John the Baptist: More Than a Prophet
General Idea: The idea of who and what a Messiah was and was to do was a big controversy in the first century. John knew who the Messiah was, but Jesus’ behavior of touching those who were unclean, taking a subtle approach to the Kingdom, and not overwhelming the country caused a crisis of faith. John the Baptist sits in a prison cell because of the actions of corrupt religious leaders and a cruel king. He is perplexed, confused, disoriented, and discouraged. He wonders if all of his faithfulness and mission were in vain; did he err, or was his passion misdirected? Was there someone else? Why was Jesus not doing what he expected Him to do? He dedicated his life to be the herald; forsaking all he knew, friends, family, status, and comfort to bring the message that God had given him. Now, because of his efforts, he is on a dirt floor awaiting his impending death—and with a crisis of faith. He sends two of his disciples to make sure all was not in vain, that what he did was worth it. Then Jesus answers John’s disciples with what they observed. Jesus then tells His disciples how wonderful and important John was.
1. Now it came to pass: This passage is the epilogue to Matthew, chapter ten. This is the model, the way of authentic discipleship, of how to go out and teach and make Him known.
a. Cities refers to anyplace where people are; it is a broad term.
i. The major cites near the Galilean area where Jesus was, were Sepphoris and Tiberias.
ii. Jesus may have gone to these cities; however, there is no record or evidence that He did.
iii. The area between these cites was filled with agricultural villages with populations of 1,000 to 3,000 people each.
b. In the mean time, John the Baptist fades away in prison for months. The work of Jesus had not conveyed the outcome that he expected.
c. John sent: John had become concerned that Jesus was mixing with those who were “unclean,” such as lepers (vs. 8:3; 9:20, 25), and that the expected Kingdom was not at hand (vs. 3:2; Luke 7:19) from his perspective. He taught the righteous deeds He would perform and perhaps saw it as judgment--chopping down trees (vs. 3:10-12).
i. John’s disappointment was natural, as we all have and will face disappointments. It is how we deal with them that is the main issue!
ii. John did not doubt Jesus; he just wanted some reassurance as to what was going on. Perhaps as His will became weak, he may have wanted to urge Jesus to advance His Plan.
iii. Emissaries would be sent to make known a king or dignitary was coming. John was the quintessential emissary. John is an emissary and sends emissaries.
iv. John’s disciples traveled from Machaerus, the fortress of Herod where John was imprisoned, through Perea, alongside the Jordan River and crossed into Galilee, a long and treacherous journey.
2. Jesus answers: Jesus’ reply to John’s concerns was to show John’s disciples the results of His touch; the unclean became clean, thus He was not affected by their sin.
a. John’s idea of a Messiah may have been similar to that of his contemporaries--someone to usher in a royal Kingdom, a world change in government (vs. 3:11).
b. Jesus showed them a miracle worker and relationship builder.
i. Jesus did not give promises as most do; rather He gave real, clear, observable evidence and results! This served to counter any false or misleading report John may have been given.
ii. In verse five, Jesus quoted Isaiah, and perhaps a lost prophecy about the messianic era (Isa. 26:18-21; 35:5-6; 61:1; Luke 4:18).
c. A reed shaken in the wind refers to weakness (1 Kings 14:15; 2 Kings 18:21 Isa. 42:3; 3; Ezek. 29:6; Maccabees 2:22). Such reeds could not be used to make anything--paper, housing--nothing. They were totally useless.
d. Blessed are those not offended: It is a sad fact the works of our Lord will offend many! People do not like for anyone, neither God nor man, to usurp their ideas, Will, or plans.
e. Prophets tended not to be well off--financially, politically, or relationally. They were cut off from society and faced immense danger from those whose ways were not God’s ways, such as all of the corrupt and evil kings. In David’s time, Nathan and Gad were “court” Prophets and perhaps lived and worked in the palace. After this period, from the time of Ahab, the court prophets became corrupt and false, and the “real” prophets hung out in the wilderness, such as Elijah and Jeremiah.
f. Wealth and luxury are not wrong or evil of themselves; however, these are not the standards of holiness, and often wealth distracts God’s people from what the real wealth and mission is.
g. More than a prophet: John was the subject of prophecy and was a prophet. Very unique!
i. In Jesus time, most of the people believed that all of the prophets had died out and that period was over. But, they were curious about John.
ii. Malachi predicted that John in his role was more than a herald for Jesus, but also the direct announcer of God, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6; 14; Isa. 40:3).
iii. John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah (Matt. 11:13-14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). This did not mean that Elijah, whose ministry was proclaiming judgment and redemption, would be reincarnated in John (John 1:21). John was sent to prepare God's people for the Lord's coming.
iv. We have to prepare and repent to take the Lord into our lives. It is now primarily the role of the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts (John 3:5-6, Romans 5:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 5:22-23). It is still up to us to prepare our minds (Romans 12:1-3).
3. John lived in the age of Law, and his ministry was preparatory to Christ. Jesus becomes the Bride as in The Church, (John 3:29; Eph. 5:25-27, 32).
a. No one greater: Jesus is elevating, not demeaning His disciples. Telling them to serve God with a surrendered heart elevates them in God’s eyes.
i. Greatest was a Jewish expression of praise. You can say Joseph and Moses were the greatest at the same time, or this Rabbi was the greatest, or my mother’s falafel is the greatest. It does not mean as it does in English, as this is the greatest person/thing who ever was.
ii. The least will be greater than John because they will witness and know of Jesus’ Resurrection. John did not live to see the full fulfillment of what he preached (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
b. Born of women is a Jewish expression meaning all of humanity—or “people.” Prophets and Law together refer to the entire Old Testament, the Torah, and Writings.
c. He who is least refers to humbleness, not position (Matt. 18:4)!
d. Suffers violence: This context refers to a passive meaning, as suffering from violent attacks. It refers to ongoing persecution, even though the Kingdom is at hand.
i. This also refers to those whose Wills are bent on evil and distortion, from Herod the evil king, to gossipers in the church.
ii. Anyone who forces his evil Will on others inflicts suffering on that person.
iii. Our trust, dependence, and obedience to God are our badges of honor!
e. Children refers to spoiled children and immature adults whose lives center around themselves.
f. Demon is a charge that one is a manipulator or a false prophet who is possessed by an evil spirit (Duet. 13:1-11; 18:9-20).
g. Glutton was a serious charge that a person could be stoned for (Duet. 21:20). It meant far more than eating too much; it referred to a total disregard for anything holy.
h. Wisdom means that Jesus personifies the Wisdom of God, and is one of His Names, Sophia (1 Cor. 1:30; James 3:17-18). This is a demonstration that Jesus is Right and True. By examining Christ, we know He is True!
i. We will walk in darkness, but when we do, we will not stumble because He is the Light (Isa. 59:10; Jer. 13:16; 18:15; Mal. 2:8; John 11:9-10).
Take a look at Isaiah 35:4-6, 50:10! We will all experience crises of faith as some point, where our experience and expectations converge, yet do not meet. This will happen when we venture beyond our comfort zone into His service and we find our circumstances challenging our faith (Phil. 4:19). We will wonder if our life has been meaningless. Did I do the right thing? How come, even though I have been faithful, I have experienced such suffering and disappointment?
When this happens, do what John the Baptist did, go tell Jesus! Get in His Word and allow His Word to give you assurance and peace. Allow God to refresh you and give you strength; He will come and save you. Turning back in defeat, distrust, or disillusionment is no real answer. Realize that your faith needs to be challenged so it can grow, and glow (Heb. 13:5-6)!
1. What do you do when you face a frustrating situation and are unsure how to respond?
2. What is challenging your faith now?
3. If you were John, what may have caused a crisis of faith for you--keeping in mind his situation?
4. What causes crisis of faith with you and/or others you know? What do you do? What should you do?
5. What would happen to your faith and convictions if you totally dedicated your life to Jesus, and all you knew--your friends, family, status, and comfort--left you?
6. How is verse one, and as a whole Matthew 10, a model and way of authentic discipleship?
7. John’s disappointment was natural, as we all have and will face disappointments. How have you dealt with that?
8. John did not doubt Jesus; he just wanted some reassurance as to what was going on. What reassures you when you have doubt or concern?
9. How and why does Jesus reply to John’s concerns?
10. A lot of people give promises for their answers. What does Jesus do? How can this be a model on how you respond to people?
11. Wealth and luxury are not necessarily wrong, but what can they negatively do to you? Consider this. What would happen to your faith and personality if you got everything you wanted?
12. In what ways did you prepare and repent in order to take hold of the Lord into your life?
13. What does it mean to you to serve God with a surrendered heart? How can this elevate your being in God’s eyes?
14. How do you express praise to others? Why is this important? Why did Jesus do it?
15. Most people in business and society consider position as the most important personal goal. So, why is this mindset present in the Church, and not humbleness?
16. Read John 11:9-10. How does John, chapter eleven tie in with this passage? How will knowing that when you walk in darkness you will not stumble, for He is the Light, touch you? How can He be your Light?
17. Have you or your church experienced someone’s evil Will forced upon others? How did that cause suffering?
18. We will all experience crises of faith as some point. So, what do you need to do to prepare your mind, Will, and faith to expect and accept whatever comes, then turn it into a learning and faith-building experience?
19. How can you become stronger through harsh and difficult experiences such as suffering or disappointment?
20. How can God’s Word give you assurance and peace in all situations?
© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.com