- Rick LoPresti
John the baptizer had been arrested for being a preacher. From prison he sent two who were still following him to Jesus to ask if He really was the One (Matthew 11). Jesus performed numerous miracles before them, and told them to go back to John and tell them what they saw with a quote from Isaiah 35:4-6 and a message to not be offended in Him. To be offended does not mean to have your feelings hurt. It means to stumble in your faith in God. He then spoke to the people about John. He included a statement that on the surface would seem to contradict the way Jesus lived and died, and how He taught His disciples to be. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11:12)." In order to understand what Jesus was saying, we need to know the meaning of the word violence here. He is not talking about the kingdom of God in this testament spreading by force. He purposefully avoided this (John 6:15). This statement is not about forcing religion on others. It is about pursuing God ourselves. The word violence here means to press into with intense effort, to force one's way through a crowd. This is shown by the definition, and by the translation of the statement in Luke 16:16, which uses the phrase "every man presseth into it". A good illustration of this is the woman who touched the hem of the garment of Jesus and was healed (Mark 5:25-34). There was a dense crowd around Jesus, but she did not let that stop her. Even in her weakened state, she pushed through to get to Him to be healed. Many people had touched the Lord incidentally, but she touched Him on purpose. Some people go to church. Others are the church. There are other examples such as the Canaanite woman (Mark 7:24-30), blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the friend in the story of Jesus (Lk 11:5-13), and the widow in the story of Jesus (Luke 18:1-8). We should not be like Balaam who pushed his agenda on God to his own demise (Numbers 22, Numbers 31:8). Yet we should also not be easily deterred because obtaining what we seek from God takes persistence and patience. The Lord requires faith before He answers us. Faith is not a cheap notion. When we are seeking the precious things of heaven, we must realize they deserve our full effort. Sometimes we have to exert great effort so we will value the answer when we get it, and not let it slip through our fingers. I taught my children to take care of their things, not out of materialism, but out of principle. I taught them that if they want God to bless them with nice things, they should show Him they will take care of what He gives them. This is a principle to live by, especially for spiritual, eternal things. God wants to see that we will appreciate His blessings and handle them properly. People tend to treat things they did not pay for like they did not pay for them. God will not give us great things if we show Him we cannot handle the little things (Luke 16:10-12). When we have to exert great effort to obtain what we seek, we tend to value it more. That is the violence God is looking for.