In verse 1, Matthew writes that Jesus made an end of commanding His disciples and began to teach and preach in their cities. The disciples were drawn to Jesus because they believed that He was the Promised One. The disciples were called for a specific purpose: they were to deliver the gospel to all who would believe. That which Jesus said in the verses before us was spoken to a much larger audience than His disciples. It is addressed to an audience that included those who had heard the message of John the Baptist and had been baptized by him.
This larger audience heard the inquiry made of Jesus by two of John’s disciples. They heard John’s disciples ask, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
John’s question would seem to fly in the face of that which John said when he baptized Jesus (Matt. 3:3). At Jesus’ baptism, John was certain that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming he was called to declare. John, now in prison and having heard the works which Jesus had done, now wondered if he should look for one other than Jesus.
Jesus’ answer is for both John and the audience which heard John’s question. Jesus said, “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see” (v. 4). Why was there need for John to be told those things a second time? When one takes a second look, one is forced to consider information that was not fully considered previously.
Jesus made the things that John had not fully considered known in verse 5. John knew that Jesus had caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, lepers to be healed, the deaf to hear, and the dead to be raised up. He knew that Jesus had preached good news to the poor (see Matt. 5:3). He knew these things but he thought Jesus might not be the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would do these things (see Isa. 29:18, 61:1). It would appear that John was looking for a Messiah who would rule with a strong hand (see Isa. 40:10). There were many in the audience who looked for a Messiah who would be their king, a king who would expunge Judea of Roman rule. They, like John, needed to consider the things which Jesus had done in a different light.
In verse 6, Jesus said that those who would not be offended because of Him would be blessed. Believers are not offended. We are blessed. This is not the case, however, for those who do not believe. One is offended by that which is contrary to one’s values and beliefs. Many scribes and Pharisees were offended when Jesus said that their righteousness was insufficient to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).
After John’s two disciples departed. Jesus addressed the audience who had heard Him say that John needed to rethink that which he had heard. As noted earlier, this audience included many who held John in high regard and were among those baptized by him. Those holding John in high regard might be offended by that which Jesus had just said.
Jesus asked the multitude why that they had been drawn to John and then supplied the answer. They believed that John was a prophet. They were drawn to John because he declared words given to him by God.
Jesus declared that John was, in deed, a prophet. Jesus then added that John was more than a prophet. John was more than a prophet because he was a prophet whose coming had been declared by Isaiah. God, through Isaiah, said “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Isa. 40:3). John was the messenger of whom Isaiah spoke.
In verse 11, Jesus stated that there were none born of women greater than John the Baptist. John was second to no one in greatness. The Lord followed with a statement that would have surprised His audience. He said that the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John. John’s greatness was not of the magnitude needed to qualify for entry in the kingdom of heaven. The least in the kingdom of heaven would be greater than John. Entry into the kingdom of heaven is not dependent upon one’s greatness.
That which Jesus spoke in verses 12 through 14 is for all who have the ears to hear (see v. 15). In verse 12, Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Suffereth violence, biazo in the Greek, is a single word which carries the thought of being subjected to force. The violent are those who forcibly attempt to enter the kingdom of heaven. Before John the Baptist, men sought entry into the kingdom of heaven by relying upon their own effort, by keeping the law (a forceful attempt). They sought to enter on the strength of works. John preached that entry into the kingdom of heaven was dependent upon changing one’s ways (Matt. 3:2). In verse 14, Jesus made it known that John’s ministry was that which was prophesied by Malachi (Mal. 4:5-6). John was the Elijah whose ministry would result in a relationship that did not previously exist. That new relationship is created when one repents of one’s works and comes to Christ believing that He is the supplier of the righteousness necessary to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Only believers have the ears to hear. Let us declare the gospel such that all may hear.