The Third Sunday of Advent
Matthew 11:2-11. 2 When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. 9 Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Jesus’ View of John. John’s preaching had created a sensation (see 3:5), and the movement into the wilderness had been a remarkable phenomenon. Jesus now examines its motives, to show the real significance of John. The series of three questions and answers suggests motives progressively closer to a true understanding of John. A reed shaken by the wind is a metaphor for a weak, pliable person; John was not such a person, and the implied answer is ‘Of course not’. It was John’s rugged independence which attracted a following. Nor was he dressed in fine clothing; far from it, as 3:4 shows. It was as a man conspicuously separate from the royal palace that attracted them. (There may be an ironical reference to his present residence in a ‘royal palace’—as a prisoner of conscience in Herod’s fortress) His rough clothing in fact points to his real role, as a prophet (see 3:4), and the crowds would gladly have accepted this description of John. But even that is not enough. Continue reading