Summary: Have you ever stopped to consider what you expect from Him? A helper, a rescuer from your troubles, a self-help guru, someone that thinks like you? In this chapter Jesus punctures the expectations of others and ask that you really listen to Him.
What do you expect from Jesus? It’s a natural question. If you ask you’ll probably get answers like:
• I expect Jesus to get me out of my tough situations
• I expect Jesus to give me good advice on how to live my life
• I expect Jesus to tell me what I need to do to get to earn my way to heaven
• I expect Jesus will always be nice
• I expect Jesus to be my kind of Savior
• I expect Jesus to share my (moral – political – philosophical) views
• I expect Jesus to give me what I want
• I expect Jesus to be like other religious figures such as Buddha and Mohammed
• I expect Jesus never to rock the boat (“can’t we all just get along?”)
• I expect Jesus to be like my expectations
What do you expect from Jesus? Answering that question has eternal consequences. Here in Chapter 11 we see three different groups or individuals, each with a different expectation for Jesus. The Lord punctures all those expectations then delivers the ultimate truth and the way to get it.
1 – 6 John the Baptist
John’s question is the one every person must answer for themselves—are you the rescuer? John was put in prison by Herod Antipas. While there he apparently started having doubts. He’d baptized Jesus; saw the heavens open and the promise of God—but perhaps Jesus’ actions and words didn’t match up with John’s expectations. Maybe John wanted a judgmental Jesus, or a Messiah who ruled with a rod of iron. After all, he said Jesus would baptize with fire. So he sends some of his disciples over to pose the question publically to Jesus.
Notice Jesus doesn’t just say “yes, I am He.” He wants John, and everyone else, to listen and watch and then come to their own conclusions. What Jesus describes should have resonated with John. It comes from:
Isaiah 35:5-6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
This prophecy is about the kingdom of God. Anyone doing these things must come from God. Jesus adds that the dead are raised and the poor have good news preached to them. That last part comes from Isaiah 61:1. For those that receive Him as He is, they are not offended, but many will be, including many Jews.
For us it comes down to this: who is Jesus and will you be offended by Him or embrace Him?
Jesus did not fit John’s expectations of his kind of Messiah—perhaps by not moving fast enough, but it is John who must adjust. Even so, John would have known that surrounding the 2 passages in Isaiah are allusions to the judging role of the Messiah—so Jesus is affirming to John that He will judge, but perhaps encouraging him that this will happen later.
But lest the people think John is not the last of the Old Testament prophets and a great man, Jesus turns to them and addresses their expectations about John.
7 – 15 Those who heard John
“You were curious about John,” Jesus says. “What did you expect?” A reed shaken by the wind means someone who has no backbone, nothing to stand on. In today’s society that is often what we want—organizations and philosophical systems that will bend to our expectations. John was not such a one.
Then Jesus asks if the people went out to see a man dressed in fine clothes like a king. John was dressed in camel’s hair—not exactly the best most comfortable material. This might also be a subtle cut at the king who was holding John: Herod. But clearly it was not the cunning and undisciplined king that the people came to see—it was a prophet.
John was not just a prophet, but was also the one who inaugurated the Messianic age. Quoting:
Mal 3:1"Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me.
Notice Jesus changes the “me” to “you.” This then refers to Jesus as that Messiah.
But notice that even as great as John was—the best of humanity—it isn’t the same as the least of those who have not been offended but receive Jesus as Messiah. That’s because the best man has to offer has been tainted by sin—even John was born in sin. Jesus puts to rest the argument that by being really really good we can earn a place in God’s kingdom.
This next phrase is a little difficult to interpret. I think the best way to understand it is that since John inaugurated the coming of the Messiah, that same Messiah—Jesus has come with power—and powerful forces of darkness are arrayed to try and stop it.