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The Authentic Jesus | Scandalizer

January 8, 2023
Matthew 11:2-6

2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the 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. 6And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

O God, turn and be gracious to us, for the road is long and we are weary. We feel beaten down by the trials of life and need your strength to sustain us. Show us your favor, and offer us your blessing, that we may abide in faithfulness and not be put to shame. Comfort us, O God, and revive our souls. Grant us the endurance to take up our cross, and follow the difficult roads in life. Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 29:1-11

A Psalm of David

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord, over many waters.

4The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

6He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth

and strips the forests bare,

and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

11May the Lord give strength to his people!

May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Summary and Connection

For the past two weeks, we have been learning about the identity and character of Jesus in a sermon series aptly titled—The Authentic Jesus. In his first sermon, Jason addressed how one way or another the name of Jesus tends to provoke a strong reaction. Why is the name of Jesus deeply offensive to people, particularly in a city like New York? Why does the very name of Jesus Christ scandalize people? 

In today’s passage we explore how the scandalizing nature of Jesus is not just a modern problem, but in fact, even John the Baptist—the one who  proclaimed the arrival of Jesus as the forerunner—was scandalized by Jesus. In this passage we learn that John is in prison. John was imprisoned precisely because of his message proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah and the impending judgment. John’s prophetic message had sparked a revival, resulting in his imprisonment. While in prison John hears about the works of the Christ (Messiah) whose name and arrival he had proclaimed. John has a problem—he is imprisoned for proclaiming the name of the Messiah. He is aware of his impending death, and he is perplexed by the works of Jesus. John, in other words, is scandalized by Jesus. Thus, he sends his disciples to ascertain the identity of the Messiah. John asks an important question to Jesus—“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

John’s question is important as it reveals to us the true identity of Jesus. If Jesus is not the One, then he is nothing more than an enlightened moral teacher. However, if he is truly the One—the Messiah, then no matter what he asks of us—no matter how sacrificial—it wouldn’t compare with what we discover in knowing and being known by the Savior himself. John receives a remarkable promise and assurance from Jesus. Jesus points John’s disciples to his words and works—his astonishing claims, and miraculous healings—both of which reveal the arrival of the kingdom of God, and the restorative power of the gospel. Jesus’ message to John was perplexing, yet profound: Blessed is the one who is not offended by the name of Jesus—only the ones who receive Jesus as he is can experience the rich favor of his presence and acceptance.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage?

  • Why was John in prison? What can we learn about John’s character and condition from his question to Jesus?
  • In verse 3 we read about John’s question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” How is John’s question the right question, and how does John’s question reveal the authentic nature of Jesus? 
  • In verse 4 and 5 we read about Jesus’ response to John’s question. What can we learn about the identity of Jesus from these verses?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • John’s question to Jesus reveals the condition of his heart—John was deeply offended by Jesus. What were the reasons behind John’s offense?
  • Jesus’ response reveals to us the nature of his heart—what can we learn about Jesus from his response to John?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • In this passage we learn that even the ones who believe in Jesus are offended by the name of Jesus. Discuss the ways in which we, as modern day Christians, are offended by the name of Jesus?
  • John’s predicament in this passage has contemporary relevance—we struggle to accept Jesus as he is, and struggle to commit to Jesus for who he is. We all have the tendency to create and follow a Jesus of our own imagination. Have you ever struggled with this? If yes, how?
  • Why is it vital for us to know and follow the authentic Jesus, and not the Jesus of our own imagination? How can we know whether or not we are following the authentic Jesus?

4. Looking at Our World

  • How is this passage hopeful for us as Christians living in a postmodern culture that demands authenticity, and yet is readily scandalized by the name of Jesus?


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: As mentioned in the summary, John was an important prophetic figure in the proclamation of the arrival of the Messiah. John was called the Forerunner of Jesus. John’s message was two-fold: proclamation of the arrival of the Messiah, and the impending judgment. John called for repentance and he baptized the repentant people. However, his convicting message did not sit well with religious and political leaders of his day. John was put in prison precisely for his prophetic Messianic message. 

    John’s question to Jesus from the confines of prison reveals to us his character and his condition. John, albeit scandalized and saddened by the works of the Messiah, yet does not demand Jesus to rescue him from his imprisonment. John’s question was earnest as he desperately wanted to know—for his ministry’s sake, and for the sake of the people of Israel—the true identity of Jesus. John’s question shows us his faith filled character and devotion to God, and it is not surprising that John was hailed as the greatest of prophets by Jesus himself. 

    In verse 3, we read about John’s question. Jason, in his sermon, mentioned that John’s question was the right question as the answer reveals the authentic nature of Jesus as the Messiah. It is vital for us to know that if Jesus is not the One, then he is nothing more than an enlightened moral teacher. However, if he is truly the One—the Messiah, then no matter what he asks of us—no matter how sacrificial—it wouldn’t compare with what we discover in knowing and being known by the Savior himself.

    Jesus responds to John’s question by pointing to his claims and his deeds. Jesus’ radical claims, and miraculous works fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah. Furthermore, Jesus, by his claims and miraculous healings, ushered in the kingdom of God, and thereby established himself as the Messiah, or the Savior. Jesus’ words and works show us the nature of the kingdom of God—the proclamation of the gospel, the restoration of the sick and the needy, and reconciliation of sinners to God.

    Question 2: John’s question to Jesus revealed the condition of his heart. John had devoted his ministerial life to proclaiming the name of the Messiah. John had offended many people by his message, and as a radical reformer, he had sparked a revival. But now he languished in prison. John had become irrelevant as all had followed Jesus. Imagine John in his prison cell asking, “I did everything right, and look where I am now.” Perhaps John wondered, “If Jesus is indeed the true Messiah, then why am I in prison?” John was disappointed, and deeply offended as Jesus had not turned out to be the kind of Messiah that he had expected to be.

    Jesus’ response to John’s desperate question reveals the gracious nature of Jesus. Jesus does not condemn John, nor does he criticize John for his lack of faith. Jesus responds by pointing to the evidence that establishes him as the Messiah. As a prophet, John would have known the words of Isaiah that were now fulfilled in Jesus’ radical claims and miraculous works. 

    Most importantly, Jesus’ response to John shows us the authenticity of Jesus as the Messiah. John, and all of Israel—including the religious leaders—expected the Messiah to come and overthrow the oppressing regime, and establish earthly kingdom by judging the sinners. However, Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God by healing the sick and proclaiming the restorative nature of the gospel, thereby reconciling the sinners to God the Father. The axe that John had warned about, fell on Jesus, as he carried the sins and shame of the people, receiving the judgment of God that we truly deserve.

    Question 3: As Jason mentioned in his sermon, John’s problem has relevance in our day as well. John was scandalized by the name of Jesus, and was offended by the works of Jesus. John anticipated the arrival of a sword wielding Messiah who would condemn the sinners to fiery hell; however, the authentic Jesus came proclaiming the gospel. The gospel of Jesus is restorative and reconciliatory. As modern day Christians, we have the tendency to be scandalized by Jesus when we realize that he does not fit our own understanding of the Messiah. Engage the group in discussing the ways in which the broader evangelical church in America has created a Jesus of its own making. 

    As Christians we too struggle to accept Jesus as he is, and to commit to Jesus for who he is. We possess the sinful tendency to create and follow a Jesus of our own imagination. One way some of us struggle with the true identity of Jesus is by misunderstanding the words of Jesus. For instance, we could misinterpret the sermon on the mount, and limit Jesus to a strict moral teacher proclaiming an impossible ideal, or an impersonal God who has little or no patience towards the ones who disobey his words. On the other hand, we could strip Jesus of his authoritative claims, thereby limiting him to a passive and undemanding God who loves and accepts all irrespectively. Lastly, we also have a tendency to follow Jesus conditionally. In our hearts we determine, “I will wholeheartedly follow Jesus if he helps me achieve my goals, or makes me happy, or if he supports and affirms me in all my life choices.”

    It is vital for us to know and follow the authentic Jesus because only the authentic Jesus can redeem us from our sinfulness, and minister to us in our brokenness. One way to know whether or not you are following the authentic Jesus is examining your heart. Do you only follow Jesus because he offers to solve your existential problems? Or do you follow Jesus for who he is? Is Jesus worthy to be followed for who he claims to be, or should he be followed conditionally?

    Question 4: This passage reveals to us the importance of knowing and following the authentic Jesus. As the image bearers of God, we are created to worship God, and to order our lives under the authority of God. In other words, we can only live an authentic life by knowing the authentic God who has created us, and by putting our faith in the authentic Jesus who has redeemed us from the bondage of sin. 

    As Christians living in a city like New York, this passage helps us by showing us that it is good to be offended by the claims of Jesus as long as we earnestly wrestle with our problems with Jesus. This passage provides hope to the people who are desperately trying to find the One who gives purpose and meaning to their existence. This passage reveals to us that the only way to live an authentic life is by knowing the authentic Jesus—as he is, and for who he is.