This passage is just reassuring to me. John the B, who’s really supposed to know his stuff, second guessed Jesus and Jesus reassured him, then turned to everyone else and said “This guy’s all right.”
- V1 – Jesus told them what to do and they all went their separate ways to carry out His mission.
◊ I have my instructions, have I set out?
- V2-3 – Even John the B is having his doubts. Things aren’t going well for him (he’s been put in prison). He was really confident that Jesus was the Messiah earlier (John 1:29-34), I wonder what gave him doubts. Did Jesus’ deeds not meet his expectations or was he struggling with the fact that Jesus was doing nothing to get him out of prison? My Study Bible points out he had been preaching a message of blessing on those who repented and judgement on those who didn’t, so he’s probably wondering how he’s the one who ended up in jail.
◊ When I have doubts, do I come to Jesus for reassurance and ask Him to allay them? It’s ok to admit my doubts about God and the Bible to myself and God. He can handle them.
- V4-5 – These things all fulfill prophecies about the Messiah. (Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6, 53:4, 26:18-19, 61:1)
- Zing! This sounds like a little dig from Jesus to John. John and his disciples had been fasting, so I wonder if he was also offended (like the Pharisees) that Jesus was at so many parties with “sinners.” (Oh, the irony, since we are all sinners.)
◊ Do I trust that God knows what He’s doing even when He doesn’t meet my expectations of how He “should” be doing things?
◊ Do I sometimes get offended at the way God is working?
- V7 – After John questions Jesus, Jesus still commends him to the crowd.
- V7-10 – John was called to be a prophet (give a specific message from God to His people) and he stood by his message and did his job well. He wasn’t concerned with what others thought.
◊ What has God called me to do? Am I taking that seriously and doing it well? Am I a “reed shaken by the wind”?
- V10 – John had confirmed who Jesus was as Messiah, now Jesus is publicly confirming John’s very important role as prophet.
- V11-14 – This whole section is tricky to understand and I highly recommend you find some study Bible notes or a commentary to help clear things up.
- V11 – John was given a very special job to do, but he was the last of the people under the Old Covenant. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the New Covenant was in place so anyone could enter the kingdom of God through Christ. (On the salvation of believers in the OT, see Romans 4.)
- V12 – I feel like my Study Bible notes actually made things a little murkier for me mostly because one version translated it “The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence” and explained that and the other one translated it “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing” and explained that. Those are 2 totally different phrases in my mind, so I’m not sure what to tell you. Either way, I feel like it’s logical to think that at this time in history, when God Himself was walking on earth in vulnerable human form, there was probably a pretty intense spiritual battle going on – both on earth (think of how many demons Jesus cast out!) and in heaven. The spiritual battle aspect of it makes sense to me whether the Kingdom was advancing violently or suffering violence. Let me know if you have other thoughts or ideas.
- V13 – (ESV note) John was the last of a long history of Old Testament prophets that looked forward to the coming of Christ.
- V14 – (ESV note) Malachi had prophesied that “Elijah would prepare the way for the Messiah (Mal. 3:1, 4:5). He did not actually imply only a literal reappearance of Elijah, and John’s earlier denial that he was Elijah (John 1:21) was probably an attempt to correct a popular belief that Elijah himself would reappear. Before John’s birth, he was designated as the one who would minister in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), thereby fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy.
- V15 – Jesus says “I’m telling you like it is. Listen and believe.”
◊ Am I hearing (and comprehending and acting on) what God has to say or is it going in one ear and out the other?
- V16 – Seriously, people! Nothing we do will make you happy.
◊ Do I criticize people who serve and honor God differently than I do? Do I take into account that they may be in a different season in their relationship with God than I am? Perhaps God is asking something different of them than He is of me.
- V19 – “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” – A reference back to that whole fruit thing. I cannot judge a person’s heart or whether or not they are doing it “right” but when God’s Spirit is working in a person, there is good fruit that comes as a result.
Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:
- Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
- What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
- Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
- What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
- What do these verses move me to pray for myself?