Summary: "There is none greater than John the Baptist," says Jesus. "Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11).
LOOK WE FOR ANOTHER?
1. “Are You He that should come, or look we for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
We do not know for sure why John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to speak with Jesus. Perhaps prison had knocked the wind out of his sails, and he wanted some reassurance that it had not all been in vain. Or perhaps it was for the benefit of the disciples themselves.
John had been faithful in his ministry, and always pointed away from himself to the One who should come. Now He was come, John’s ministry was drawing towards its completion. The time was drawing nigh when ‘Elijah’ (Matthew 11:14) must lay down his mantle.
Certainly Jesus’ answer would be an encouragement to both John and his disciples. Decide for yourself whether the fulfilment of prophecy at the hand of Jesus was adequate evidence to say, Yes, He is the One. Compare Matthew 11:5 with Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1.
John had been an outspoken witness to Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), whose shoes he was not worthy to bear (Matthew 3:11). Now Jesus asked John’s disciples to witness for themselves: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up - and along with these miracles there is one other: “the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Jesus reminded John, and his disciples, of the blessedness of “whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:6).
2. “What went ye out into the wilderness to see?” (Matthew 11:7).
As John’s disciples set off back towards the prison-house, Jesus addressed the crowds who had gathered around Him. Did the people go out to see a reed shaken in the wind? Surely not, for John was not one for wavering, but rather of calibre of those whose passionate forthrightness was even now taking the kingdom of heaven by storm (Matthew 11:12).
John came preaching, and his message was not soft and woolly, but as abrasive as his raiment. No gentle words to tickle their ears drew the multitudes out of Jerusalem, Judaea, and the region about Jordan (Matthew 3:5): but rather the straightforward declaration of the need for repentance, and the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. Then the King drew near, and John testified to Him (John 1:32-34).
The one who had pointed towards Jesus now receives a fitting epitaph from his friend and cousin. Is he a prophet? Yes - and more than a prophet (Matthew 11:9). This is the forerunner foreseen by the prophets of old (Matthew 11:10; cf. Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3).
‘All the prophets and the law prophesied until John’ (Matthew 11:13): but now the Baptist straddles the ages. As last in the line of prophets pointing toward our Lord Jesus Christ, he becomes the foremost amongst them. There is none greater than John the Baptist, says Jesus (Matthew 11:11).
“Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). The one who had been the forerunner must now, after all, learn to be a follower. We are not better than he, but live under ‘a better covenant, which was established upon better promises’ (Hebrews 8:6).