THE MIRACLES PERFORMED BY JESUS:
– CONFIRM HIS IDENTITY AS PROMISED MESSIAH
– CALM THE DOUBTS OF COMMENDED DICIPLES (LIKE JOHN THE BAPTIST)
– CALL OUT THE DUPLICITY OF HIS UNREASONABLE CRITICS
Don’t underestimate the value of the miracles performed by Jesus. He certainly did not. These miracles have been documented by the eyewitness accounts of the Gospel writers so that we can rely on them today to confirm the identity of Jesus as the long-promised and long-expected Messiah – the unique Son of God who would perform God’s ordained program of suffering on the cross for our sins in order to bring in the glory of His kingdom on earth. Jesus was announced as the sacrificial Lamb of God and the King of Glory by the prophetic ministry of His forerunner John the Baptist. And Jesus was opposed at every turn by the criticism of the unreasonable Jewish religious leaders who rejected the call to repentance and faith because of their blindness and pride and self-righteousness. Eventually “wisdom will be justified by her children.”
MacArthur: Doubt is a struggle to believe. It is a struggle to believe. It is something that prevents me from fully believing. It can be momentary. It can be prolonged. It can be permanent. . . Every true expression of doubt in the four gospels relates to believers. Doubt is something that is part of being a believer. So we again go back to what the man said. “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” And you can identify with that and so can I. There have been times in all of our lives when in the midst of our believing we struggled with doubts. Some of you are going through that even now. Doubt is presented as a believer’s problem.
“And the disciples of John reported to him about all these things.”
I. (:19-23) CONFIRMATION REGARDING THE IDENTITY OF JESUS AS THE MESSIAH –
HIS MIRACLES CONFIRM HIS MESSIAHSHIP
A. (:19-20) Confirmation Requested by John the Baptist – Take Your Doubts to Jesus
“And summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”
“And when the men had come to Him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”
B. (:21-23) Confirmation Provided by the Ministry of the Messiah
1. (:21) Record of His Healing Ministry
“At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He granted sight to many who were blind.”
2. (:22) Response of Jesus References His Overall Ministry
“And He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you have seen and heard:
the blind receive sight,
the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
and the deaf hear,
the dead are raised up,
the poor have the gospel preached to them.’”
Note that Jesus did not make any impassioned defense of His Messiahship. He did not offer deep theological arguments regarding His identity. He simply pointed to the historical facts of his miracles as fulfillment of all that God had promised in the OT about the Expected One.
Geldenhuys: By mentioning all this, Jesus wants to remind John of Isaiah xxxv. 5-6 and lxi. 1 ff., where all the works which He is constantly doing are mentioned as the blessings to be given to the people in the Messianic time. Thus by His acts Jesus proves that He is indeed the Promised One.
Spurgeon: Our old proverb says that actions speak louder than words, so an answer in his actions would be more eloquent with these inquirers than even an answer in our Lord’s own words. He bade them look at the evidences of his Messiahship which he gave them by his miraculous cures, and then he said to them, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard.” It would be well if our lives were such that, if any enquired what we were, we should only have to say that they might judge us by what they had seen and heard in our common everyday life and conversation.
3. (:23) Reward for Loyalty
“And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.”
Lenski: John is not to let the absence of certain works bling him to the glorious presence of the works that are now in full progress. Let him be satisfied with these and trust that in due time the others will follow just as these are now being done.
Application: (Directed to John the Baptist) – Remain Loyal to Jesus as the Promised Messiah
II. (:24-28) COMMENDATION REGARDING THE GREATNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST –
HIS DOUBTS DON’T COMPROMISE HIS GREATNESS
A. (:24-26) Commending John by Use of Rhetorical Questions
“And when the messengers of John had left,
He began to speak to the multitudes about John,”
1. (:24b) Metaphor of a Reed Blowing in the Wind – Instead, Man of Conviction
“‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?
A reed shaken by the wind?’”
2. (:25) Metaphor of a Man of Luxury – Instead, Man of Callouses
“But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces.”
Leon Morris: The very fact that John had lived a hard life on the simplest of fare in the roughest of places ruled out all such suggestions.
Lenski: carries the thought of the swayed reed a step farther. A man who yields to popular opinion, who bends to the will and the word of the influential and the mighty, will be rewarded by them, given a high place and the finest of garments. The adjective “soft” (i.e., to the touch) conveys the idea of the finest and the most costly material. It is exactly the proper word and brings out the strong contrast to the rough, harsh, cheapest kind of material in the coat of camel’s hair that was worn by John.
3. (:26) Comparison to a Typical Prophet – Instead, More than a Prophet
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.”
John had been granted the privilege of preparing God’s people to receive the Messiah = a very unique ministry
J. Ligon Duncan: This is not John’s finest hour. And you know what Jesus turns around and does to this multitude? He turns around and He brags on John. Let me tell you about my cousin John, my servant John. There has never been a man that walked the face of this earth greater than my cousin, my friend, my servant, my forerunner, John. And the crowd cries out, God is just! Yes, that is the John that we know, that is the John that we respect! For Jesus to make that kind of a judgment is right because John is a great man. He is a man of integrity, he’s fearless, he’s bold, he tells us what we need to hear not what we want to hear, he opposes tyrants. This man clearly is God’s man and what Jesus has said about him is right.
B. (:27-28) Commending John by Explicit Testimony
1. (:27) Testimony Regarding His Divine Mission
“This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’”
2. (:28) Testimony Regarding His Distinctiveness
“I say to you, among those born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Leon Morris: Jesus’ coming marked a watershed. He came to inaugurate the kingdom. And the least in that kingdom is greater than the greatest of men. This is a statement of historical fact. John belonged to the time of promise. The least in the kingdom is greater, not because of any personal qualities he may have, but because he belongs to the time of fulfilment. Jesus is not minimizing the importance of John. He is putting membership of the kingdom into its proper perspective.
Lenski: blessed with greater revelation
MacArthur: John was greater than the OT prophets because he actually saw with his eyes and personally participated in the fulfillment of what they only prophesied (Mt 11:10, 13; cf. 1Pe 1:10, 11). But all believers after the cross are greater still, because they participate in the full understanding and experience of something John merely foresaw in shadowy form—the actual atoning work of Christ.
Application: (Directed to the multitudes) — Respond to the Ministry of John the Baptist = Repent from Sin and Trust in Jesus to Become His Genuine Disciple
III. (:29-35) CONTRAST BETWEEN THOSE WHO ACCEPTED OR REJECTED THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AND OF JESUS –
CRITICS HIDE BEHIND UNREASONABLE SMOKESCREENS
A. (:29-30) John’s Baptism Proves to be a Watershed Between:
1. (:29) Those Accepting God’s Kingdom Program = Common People
“And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John.”
2. (:30) Those Rejecting God’s Kingdom Program = Jewish Religious Leaders
“But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.”
They rejected God’s free offer of salvation via repentance and faith; become unreasonable critics
J. Ligon Duncan: They hadn’t repented. They hadn’t seen that they were the problem; they hadn’t seen that it was their sin that needed to be judged. It wasn’t the dirty Gentiles that needed to be judged, it was them. And so they hated what Jesus and John had to say because it embarrassed them and it humiliated them. They had a different plan for covering their sin. They were going to pretend like everyone else was the problem and they were going to cover up their sin and that was their plan for dealing with their sin. And so they didn’t like it when Jesus and John put their finger on their hearts.
B. (:31-34) Critics Will Be Critics – Impossible to Please Them
1. (:31-32) Never Satisfied
“To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like?”
“They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another; and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’”
Steven Cole: Jesus uses a parable to expose their root problem. Those who had rejected both John and Jesus were like children playing games in the market place. Jesus’ use of children for His illustration was a rebuke in itself, in that He is implying that these men who thought of themselves as too sophisticated for John’s crude style were, in reality, so immature that a children’s game refuted them. The picture is of one group of children saying, “Let’s play wedding and dance.” But their friends say, “No, we don’t want to play something happy.” So, the first group says, “All right, then let’s play funeral. We’ll play a dirge and be sad.” But the friends refuse to play this game as well. In other words, you can’t please them no matter what you do, because they don’t want to play unless they make up the game and the rules.
2. (:33-34) Always Finding Fault – With Both John the Baptist and Jesus – Despite Their Contrasting Styles
“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon!’”
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’”
MacArthur: And again I say to you, folks, in the end it’s not the style. They rejected John, with a bizarre kind of separated ministry, and they rejected Jesus with a very normal day-to-day ministry in the lives of people. They hated them both. They rejected them both. Style had nothing to do with it, they hated the truth. It’s never the style. It’s always the substance. Like spoiled children who didn’t want to play, these spiritual brats found a way to justify their rejection. The form of ministry is never the issue, it’s the truth. I’ll tell you, the pure true gospel in the mouth of the most bizarre person or the most beautiful person is still equally powerful. But there always are those brats who won’t weep with John and they won’t laugh with Jesus. They hate the message. Jesus said, “That’s what this generation is like. You can’t win. John’s style doesn’t get them. Mine, they will not play, they will not sing with us.”
C. (:35) Wisdom Will Be Vindicated – Unreasonable Critics Will Be Unmasked
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Donald Miller: God’s wisdom is vindicated in the fact that there were those wo heard both John and Jesus, and were responding to the in breaking of the Kingdom according to their light at that moment.
Leon Morris: They will see the wisdom of God in both John and Jesus. They will not walk in the critical ways of men who can never be pleased.
J. C. Ryle: The idea which our Lord desired to impress upon us appears to be, that though the vast majority of the Jews were hardened and unreasonable, there were some who were not,—and that though multitudes saw no wisdom in the ministry of John the Baptist and Himself, there were a chosen few who did. Those few were the “children of wisdom.” Those few, by their lives and obedience, declared their full conviction that God’s ways of dealing with the Jews were wise and right, and that John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were both worthy of all honor. In short, they “justified” God’s wisdom, and so proved themselves truly wise.
Application: (Directed to the multitudes) – Accept God’s Revelation and Respond in Obedience Without Disputing