind ourselves of what John said about Jesus when he was out in the desert, Matthew 3:9-12, The Message, 

“ ..don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.

“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—

Here is where John talks about the Messiah,

will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”

Intense guy, with a very intense message. John grew up with the Hebrew Scriptures and studying the prophets. He took on his calling as a prophet to announce the day God would enter this world as the Messiah to come and set up His Kingdom. John believed it would be a day of rescue but also a day of God’s justice. Basically John believed that when the Messiah came it was going to be intense that the Messiah would bring the hammer of justice, and “clean house.” 

Then Jesus comes to be baptized, the Holy Spirit shows up and claims Jesus as God’s Son. John witnesses this. Then Jesus goes on to do His thing.  John hears about what Jesus was doing and begins to question, “Wait, Really?” 

Because what was Jesus doing? 

He was healing people and teaching. What did John say the Messiah was going to do? “He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” Not exactly what you would call healing and forgiving.  

So John is rotting in prison, no hope of getting out alive and he’s thinking things over and comes to a point where he wonders. In John’s mind things don’t fit. 

Look at Jesus’ response. 

“Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Jesus recounts six things that have been happening. Each of them we have read some story about people who were being healed and how good news was going out to the poor. Each one of those six lines Jesus has drawn from the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus has taken portions of chapters 29, 35, 42, and 61 and restated passages that talk about the great day. The great day when God would visit His people with salvation and judgment. 

Jesus answers John by telling Him that he wasn’t wrong, the Kingdom of God is here. 

I am the one who is bringing all of this into reality but it doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like. Look at Jesus’ last words, 

“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

John told everybody that the Messiah would be cleaning house. Jesus arrives and begins healing and having dinner parties with tax collectors and telling them they can invite their friends and everyone could experience Jesus and listen to His teaching. This doesn’t resonate with what John was expecting. John thought he knew what the Messiah would  be like. He thought he was given a prophecy from God and what he was hearing did not match what he had been told. Jesus having dinner parties with sinners and healing the lowest of the lowest seemed to be missing the part where the Messiah placed everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he puts out with the trash to be burned. Hello!

Jesus’ response was compassionate towards John. He understood John’s misconceptions and stated blessed are those who could put aside what they thought would happen and actually see what He had been doing. 

John was going through an experience that I think many of us have gone through at some point and it opens up a question, 

Is John’s hope and trust truly in Jesus?

Well, in some sense, “yes,” he wouldn’t be asking the question if he wasn’t hoping in Jesus in some way. 

But in another sense, no, what he discovered is that he had put his trust in a little movie reel of what he expected Jesus to do and Jesus to be. All of sudden, Jesus doesn’t do those things and for John, he is in crisis. 

What John was experiencing is a life lesson we need to learn in general. There are times in our life when we have high expectations and when they are not met, we realize what we thought would happen, didn’t, so we have to deal with disappointment. We feel let down. There are other times when something happens in our life, something goes down and it becomes a crisis or devastation. We have a strong emotional reaction. It may have been something didn’t go just right at work, or someone says an off hand comment, whatever it is it sets us off and there is all this negative energy around. 

This is when it is always a good time to question, okay, what is stirring up all this negative energy inside of me? Odds are, what we’ll find is our expectations of one kind or another were not being met. We may not have even been aware that we had any expectations, until they are not met. Can anyone relate? 

There is a bit of a dilemma here.  When we set up high expectations we may find ourselves let down. Whereas if we expect gravel, anything that happens has to be better so we get a happy surprise.  Not exactly the best mindset to live your life with, but it makes the point. 

There are all kinds of expectations we know we have and there are also all kinds of expectations we don’t even know we have….

until they are not met. 

Many of these experiences are with those who are closest to us, such as family members or friends. Your spouse forgets to pick up the milk on the way home and somehow that sets you off. An insignificant mishap becomes a major deal, not because of what wasn’t done, but because of certain expectations that were present and not met. Hardship and unexpected suffering in our lives has a way of revealing hidden expectations. 

It’s the same in following Jesus. We don’t realize that we are expecting Jesus to solve most of our problems. And that we are following Jesus because we expect Him to make our wildest dreams come true. And we don’t know that’s what we think until our wildest dreams don’t come true. 

Or, our wildest nightmares do come true and wonder where Jesus was? 

Then when we look at what Jesus is actually doing in the world, and think, 

“Yeah, that’s cool, but I’m sitting here in prison, what about me, what about solving my problems? 

Why aren’t my issues higher on God’s agenda? 

And what you realize is there were things you had been expecting Jesus to do all along. 

That was the space that John was in. 

This raises an important question that everyone should ask. “Why should we follow Jesus?”

Clearly this is where John was at? 

Are you the one? 

Do I keep following you? 

I stepped out as the prophet, I ended up in prison and nothing is happening with that and Jesus is having dinner parties with sinners. 

Why follow Jesus?

If we don’t have any guarantees that Jesus is going to solve our problems or make all my wildest dreams come true, why follow Him?

Let’s go back to verse 7, and see how Jesus addresses this situation. 

John’s disciples leave, and Jesus begins to speak to the crowd about John and He doesn’t have one negative thing to say about him. John was doubting Jesus, but Jesus never doubts John or speaks poorly of John. Instead, Jesus asks the crowd, when you went out to the desert to see John did you expect to see a pushover, someone willing to do things for a payment? 

No, they knew they were going to see an eccentric. 

Did you go to see a man dressed in fine clothing? 

Actually, you went out to see a prophet, someone more than a prophet. Jesus then quotes Malachi, stating, 

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,

    who will prepare your way before you.’

John was not only a prophet, he was a prophet that all the other prophets looked forward to. He would be the great herald that announced the Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom. 

Basically Jesus tells the crowd that John the Baptist was one of the most unique human beings to be alive because he got to be the one who played a pivotal role in history. Not only was he a prophet, he was the prophet foretold by the prophets. He was the one who proclaimed the Kingdom would come and the Messiah would come. 

But here is the reality. 

John will never get out of prison. 

Therefore he will not experience or witness the very things he announced. Then there are those disciples around Jesus, of whom we will never know their names. They will be greater than John the Baptist because they will be able to see the full reality of what John proclaimed. 

Another reality, since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and violent people have been raiding it. 

Here is what I think Jesus was getting at. Ever since John the Baptist and Jesus were on the scene, no one expected growing violent opposition to the idea of bringing in the Kingdom. They expected the Kingdom to overrule all opposition. Opposition came. It came from the Bible teachers of Israel, those running the temple, and King Herod. Don’t mistake that violent opposition to mean that things are going wrong or the plan had gone off track. 

Jesus then quotes from Malachi 4,

For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Make no mistake, the Kingdom is here. But it doesn’t look like even what John had expected. Jesus continues in verse 16, describing what people had expected, 

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the pipe for you,

    and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge,

    and you did not mourn.’

This generation has a whole set of expectations for John the Baptist and for the Messiah and they are not dancing to their tune and so they are getting ticked off about it. For example, John came and went out in the desert and ate insects and dressed weirdly and you called him a freak. Then Jesus came, the Son of God, and had dinner parties with Matthew and everyone says He was a drunkard. 

Which way do you want it?

Jesus could have just said, I know I am not meeting your expectations but instead He puts it this way. He pulls from Proverbs 1 & 8, the picture of wisdom. 

“But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Wisdom and discernment is proved not by how much you know, but how things actually play out in reality. 

Okay, if you think I’m not the one because I am not doing what you expected, fine, do what you want, just watch what happens. For you will see, for those of you that actually have discernment that the Kingdom of God is actually here. 

This is actually God at work in the world for those who have eyes to see it. 

So let’s stop and ask, what is going to happen in this story?

John is going to have his head chopped off in about three chapters. Jesus is going to face growing opposition until he gets arrested, falsely accused and executed on a Roman cross, where He suffers and dies. 

“But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Now there are those who would say, clearly what I just said is a sign of failure. Having one’s head chopped off and a dead Messiah definitely means something went wrong. 

Thinking about it, how could that be where things were going all along? 

But Jesus said, “Pay attention and you will see the Kingdom of God brought into reality.’”

Some people see what happened as a failure, Jesus saw it as the way it had to go. Why? 

For those who see it as failure, their perception was of the Messiah coming to take over the Roman Empire and make every day life nice and rosy. However, that was not the story Jesus had in His head. Jesus had a different enemy that He had a target on. It is the deeply mysterious enemy of evil that can rear its ugly head at any time and in any way. This evil works spiritually by hijacking the human heart both cooperatively and individually. Jesus came to earth, not to solve everyone’s problems, but rather to be the embodiment of God’s love and joining himself to the tragic human story. He did this by suffering our pain and suffering our shattered expectations and the consequences of our sin. 

Jesus conquers His enemy, 

which is evil, 

by letting evil conquer Him. 

Although it looked like a failure to everyone around Him, Jesus had a plan. Because Jesus knows that God’s commitment to a dying and suffering world is so great, that He will not allow sin and death to get the final word. Because Jesus’ resurrection opens up whole new possibilities of hope, true hope for our world and for our lives. 

So why did Jesus do that?

Here is what Jesus had to say to answer that question, John 15: 9 – 14 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 

So why did Jesus come and live among us and not solve all our problems? He did come and heal some people, and even raised Lazarus from the dead, but eventually all of those people died. 

So rather than solving everyone’s problems, He attached himself to our tragic state as human beings and He dies along with us. 

Why does He do that? 

Because this is a story about a God who loves and is committed to His creation and He loves human beings who are compromised by evil. 

So let’s go back to the question of, 

“Why should I follow Jesus?” 

Especially if I have no guarantee that He is going to solve all my problems. To top it off, the man that we follow was crucified and executed by the Romans. So whatever it means to follow Jesus, it will not be the key to what the world sees as success in your life. However, there will be moments of surprise and joy because things that are happening are so wonderful. Those are also matched with moments of following Jesus where it will be tragic and so painful and so full of difficulty. That is reality in our broken world. The reality is that we have no guarantee that Jesus is going to prevent any of that from happening. He didn’t prevent it from happening to Him and He didn’t prevent it from happening to John. 

So why follow this man?

Here’s why, 

You show me any religion or belief system, where there is a God that is so in love with and so committed to every different type of person you could possibly imagine, where He would die for them. Look at the person of Jesus, kind, compassionate, giving and sacrificing, how can we not follow Jesus?


Does Jesus not love the Christians that have been martyred for their faith? 

John 15 says He does. The cross says He does. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t make every Christian’s wildest dreams come true. 

I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t heal every sick child.

I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t solve your problems for you?

What I am assured of is that even though our wildest dreams don’t come true and even though our problems still exist, I can assure you that it is not because Jesus doesn’t love us and that He doesn’t care about us.  Because someone who doesn’t love you or care about you would not die for you. 

Whatever Jesus is calling for us to do, He is calling us for His death, for His life and His resurrection for us. So what it forces us to do is to put our hopes in Jesus, not into the story we think our life will turn into if we follow Jesus, our hopes need to actually be in Jesus. 

It also forces us to be open to Jesus doing things in our lives that are not in our script, or what we wouldn’t imagine. That’s an exciting and a terrifying place to be. But if I know I am in the hands of someone who was willing to give His life for me, then I can do so with peace and trust and His commitment to me is solid no matter what happens in my life. AMEN.

Let’s pray.