Matthew 11:1-19 (ESV)
1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
Jesus continued to travel around Galilee, teaching and preaching. John the Baptist was in prison and heard about all that Jesus was doing. Naturally, John was a bit confused, so he sent his disciples to Jesus to get clarification on his behalf. The disciples of John asked Jesus if he truly was the one they were waiting for, since their leader was in prison. Wasn’t the promised deliverer supposed to overcome evil, judge sin, and establish his kingdom? Jesus responded by quoting Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah who would heal, raise the dead, and preach the gospel, which is exactly what Jesus did (v. 5). Jesus affirmed that he was the Messiah they waited for. He then explained that John was not weak in questioning this. It would have been hard for the Jews to think of anyone having a higher place than a prophet, but in Jesus’ mind John the Baptist did. As both a prophet and the fulfillment of prophecy, John was the highest of prophets. He was the forerunner of the Messiah of whom Malachi spoke. In fact, John was the greatest among all men and women (v. 11)! And yet, even the least in Jesus’ new kingdom was greater than John. Wow. What a privilege to be a follower of Jesus today.
Jesus went on to describe how people were never satisfied. John came preaching repentance, and they rejected his message. Jesus embraced the outcasts, yet his teaching was ignored too. He then illustrated this with children he had seen at play. At a wedding game, the children played the flute, but none of the other children would dance. At a funeral game, the children wailed, but none of the other children would mourn. In the same way, the people refused to join in with John and Jesus. Nothing was good enough for them. What about you? Are you critical of the messengers God brings, saying, “He is too harsh,” or “He is too welcoming?” Let’s not be like John’s and Jesus’ audience, never satisfied and missing God as a result. Jesus declares, “Wisdom is justified by her deeds.” The wise one will accept the teachings of Jesus, remaining flexible about the manner in which they are carried out. Let’s never be found dictating to God how he should manage things, but instead allow him, rather than our preferences, to lead the way.