“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Matthew 11:2-3 (Read v. 2-15)
Whether John the Baptist had questions concerning Jesus or wished to point his own disciples to Jesus we don’t know for sure, but he did, from prison, send two of his disciples to Jesus with the question: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
Notice that Jesus’ answer was not just an affirmative claim but clear evidence of fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. After healing many and casting out evil spirits in their presence (Luke 7:17ff.), “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matt. 11:4-6; Cf. Isa, 35:4ff.; 42:5ff.; 61:1ff.)
Indeed, the one who does not stumble and fall in regard to faith in Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ) and Savior is blessed, as Jesus said.
What about you? Do you ever have questions or doubts about Jesus as to whether He is the promised Messiah and Savior of the world? Consider His works! He opened the eyes of the blind, healed those who were lame, cleansed lepers, opened the ears of the deaf and raised the dead, including rising from the dead Himself on the third day after being crucified and dying for the sins of all. And Jesus proclaimed the gospel to the poor – to those destitute of their own righteousness before God, to those who were guilty and stood condemned under the holy law of God. To them, Jesus preached release, forgiveness and entrance into God’s kingdom through faith alone in His name.
And who was John? Jesus asked the multitudes what they went out into the wilderness to see? Was it a reed shaken with the wind – one that easily swayed in his teaching to accommodate the popular winds of doctrine? No, John was unbending in his doctrine, calling upon all, including kings and religious rulers, to repent. Was it a man dressed in soft, expensive clothing like that worn of kings or of the priests and rulers of the Jews? No, for John dressed coarsely in a garment of camel’s hair, much like Elijah, and wore a leather belt around his waist. In fact, in many ways, John and Jesus were opposites in their food and drink. John drank no wine and ate locusts and wild honey, and Jesus drank wine and ate a variety of foods, and many of their hearers were critical of both (Matt. 11:16-19).
Jesus said John was a prophet, greater than all the Old Testament prophets because he was sent to prepare the people for the coming of the LORD God, their Messiah and Savior.
Jesus said (Matt. 11:9-11): “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Jesus called John the Elijah who was to come (v. 14).
Jesus said (Matt. 11:12-13) “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
Though many of the Jewish leaders rejected both the baptism of John and the ministry of Jesus (cf. Luke 7:29-30; 36ff.), many people – including tax collectors and known sinners – were pressing their way into God’s kingdom. They took hold of the Gospel in faith and looked to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior and took God’s kingdom of grace for themselves with the same fervor as conquering soldiers take a kingdom and seize the spoils of war.
And what about us? Do we receive the preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus and repent of our sinful ways, looking to Jesus and his cross for mercy and forgiveness? John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4); and Jesus preached that all people should repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Jesus also commanded His disciples to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:46-47), and so we preach today.
Are we, like so many of Jesus hearers, rejecting the idea that we need to repent? Are we critical of Jesus for offering mercy and forgiveness to the religious traitors and lowlifes of His day? Or, do we take the preaching of John and of Jesus lightly and go about our lives impenitent and seeing no need for repentance and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus?
Sad to say, I don’t see people breaking down the doors to get in and hear the Gospel. Though, as Jesus said, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John because we can proclaim the fulfilled Gospel – the message that Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the world and then rose again in victory on the third day – how many desire to hear that Gospel?
Instead, people criticize the preachers – some for being too formal and liturgical and others for being too casual and contemporary. Preachers are required to be faithful stewards of God’s Word, of Christ’s message (1 Cor. 4:1ff.). Whether dressed in formal robes or a garment of camel’s hair, they are commanded and required to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name among all the nations (Luke 24:46-47; Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:22-23). Woe unto preachers if they don’t – if they are like reeds shaken with the wind! And, woe unto the hearers who fail to repent of their sinful ways and look to Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness!
Blessed is the one who is not offended in Christ Jesus!
O dearest Jesus, grant us ears to hear and hearts to believe the Gospel. By Your Holy Spirit’s working through the Gospel, grant that we repent of our sinful ways and to look to You and Your sacrifice on the cross for mercy, forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]