Some Personal Thoughts on Tim Keller’s Exposition of Matthew Chapter 11
My Journey to Timothy Keller
I realized during the waning months of the Covid-19 pandemic lock-downs, that I had lost two significant Bible teachers who in the past had greatly influenced my thinking. Since I missed their teaching and influence very much, I prayed to find someone whose teaching could fill this void in my life. I came across Timothy Keller’s podcasts and they have gone a long way to filling my lack.
Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11
I had not realized before these messages by Keller (the Spotify links are at the end) how detailed and rich is Matthew Chapter 11 in which Jesus describes who he is, and where he calls for people to come to him individually and unreservedly.
Chapter 11 begins with the imprisoned John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus asking:
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”Matthew 11:2-3 (ESV)
But this is the very question (whether Jesus is the promised Messiah, the anointed one) Jesus’ audience was discussing and debating among themselves. However, they believed the Messiah would rescue them from the Romans, so Jesus answered the question, not by saying a misleading “yes” but rather by citing facts and data about his ministry. In essence he was saying “Yes, I am the Messiah, but not in the way you think.”
4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers[a] are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.Matthew 11:4-5 (ESV)
But Jesus is This Curious Mixture of Attractiveness and Offensiveness
What could be more attractive to Galilean culture than someone who could heal diseases, raise the dead, and give good news to the poor? So Jesus’ next statement is unexpected (or at least it was to me). Indeed, in the next whole section Jesus says things that will offend Galilean ears. Jesus warns them what he will say next is offensive, but urges them to listen and to think about what he’s about to say, and not take offense,
6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.Matthew 11:6 (ESV)
As Keller points out, in Galilean society everyone had to work hard to survive, but there were two seminal events in community life: marriages (where celebrations lasted a week) and funerals (where the mourning and wailing lasted a day). So it’s perfectly natural that children would use these very happy and sad occasions in their play. Jesus uses this childish metaphor to underline the complaining and muttering that accompanies the crowd’s adoration for him and John the Baptist.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
And Now Comes the Offense
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”[a]Matthew 11:18-19
Finally, he says something that would be deeply offensive to the Hebrew mind:
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a]27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.Matthew 11:25-27
When Jesus says extraordinary things about God the Father such as: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” it seems he’s saying to me:
“Peter, you can’t just make me into a good teacher, an encourager of the poor, or a doctor. I am, of course, all those things too. For us to have a working relationship, a true friendship Peter, you have to remember who’s God in our relationship and its not you. To think of me in any other way, to forget that I am of the triune God, is to make me into a partial or imaginary Jesus.”
Now We come to the Culmination of the Whole Chapter–What Does Jesus Want of His Audience
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I imagine Jesus calls me to himself individually, not as a member of a crowd. I stagger up carrying an impossible burden. He places my load into a cart and the two of us, side-by-side pull it using a yoke. All the time he speaks gently and humbly to me and teaches me how to pull the cart, doing more than his fair share. In that companionship I have his full attention, and he has mine and he teaches me how to walk and work.
Links to Dr. Keller’s Spotify Messages
BOOK REVIEW: The True Story of the Freedom Convoy: A chronicle of what really happened in Ottawa and beyond
After my copy of this book arrived, I began reading immediately and I found it so riveting that I read the book in one day. Candace Malcolm, in her introduction, gave an insightful, personal account of the turning point in her own life when she abandoned her support of lock-downs. In her own words:
“But two weeks didn’t flatten the curve. Instead the curve spiked. The public health experts’ strategy had failed. And rather than reflect and change course, while respecting and revisiting the principles of a free society, these experts doubled and tripled down on their borrowed approach from Communist China – including forced quarantines, forced lockdowns [sic], police intervention, government coercion and other measures that, in sane times, we would describe as totalitarian.”page 12-13
Malcolm also described a series of mean-spirited and spirit-breaking events that she witnessed as a pregnant mom of a young child:
- The local play ground cordoned of with police tape in winter
- Workmen loading up the picnic tables in Chorley Park (Don Valley, Toronto) so residents out walking had no place to sit down and rest
- Canadian health experts and politicians supporting large, public US protests and riots which they deemed a worthy and acceptable risk for Covid exposure while shutting down our churches, schools, cancelling weddings and funerals.
Particularly poignant and to the point for me was a familiar quote from C. S. Lewis that Malcolm used to describe our situation brilliantly.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”C. S. Lewis
The Freedom Convoy is well-written and fast-moving. It constantly reminded me of events I remember from a year ago. It’s clear the authors from the news agency, True North, were on the ground for the duration of the protest in Ottawa and were giving first-hand accounts of what they saw and what people said.
It’s an easy read and gave me many insights into the truckers, their supporters, and the response of politicians.
I give this book Five Stars.
A Comment on Sara Flower Kjeldsen’s Excellent Blog: READING AN ENTIRE BLOG BEFORE COMMENTING
Posted by Peter Kazmaier
Link to Sara Flower Kjeldsen’s blog: https://saraflower.ca/2023/02/05/reading-a-persons-entire-post-before-commenting/
Link to a cited reference in Sara’s blog: https://www.sciencealert.com/people-who-read-the-facebook-newsfeed-think-they-know-more-than-they-actually-do
I wholeheartedly agree, that as a blog commenter, I ought first to thoroughly read and understand the thesis of any blog before I respond either in support or in disagreement. For me that is a discipline that I ought to practice in my reading.
However, having conceded that point, I also believe as a blog writer I ought to structure my blog argument in such a way, that the modern reader with all the attention deficits they bring to the written word. cannot help but capture my central argument even if they skim that last few paragraphs of my missive. Note, to be perfectly clear, I am not at all saying that any Sara’s blog posts suffer from this deficiency. I am merely stating that as a complement to thorough reading, I always want to practice best writing practices in my blog posts.
Why the complementary focus on blog structure? In 2011, I read William Powers’ book, Hamlet’s Blackberry. It was either while reading the book itself, or hearing some excellent lectures on Powers’ book by Pastor Bruxy Cavey, that I realized that the age of emails had modified both my own and many other people’s reading habits.
In my case, feeling the pressure of reading and responding to many, many emails a day, I found, as Powers predicted, that I would read the title and first paragraph and then, without thinking, skim the rest of the text. This modern proclivity of skimming, does not at all excuse the blog commenter from reading the blog carefully before responding, but it did signal to me as a blog writer that I should do what I can to mitigate this reading defect. In essence, I resolved to use the title and first paragraph, as much as I am able, to communicate a succinct version of my thesis, so that even those who read no further can grasp my argument.
At least one commenter attributed inappropriate responses to Sara’s blog to trolls who presumably are deliberately misunderstanding her argument since they write using uncharitable criticism to inflame passions and provoke heated responses. No urging for them to “read the whole blog” nor any effort on my part to make the thesis apparent in the first paragraph will curtain their activity, since the whole mechanism of trolling is to miss the point.
However, there are likely many readers who miss the point inadvertently because of time pressure. True they should not comment without a thorough reading, but I think it would be of value to structure my blog in such a way that they get the general idea of my thesis or point despite their rushed perusal.
Posted in Essay, For Authors, Independent (Indie) Authors, Non-Fiction, Personal Reflection, Writing
Leave a comment
Tags: Blog Posts, Commenting, Straw Man Argument, Trolls