Messengers from John the Baptist
11 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the 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. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 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.”
Woe to Unrepentant Cities
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest
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; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 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. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The prison walls felt like they were closing in on him. The cold dampness they held somehow began to creep into his mind and heart. His mind raced at what his life had held, what all he had done. Deep down he was grateful. But it seemed his mind was where the real battlefield stood. Did he do the right thing? Were there things he should not have said? Had he put his life on the line for the right person? Was where he sat worth it?
Prisons tend to do that. They tend to bring a lot of questions and even what if moments. But these thoughts and feelings just don’t happen inside brick and mortar buildings. Sometimes the prison of a situation can close in on us where we have a lot of questions. And many times these questions and the situation of where we sit bring a lot of doubts.
It’s always been a bit of a surprise to me of how the firebrand John the Baptist began to question and doubt. At least this is the way each of these accounts read to me. John was the “Voice of the one crying in the wilderness” after 400 years of silence from God. From even his birth he was marked. He a cousin to Jesus. He knew through his own family even of the true story of His conception and upbringing. John had an incredible ministry when he was pushed to the center stage of Israel and God’s next step in revealing His Son. He paved the way.
John had spoke truth and let the chips fall where they may. Obviously some were offended – in particular Herod’s sister in law. She was married to Herod’s brother Philip and in due time, left him and went to live with Herod. It was flagrant sin. John spoke out boldly about this situation and found himself sitting in prison because of it. Somehow, someway as the walls of prison began to close in – so did the walls of his mind and he questioned if Jesus was the Messiah.
In typical grace, Jesus responded with truth. He spoke of His healing the blind, lame and deaf. He cured the lepers. He raised the dead and was preaching salvation to the poor. Jesus’ identity was obvious.
For each of us, when doubts come – whether it’s questions of our own salvation from the mess of life we’ve made; or the forgiveness of sins we’ve been given; or even God’s amazing work in our lives – Jesus meets us in our prisons and speaks tenderly with assurance. In such times, we should continue to look at the Scriptures which affirm our standing and even look back at how our lives have changed because of Jesus. Don’t let your doubts turn you away from Jesus but to Him – who has the answers and graciously meets us even in the toughest of questions.
Matthew 11 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Yet another piece of evidence that confirms Jesus was indeed the Messiah is the presence of John the Baptist. As prophecy foretold, in Malachi, there would be a forerunner.
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.Malachi 3:1 NASB
In John’s question to Jesus, he asks if He is the Expected One. In other words, John is asking Jesus, “Are you the Messiah?” The name Jesus Christ proclaims His Messianic title. Christ means “Anointed One.” Later in Scripture, these prophetic confessions would go a long way in establishing who believed in Jesus and who didn’t. For example, several chapters later Peter will identify Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This was not simply a statement done in passing as it so often is assumed today. It meant Peter literally believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah sent by God.
Let’s get back to John’s question. He’s discouraged. Apparently, Jesus isn’t doing all that John expected. Let’s face it, this happened (and happens) all the time. Elijah wanted God to take his life because his expectations were not met. Fleeing from Saul, and frustrated with life, David wanted to do the unthinkable until Abigail stepped in. The weeping prophet Jeremiah cursed his birth. If that’s not enough for you, just read the Psalms!
The point is, humanity has proven to have different expectations of what God’s Kingdom will look like. We don’t want or expect pain and suffering. We loathe losing control of “our lives.” When the circumstances of life come closing in, we, like John, ask Jesus the same question. “Is this what I signed up for… or is there something else?”
And this isn’t a slam on John. All of us would have been asking the same questions. John the Baptist had previously prophesied that this Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit’s fire. He claimed that Jesus would gather the wheat in His barn and throw the wicked chaff into the lake of fire. Herod was wicked. He had just imprisoned John for speaking the truth. So, John thought Jesus might need a little reminder. Have you ever felt that way?
What do we do when our expectations are not being met by Jesus?
The account of John’s doubt is relatable to all of us. We struggle to believe in God’s plan when detours crop up. But that is exactly why Matthew recorded it here in Scripture.
“Matthew recorded John’s struggle with doubt, not to condemn John, but to encourage subsequent disciples whose faith would be tested by hardships. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me could be translated “How happy will be the one who does not stumble on my account.””IVP New Testament Commentary