In the Fulness of Time/Part 67
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|In this section of Matthew (chapters 11 and 12), the leaders of Israel are traced as the ones who turned the common people from the Messiah/King. The witness of the Twelve would spread a wide swath of miracles over the land to vindicate His authority.|
The Rejection of the King by the Nation. Matthew 11-12
In this section the leaders of Israel are traced as the ones who turned the common people from the Messiah/King. The witness of the Twelve would spread a wide swath of miracles over the land to vindicate His authority. John the Baptist was put into prison for his message about the Kingdom. Herod Antipas’ pretext for getting rid of John was because John rebuked Herod’s immorality, but as shall be noted, Herod was also scared; he did not want a rival to his authority.
Then the religious leaders got the political issue rolling and said that John was indeed preaching a new political leader. The people to whom John preached would have envisioned a literal, earthly kingdom; thus, the arrest of John was the beginning of open opposition to Christ as Messiah.
They Received Him Not. Matthew 11:1-19
Christ Assures John the Baptist of His Messiahship. 11:1-6
John’s Question: Unfulfilled Prophecy. 11:1-3
- Mt. 11:1-3 “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ceased commanding his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
After the Twelve began their first missionary tour, Jesus also went through the Galilean towns (“their cities“) alone, continuing to present His claims as Messiah, doubtless using the Old Testament prophecies to corroborate His works. It must have been while He was on this teaching and preaching mission that John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus. Herod Antipas had imprisoned John at the isolated, desolate jail at Macherus, according to Josephus:
- Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very likely, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist…. Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it in his power and inclination to raise a rebellion…. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. (Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Flavius Josephus (Hartford, CT: The S. S. Scranton Company, 1916), p. 552.)
The fact that John had heard in the prison of the works of Christ prompted him to send disciples to confirm the messiahship of Jesus. In 11:2 Matthew says that John the Baptist heard in prison the works of “the Christ” (tou Christou), then in verse 3 John’s question to Christ was, “Art thou he that should come” (ho erchomenos, “the coming One“). Both of these are Messianic titles: “The Christ” comes from the Greek Christos, “the Anointed” which in turn came from the Hebrew word mashach, and thus the noun, Messiah.
In Matthew 21:9 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the multitudes cried, “Blessed is he that cometh (ho erchomenos) in the name of the Lord.” This is a quotation from Psalm 118:26. John the Baptist had also used this title in Matthew 3:11, “he who cometh (ho erchomenos) after me.” Sometimes Martha is down-played in favor of Mary, yet it was Martha who used both of these titles for Jesus, in addition to “Lord” and “Son of God” in John 11:27: “Yea, Lord (Kurios) I believe thou art the Christ (ho Christos), the Son of God (ho huios tou Theou) who should come (ho erchomenos) into the world.”
The latter part of John’s question, “or do we look for another?” brings to the fore whether or not John was doubting. It seems clear from the reply Jesus gave in verses 4-6 that John himself needed the encouragement, not merely his disciples. After all, it was John who preached both aspects of Messiah’s coming, who said, “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and “he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire… and will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).
John the Baptist was essentially one of the Old Testament prophets about whom Peter said they were “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11). Thus, it seems that John did not fully comprehend how all this would follow in sequence, especially since he, the forerunner of the King was in prison and the King Himself was not assuming His right to reign.
So, what other conclusion could John the Baptist reach? Perhaps they should “look for another” (heteros) a different person. All of these seeming impossibilities would be comprehended “in the fulness of time.”