“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
It’s interesting that John asked an academic question, recorded in Matthew 11:3, and Jesus responded with a legal answer (Matthew 11:4-6). John’s question really only required a yes-or-no reply, but instead of giving that simple solution, Jesus convened an impromptu, informal court—right there in front of God and everybody.
Figuratively speaking, to answer John’s great question, Christ took off the cloak of Rabbi and put on judicial robes instead. “Go back,” he instructed the Baptist’s disciples, “and report to John what you hear and see…”
- Exhibit A: “the blind receive sight,”
- Exhibit B: “the lame walk,”
- Exhibit C: “those who have leprosy are cleansed,”
- Exhibit D: “the deaf hear,”
- Exhibit E: “the dead are raised,”
- Exhibit F: “the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
Anyone familiar with Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah—and John was—would recognize fairly quickly that each and every one of these miracles was overwhelming proof of the promised Messiah, the Coming One. In this way Jesus conclusively and forcefully answered John’s faith crisis by placing the Baptist squarely in the jury box and saying essentially, “Look at the evidence, Cousin. You’ll find the truth in there. ”
Why did Jesus change the parameters of John’s simple question into something of a courtroom drama? The author of Hebrews gives us a clue: “Faith,” he said, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV, italics mine).
Perhaps John needed more than a simple assent regarding what he couldn’t see; perhaps he needed evidence of those unseen things. Jesus gave to John substance on which to pin his hope and clear evidence to believe. In doing so, he gave to John the gift of real, unshakeable faith—a faith that would endure in the depths of prison, a faith that would remain strong even when the executioner came to bring a savage end to John’s earthly life.
See also: Isaiah 29:18, 35:5, (blind see); Isaiah 35:6 (lame walk); Isaiah 53:4 (lepers healed); Isaiah 29:18–19, 35:5 (deaf hear); Isaiah 26:18–19 (dead raised); Isaiah 61:1 (good news preached to poor).
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