When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.
2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 8 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. 9 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’
11 I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12 And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
16 To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17 ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’
18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”
Just a few things to note here. First, the advice Jesus gives to John’s disciples – tell him what you are seeing and hearing is good advice for us when we share about Jesus with others. Sometimes we jump right away to doctrine or even Bible stories, but the most effective thing to tell someone is part of your own story of how Jesus has healed, resurrected, and transformed your own life. Scripture and doctrine are important, but sharing your faith should be just that – telling people how Jesus has proven himself trustworthy in your own life. (This means you have to trust Jesus and act on that trust in order to have such stories.)
Second, Jesus explains his relationship to Scripture here – it all points to him. All of the Hebrew Bible and all the New Testament must be understood as they relate to Jesus. He gives many passages a new/different meaning than if we ignore how it is pointing to Jesus.
Third, Jesus says no one has ever been greater than John – only then to say that the least person in the kingdom is greater. There is a leveling of leadership here, an understanding that not even being the greatest prophet to ever live puts one above anyone else in Jesus’ kingdom. Leaders shouldn’t push their people around, and those being led should only follow leaders who understand that egalitarianism is a foundational part of the kingdom of God.
Fourth, Jesus had a reputation by this point for partying with the wrong crowd. I’m so glad he did.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.