1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
10 “This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears, let him hear.
Do you have ears? God bless us with our hands, ears, eyes, feet, mouth.
As we know, in Chp 10, we studied 3 times – Jesus called his 12 disciples (apostles) and gave them authority and power to go on mission. After that, he didn’t take a rest – he went on to do his mission continually: Preaching, Teaching, & Healing.
At that time, JB was in prison by Herod – because he’d publicly rejected Herod’s adulterous relationship and marriage. JB was very active, he was sent as the forerunner of God to testify to Jesus so that through him all men might believe in Christ. Now, in prison, he cannot speak outside publicly anymore. He thought more and more about Jesus, and the more and more he thought, the more and more he was convinced that YES Jesus was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him – and he put all his hope in this one question. “Are you the One who was to come?”
This question may look like a doubtful question – but it can also be seen as a question through which the light of hope is shining.
Jesus’ answer = v.4-6
This answer of Jesus is a quotation from Isaiah 29, and 35:4-6. In two places in Isaiah, these same words can be found. So, Jesus reminded him of the OT prophecies about the works of the Messiah. He pointed him toward his acts of healing, his preaching, and his teaching. YES! With so much evidence, Jesus’ identity should have been obvious. In this answer, we hear the accent of confidence. He didn’t say, “Tell John what I’m talking about.” He said, “Tell John what you SEE.”
Jesus’ answer is the same today. SEE what I can do for you. SEE what I have done for others.
The very things Jesus did 2000 years ago in Galilee, he is doing still today.
- The truth about God and his works can only be seen (eyes opened) when you have faith in Christ.
- Feet that are not strong, can be strengthened in Jesus.
- Those contaminated by the disease of sin can only be purified by Jesus Christ.
- Those who are deaf to the voice of God can only hear in Christ.
- Those who are dead in sin can be raised to the newness and liveliness of life in Jesus.
- Those who are poor in spirit can receive the richness of the love of God only in Christ.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
His invitation is, was, and will be the same. Give your life to me and see and experience what I can do with your life.
The supreme argument for Christ is not intellectual debate, but the experience of his life-changing power.
After this, Jesus talks about JB.
This is a quotation from Malachi 3:1 “I will send my messenger ahead of you…”
Jesus asks and answers 3 questions about JB:
What did you go out to see in the desert?
- A reed swayed in the wind? NO. – A reed was a kind of grass on the banks of the Jordan River – symbolizing the most COMMON of things to see. Another meaning = a weak vacillator – he never takes a stand on anything – always tossed about by various opinions (flip-flopper). We know they did NOT go to see this – JB’s fiery preaching was not like a reed.
- A man with fine clothes? NO – John’s clothes = camel’s hair. If they wanted to see a rich man, they should have gone to a palace. Such a man would be a courtier. He was not a courtier. He was an ambassador of God – not a courtier of King Herod.
- A prophet? YES – The prophet is a foreteller of the truth of God. He had confidence in God and the wisdom of God in his mind, the truth of God in his mouth, the courage of God in his heart. The job of the prophet was to show the true Messiah to man. JB was the LAST of the OT prophets – and he saw the Son of Man with his own two eyes. This made him more than a prophet.
Today, what do you come to church to see in Jesus Christ? Yes, we worship God, but what do you come to SEE in Jesus? Entertainment? No. Luxurious clothes? No.
Why do you come to church? What do you come to see? “I come to see my personal Lord, Savior, God, in Jesus Christ and to worship him together with my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Jesus continues to talk about JB in v. 11 (much meaning).
“I tell you the truth” = “listen well, this is SUPER important…”
First Jesus exalts JB to the highest place among all human beings “He is THE greatest among all born of women.” Yes, he is the greatest, biggest man in the history of the world.
But then, Jesus lowers JB to the lowest place in the kingdom of heaven. How can these two opposites both be true?
Yes, JB is THE greatest in human history. Before sharing this, let’s have one question: Who is greater, JB or you? Before God? (Silently)
Your personal answer to this question is the correct answer…to you.
Yes, he was the GREATEST in history – the only one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, the only prophet to see and point people DIRECTLY to Jesus. In this sense, JB is the greatest in all of history. Yes, in this world.
BUT, in the kingdom of heaven, the least is greater than JB. It means, if we are truly in the kingdom of heaven by believing in Jesus, we are greater than JB. What did John lack? It’s simple and fundamental. He’d never seen the cross. Therefore, he never understood the FULL revelation of the love of God manifested through the cross.
The love of God, the holiness, the judgment, the warning, the penalty of God he preached, but he never FULLY understood the love of God because he died before Jesus died (and rose again to inaugurate his kingdom).
No one ever fulfilled his God-given purpose better than JB, but he never saw the cross with his eyes.
It is an amazing thing for us to know more about God than the greatest of the great OT prophets.
Yes, in his coming kingdom, we have a greater spiritual heritage than JB, because we have known and seen the FINISHED work of Christ on the cross. We can have greater privilege than JB.
Yes, JB is great, greater, the greatest – in that his FIRST message was the same as that of Jesus Christ “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near!” And Jesus came as the king of his kingdom. It means, Jesus is the REALITY of the kingdom of heaven – this is Jesus’ dominion as king. Wherever Jesus is in control as King, that is the kingdom of heaven. How can we receive this?
ONE WAY: by believing in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sin and rose again for my salvation – and accept him as my personal Lord, King, Savior, and God. We receive by believing in the truth of Jesus’ substitutionary attonement. This is the gospel message.
JB did preach a powerful and wonderful message, BUT it wasn’t the gospel – because there was no story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We can be greater than JB in this sense. He had no opportunity to preach the message of the cross – the message of the gospel. But we have this wonderful blessing to preach and share this very message of the cross.
IF you and I preach and share the message of the gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus – then we are greater than JB in God’s redemptive history.
That’s why this passage says “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus continues to talk about JB.
Let’s see two verses:
- Malachi 4:5 (last book, last chapter, almost last verse of OT) “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day when the Lord comes.”
- Matthew 24:14 (prophecy of the last day of the last days) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and THEN the end will come.” (This is the prophecy of the last day of the last days.)
v. 12 “Forcefully advancing – forceful men”
Yes, the kingdom of heaven was started with the death and resurrection of Jesus, but the consummation of the kingdom of heaven is YET to come. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world now stand AGAINST each other – because Satan is the king/prince of this world/age. So, until the consummation of the kingdom of heaven is finished, there is fighting between these two kingdoms.
From when JB was imprisoned wrongly, the kingdom of heaven has experienced violence and persecution. So, if we accept the kingdom of heaven, we need violent devotion – forceful attitude, assertive action – to keep the kingdom of heaven safely and peacefully.
“John is like Elijah”
JB came in spirit and power of Elijah – he also dressed like Elijah and ministered like him – and had a message of judgment for the apostate nation of Israel.
The last book, chp, almost verse – it prophesied the coming of Elijah again before the last day. Jesus regarded the coming of JB as the fulfillment of that prophecy.
How about us? Yes, we can be greater than JB IF we are used in fulfilling the prophecy of the last days in Matthew 24:14. “This gospel will be preached to all nations and then the end will come.” (And then I will come.)
If we are used in fulfilling this prophecy, we will be counted, regarded by God as greater than JB in God’s redemptive history.
“He who has ears, let him hear. She who has ears, let her hear.”
God bless us with our hands, feet, ears, and mouth.