Messengers from John the Baptist

Shut up in prison, John the Baptist received only irregular and possibly inaccurate reports of Jesus’ ministry. These reports must have caused him to wonder whether Jesus really was the Messiah he foretold. Jesus sent back the message that he was carrying out a ministry of relief to the oppressed, which was the sort of ministry foretold of the Messiah in the Old Testament (Matt 11:1-5; cf. Isa 35:5-6; 61:1). Many were disappointed that Jesus did not bring the political victories they expected of the Messiah, but Jesus promised a special blessing to those who understood his ministry and did not lose heart (Matt 11:6).

To prevent anyone from speaking ill of John because of his questioning, Jesus pointed out what a great man he was. John was not weak in character, uncertain of himself or easily swayed by the opinions of others. Nor did he seek comfort or prestige. He was a prophet, and like many of the prophets he endured a life of hardship (Matt 11:7-10).

John was the last and greatest figure of the era before the Messiah, but because he belonged to that era he was less blessed than the humblest believer who enters the Messiah’s kingdom. Although some opposed the kingdom violently, others spared no effort to enter it (Matt 11:11-12). In preparing the way for the kingdom and introducing the Messiah, John was the ‘Elijah’ of whom the prophet Malachi spoke (Matt 11:13-15; cf. Mal 4:5).

Those who believed and obeyed the preaching of John were pleased to hear Jesus’ commendation of him. But the religious leaders, who hated John, were angry (Luke 7:29-30).

Jesus likened the people of his day to a lot of quarrelling children playing in the streets. They could not agree to play a lively wedding game, nor could they agree to play a slower funeral game. Nothing satisfied them. The Jews acted like those children. They criticized John because he followed strict rules about food and drink and lived like a hermit in the desert; they criticized Jesus because he had no such rules about food and drink and mixed with the most disreputable people in society. But God had a

 

purpose in sending John and Jesus with their separate missions, and his wisdom was proved in the changed lives of those who accepted their messages (Matt 11:16-19).

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