Mt11 7-15 - Who Is John the Baptist

Titian-St-John-the-Baptist-1540 Matt. 11:7-15 - Who Is John the Baptist As a teacher this passage is amazing to me because Jesus seems to be engaged in what would later be called “Socratic Dialogue” where he poses and then answers his own questions. In a sense we can hear the concerns of his disciples and the crowds in the passage.

With John in prison and with Jesus not taking a political plan of attack there must have been a growing ground swell concerning who Jesus really was. Jesus answers these concerns by talking about who John the Baptist really is. A reed swaying in the wind? I’m wondering if there isn’t some larger significance to this picture that Jesus’ crowds and a 1st Century audience would have understood more clearly beyond a picture of something frail, short-lived and ill-suited for its environment. Obviously John was not about the nice clothes or “creature comforts.” He was the quintessential prophetic “voice shouting in the wilderness.” John ws the last of the prophets, last of the Old Covenant. Thus, Jesus’ comment that the least in the Kingdom is greater than John, whom he just called the greatest of the prophets, is not a disparaging comment against John but a comparison of the “Ages,” the Old Covenant versus the New.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it (Matt 11:12) When I first read the passage I wasn’t really sure what it meant and commentaries bounced between how Matthew used the phrase and how Luke uses it (Luke 16:16). It most likely refers to the Zealots, but I think the point isn’t their methods but just that the pressure has been building since John began preaching. And if they really understood this then they’d understand that John is Elijah and thus Jesus is the one who was promised to come (Malachi 4:5). JBB 6/09/2004