“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
– Matthew 11:27
Have you ever suspected something about someone but have just been waiting for them to say something to confirm your suspicion? John had heard of the works of Jesus and had wondered if this was the one he had prepared the way for. John knew the prophecies and what he thought the Messiah would be like. In prison and tired of waiting, John just had to know whether Jesus was the Messiah.
John’s disciples come to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah or if they should be searching for another one (). Although we do not know exactly why John may have doubted Jesus’ Messiahship, one reason may be because of his unconventional ways – he simply did not act the way they presumed the Messiah would act. We see examples of Jesus almost “hiding” his Messiahship from others by telling those whom he heals not to tell anyone ( & ). Many people expected the Messiah to be a kingly leader who would overthrow the Roman government’s oppression and rule the nation of Israel, but Jesus was neither of these. Jesus, however, does confirm John’s suspicions by quoting from a Messianic prophecy in . By sharing this message with the disciples of John (who would deliver the message to John himself), Jesus confirms that the acts he does – the acts of healing and preaching the good news – are proof enough that he is the Messiah.
Jesus knew that those who had gone out to see John went for a purpose. They knew that he had something special to say. Jesus acknowledges this but tells them that John is even greater than a prophet – he is the messenger sent ahead of the Messiah. Jesus confirms this by quoting from another prophet, . By confirming that John is the prophesied forerunner for the Messiah, Jesus indirectly affirms his Messiahship. In , Jesus says that those who are in the kingdom of heaven are greater than John, who he calls greatest of all born of women. Jesus is showing that anyone in the kingdom of heaven, even the least person in the kingdom, is still greater than the greatest person on earth. Kingdom citizenship is better than earthly citizenship. Those “violent people” who rage against the kingdom of heaven, as we will see in the next set of verses, are those who have been challenging John and Jesus, specifically those who are unresponsive to Jesus’ miracles. In , Jesus again confirms who John is by calling him Elijah. predicts that the prophet Elijah (or one like Elijah) would come before the Messiah comes. Again, by saying this Jesus confirms his Messiahship.
In , Jesus compares the people to children who are unsatisfied to the responses given by their music. He makes this comparison clearer in in which he compares the ministry of John and his own ministry. The people remained unsatisfied no matter in which manner Jesus and John ministered. They always seemed to have a problem with something. Overall, Jesus says that “…wisdom is justified by her deeds” (). Jesus’ miracles were proof of what he taught and the authority that he has. Unfortunately, many did not respond to what he did or taught.
Jesus gives pronouncements of woe upon three towns in which he ministered: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (). The reason for Jesus’ pronouncement of woe is because of these towns’ unresponsiveness to the miracles done before their eyes. He compares them to Old Testament towns who received great suffering and destruction for their unrepentance, but says that it would be easier for them on the day of judgment than for these three towns. The reason for this is because the Old Testament towns did not have Jesus Christ there. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum all experienced the Messiah up-close, yet they still rejected him. With increased revelation comes increased responsibility.
After condemning those who oppose him, Jesus praises the Father for what he has revealed through him (). God has hidden his revelation from those who are wise and understanding because they remain unresponsive to Jesus’ miracles – he is not the Messiah they are looking for. Instead, God has revealed himself through Christ to those who are humble like children and respond to Jesus’ Messiahship. shows that Jesus possesses the authority to reveal himself to whomever he desires. The good news is that Jesus Christ is revealed to all who hear the gospel message! This does not mean that all who hear the gospel message will respond to him (just like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum), but the gospel is nonetheless for the whole world. This should give us a sense of urgency to bring the gospel to everyone we meet and to send the gospel around the world.
In various passages, we have seen Jesus’ call to some of his disciples. In , Jesus calls all who are weary unto him. Jesus provides the rest for the soul which so many people desire. We have said that being a disciple of Jesus is a difficult task, but Christ says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (). Though discipleship may be difficult, we share the yoke with a mighty Savior. We do not take on discipleship on our own, but we are discipled by the master – we trust in him to guide us and to give us the rest we need.