SynopsisIn the last chapter Jesus chose his Apostles and sent them out on their first missionary journey, giving them some instructions on what to expect as they went. This passage begins with a statement that after giving these instructions, Jesus went to “teach and preach in their cities” (verse 1 (ESV)). (By “their” does it mean the Apostles’ cities?)
And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (verses 4–6 (ESV))But don’t think that Jesus is running John down, because as John’s disciples are leaving, Jesus addresses the crowd, and reminds them what they went to see, when they went to see John in the desert. Which is: a prophet.
High praise indeed. But the second half of verse 11 is more astounding:
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.
(verses 9–11a (ESV), Jesus speaking)
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (verse 11b (ESV))That’s me! (And anyone else who’s saved.)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (verse 12 (ESV))I’m afraid I just don’t know what that means.
ThoughtsThis is a longer passage than usual, with more crammed into it, so let’s just jump right into it.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. (verse 6 (ESV))Which indicates to me that John and his disciples probably were offended by Jesus (or he wouldn’t have felt the need to say that). But why be offended?
That the kingdom has suffered violence (Gk. biazo) probably indicates opposition from the religious establishment, and the violent take it by force probably refers to the actions of specific evil people like Herod Antipas, who had arrested John.Jesus refers to John as being Elijah because of a prophecy in Malachi that Elijah would be sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, (Malachi 3:1 (ESV), 4:5 (ESV)), and yet John denied that he was Elijah in John 1:21 (ESV). This just means that John is being sent sort of “in the spirit” of Elijah, but, as John correctly states, he’s not literally Elijah, back from the dead.