Page images
PDF
EPUB

3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?

thinks, the word is used like the Hebrew cline before he was cast into prison. This youp, which signifies both a little one and he knew was according to the divine order; a disciple.

for his own words were, “I must decrease,

but he must increase.” He had now CHAPTER XI. Verse 3. Art thou he probably very few disciples remaining ; that should come ? 8:c.—That John sent but as he would still continue his work these disciples to obtain such informa- of calling men to repentance as Christ's tion from Christ, as might remove doubts forerunner, even in the prison, to which it which he himself through infirmity had does not appear that any were denied access begun to entertain, as to the character of to him, the men now sent were probably our Lord, is the view of many expositors. among his most recent converts. His And they have devised and indulged con- office was to lead his disciples to believe jectures to account for this failure in the in Jesus as the Christ whose way he was strength of John's previous faith ; all of to “prepare ;” but he too would have to which, like the assumption that the pro

combat with their prejudices. They phet fell into any doubt on the subject, are might, in several cases, be willing to admit perfectly gratuitous. The evidences which John's claim to be a prophet; but would John had received as to Jesus being the stumble at his doctrine that Jesus was Christ, were too strong to be easily shaken, the Messiah whose approaching manifesand he had views too spiritual as to his

tation he was commissioned to announce, kingdom to be “offended” his lowly because of his not assuming the external course of life. The expression of St. splendour they expected. In such cases Matthew,“ Now when John had heard in they would be most effectually put in the the prison the works of Christ,” also inti- way of receiving full conviction by a per. mates this; for Christ is not here used as sonal conversation with our Lord. There a proper name, but with the article, and is also another view. The life of John would more properly have been rendered, was precarious, and dependent upon the the works of the Christ, or the Messiah. caprice of Herod, and he would naturally He knew that these were the works by be anxious to provide for the religious which the Christ was to demonstrate welfare of his remaining followers, by athimself; and he sends his disciples to taching them to Christ; and the two hear, or to be witnesses of them, in order here mentioned were probably sent with to their believing in him. This question the question proposed, that they might is fully set at rest by the remark of our report the answer of our Lord to the rest, Lord respecting John, in a subsequent an answer to which John knew well how verse, where he declares, that “ he was to give weight. It is clear from the not a reed shaken with the wind," and question, “Art thou he that should come, therefore, a firm and immovable charac- or do we,” must we, “look for another?" ter; a eulogy which he would scarcely and from one part of our Lord's reply, have merited had he, after such testimo- “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be nies from heaven, do ted of the Mes. offended in me,” that a difficulty existed siahship of him whom he had baptized in their minds whether Jesus was the in Jordan, and on whom he had seen the Messiah for whom John had taught them Holy Spirit visibly descend. The disci- to “look," arising out of circumstances ples sent by him, therefore, were ob- as to which they were in danger of “being viously sent to converse with our Lord offended ;” and this can only be resolved for their own conviction. Some of John's into the lowly condition of our Lord, and followers had already joined Christ; and his keeping himself chiefly in the remote their number had been greatly on the de- province of Galilee. They came there.

4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised

up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in

me.

7 G And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see ? A reed shaken with the wind ?

[blocks in formation]

fore, sent by John, and to him they were the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to to report the answer, not for the resolu- the captives," &c. The Messiah of the tion of any doubt of his ; but that he prophet was to perform miracles of heal. might communicate it to his disciples, as ing; and he was to be a preacher of an answer to their difficulties from Jesus GOJD TIDINGS, of the gospel, to poor, himself.

humble, afficted persons, the captives of Verse 5. The blind receive their sight, sin and misery; and this, as though our &c.—These were the proofs on which our Lord had said, is the work in which Saviour rested his claim to be the Mes- I am engaged. He even adds to the siah for the conviction of John's dis- miracles mentioned by Isaiah as to be ciples; but why did he refer to such performed by Messiah, and the dead are works when the disciples of John could raised; the force of which would be felt, scarcely have been ignorant of his mira- if the sentiment of the modern Rabbins cles, the “fame” of which, it is so often was then held, that “in the land where said, spread throughout

“ all that re- the dead should arise, the kingdom of gion?” The reason was, that the mes. the Messiah should commence.That sage being sent to John their master, the Jews expected the Messiah to permanifestly as the proper person to point form great miracles, is clear from John out its force to his disciples, he could not vii. 31 : “When the Christ cometh, will but perceive that the cogency of Christ's he do more miracles than these which this answer lay in the reference which it makes man hath done?" to the fulfilment of two illustrious pas- Verse 6. Offended in me. —Exavdaliśw sages in Isaiah, which speak so clearly of is from okavdanov, which in scripture sigthe Messiah, that the Jewish writers them- nifies a trap, or snare, a sharp stake selves have never hesitated in applying driven into the ground to impede the them to him. The first is Isaiah xxxv.5,6: march of an enemy by wounding the “Then the eyes of the blind shall be feet; a stone or block laid in a path to opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be cause a person to stumble or fall; and unstopped. Then shall the lame leap as a metaphors from each are in the New Teshart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” tament couched under the common term. The other passage was indicated by the Generally it refers either to that which last clause of the reply, And the poor have gives occasion to sin and unbelief, or is the Gospel preached to them. It is Isaiah made so by perversion, or that which acts lxi. 1, &c. : “The Spirit of the Lord God as an impediment in the Christian cause, is upon me; because the Lord hath by producing discouragement and impaanointed me to preach good tidings unto tience. the meek; he hath sent me to bind up Verse 7. Concerning John.--The visit of

8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment ? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet ? yea,

I say unto you, and more than a prophet.

10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

d Mal. iii. 1.

John's disciples gave our Lord an oppor- precursor of the Messiah, and not only tunity to bear a most honourable testi- predicted his future coming, but actually mony to his faithful, but now imprisoned, introduced him to the people, and bade a herald and forerunner, and to declare him sinful race “behold ” not the typical to be the Elias of prophecy. What went sacrifice for sin, but The LAMB OF ye out into the wilderness to see?—That God,” the true, the divinely appointed is, what kind of man did you find in the sacrifice and oblation for “ the sin of the wilderness of Jordan, when you went out world. in multitudes to see and to hear John? Verse 10. For this is he of whom it is Was he a reed shaken by the wind ? Yield. written, Behold, 80.—That John was the ing to every gust like the reeds on the person intended by Malachi iii. 1, so that banks of Jordan where he baptized? The here is no pretence for an accommodated question implies a strong negative, which sense, we learn from the passage being Whitby has well expressed, “You did not here applied by Christ himself to his forego to see a man wavering in his testimony, runner, in its direct and primary sense. As but firm and constant.” A man clothed is usual with the Jews, a part of this proin soft raiment ? Dressed in luxurious phecy only is quoted, as introductory to garb, as they who are in kings' houses the whole; but from the entire passage Here our Lord refers to his plain fidelity we learn that John was God's αγγελος Or rather than to dress merely, to his truth- messenger ; that his office was to prepare speaking and earnest appeals to them, so the way of Messiah before his face immefar removed from the phrase and flattery, diately, the Master following the servant and double-tongued hypocrisy, and delic without any delay; that the LORD, the cate avoidance of offence, found among Divine Messiah, whom, says the prophet, courtiers in the palaces of kings, who ye seek, whom all the Jewish people were were distinguished for the softness of looking for, should suddenly come to his their raiment. A prophet? He was truly temple, and that he should appear as the a prophet, as being a commissioned ser. messenger of the covenant, bringing with vant of God, favoured with direct reve- him God's covenant of grace and peace lations, acting under the impulse of in- with man, to open its great provisions and spiration; and appointed, like the ancient promises, and to ratify it with his own prophets, both to warn a guilty people, blood, and then to publish it by his aposand to describe the character and glories tles to all nations. Thus emphatically of Messiah. In all these respects John was does this illustrious prophecy mark the truly a prophet ; but our Lord adds with characters both of John and of our Lord. emphasis, yea, I say unto you, and more In both it was illustriously fulfilled; but than a prophet, more than the greatest of no other two persons since the date when the ancient prophets, not one of them it was uttered can be adduced to whose being excepted ; and he was so in this characters and actions it in the least dedistinguished particular, that he was the gree corresponds. In the prophecy of

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist : notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

12 · And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven ' suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

e Luke xvi. 16.

* Or, is gotten by force, and they that thrust men.

Malachi above cited, there is a consider cable to subsequent Christian teachers, able difference between the evangelist and even to private Christians with respect and the Hebrew and Septuagint. The to their illumination on all the subjects words apo ngOOWTOV Oov, before thy face, are connected with the kingdom of grace. added; and for 33, before me, we have Verse 12. Suffereth violence.—The alluELAPOo@ev dov, before thee. The exact agree- sion here is to a siege, and the figure is ment of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who taken from the rush of a multitude to all quote the same prophecy, sufficiently take a city by assault ; in which sense the shows that their copies of the Hebrew passage is usually understood. One sense or Septuagint differed in these particulars given to the passage is, that the hearers from the present; but, nevertheless, the of Christ were taught by it, that those sense is scarcely at all affected. The di- only who were prepared to encounter the vinity of the Messiah, as JEHOVAH, THE most violent opposition, and to put forth LORD OF THE TEMPLE, as well as the mes- the strongest efforts to surmount it, senger of the covenant, are the lofty cha- could enter the kingdom of heaven; such racters under which it is presented. was the strength of their own prejudices

Verse 11. The least in the kingdom of and errors, and such also the hostility of heaven is greater, &c.—Great is the testi- the scribes and Pharisees, and other influmony of Christ to the official character of ential persons among the Jews. This was John, who is also emphatically styled indeed a great truth, and it remains ap"the prophet of the Highest,” Luke i. plicable to this day, since not only strong 76; nevertheless, it is added, the least in exertions must be made against our own the kingdom of heaven, the least prophet interests and sinful passions, but, in many or teacher of the full and perfected dis- cases, against the example and persecuting pensation of Christ, instructed in its sys- hostility of others, if we would enter the tem of glorious truth, endowed with mira- kingdom of heaven in truth as well as in culous powers, which John was not ; able profession. But the words seem rather to attest the actual death, resurrection, as- to refer to the eagerness with which the cension, and glorious instalment of Mes- multitude received the testimony both of siah in his universal kingdom of grace and John and Christ, in spite of the calumnies power, and, whether endowed with mira- heaped by their teachers and rulers upon culous gifts or not, instructed in the me- both, and the rage which they often thod of salvation through faith in him, and manifested. This sense of the words is commissioned to teach this simple and ever greatly confirmed by the parallel place in open way to God through him, empowered Luke xvi. 16: “The law and the prophets to offer pardon and remission of sins“ in were until John : since that time the his name,” and to unfold all the holy at- kingdom of God is preached, and every tainments made possible to man by the man presseth into it.” And it will serve promised influence of the Holy Spirit, is to illustrate the passage, if we recollect, greater, greater as it respects his office, that the Jewish teachers, like the Gentile than John. These words are also appli- philosophers, confined what they esteemed 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is 'Elias, which was for to

come.

f Mal. iv, 5

“ until

[ocr errors]

their superior knowledge to persons of a and most of the higher orders everywhere, certain class; and they neglected and the persons who formed what was proeven despised the body of the populace. perly THE JEWISH State, put away from “ The people know not the law, and are them the proferred grace, and succeeded accursed,” was, their contemptuous lan- at length in inspiring others with the same guage ; and hence they were left “ as hatred of Christ and his servants, sheep having no shepherd.” John's wrath came upon them to the uttermost." preaching was popular, as all true preach- Verse 13. Prophesied until John.—The ing must be; it was adapted to instruct causal particle, yap, shows that a reason is and save the mass of society; and the im- here given for the pressing of the people pression of it was so great, that multi- into the kingdom of God, just mentioned. tudes from every part of Palestine came The word prophesied, in order to make to his baptism, and gladly heard from this reason apparent, must be taken in its him that the kingdom of heaven was proper sense of predicted, otherwise the at hand.” Of this popular and conde- connexion is not discernible. Until John scending character, also, was the preach the law and the prophets PREDICTED the ing of Christ. He held forth the same kingdom of heaven, the spiritual reign hope, that the same kingdom was "at and institutions of Messiah, as being still hand ;” and the multitudes hung upon afar off in the distant future; but John his lips, and followed him on his journeys. did not so properly predict that kingdom The excitement, indeed, appears to have as ANNOUNCE it to be at hand," as even been as ardent as it was general; and thus now introducing, and already incipiently did these neglected people “press into present. This news was eagerly seized the kingdom of God,” as far as it was by the multitudes whom his preaching then revealed; and, like a tumultuous had brought to repentance, and they rush of soldiers scaling the walls of a city, flocked in crowds to Christ its author, they appeared determined to seize the from whom they had been taught by John glorious and heart-touching truths which to expect the remission of their sins, and had so long been withheld from them the baptism of the Holy Ghost. There came, indeed, a time of trial after- Verse 14. This is Elias, which was for wards;

; many of these eager spirits were to come.-Elias is the same as Elijah, “offended” in Christ, turned back, and under which name the prophet Malachi, “walked no more · with him ;” and the iv. 5, predicted the coming of John the subtle activity of the envious and exas- Baptist. “ Behold, I will send you Elijah perated scribes and Pharisees blasted the prophet before the coming of the much of this hopeful show, in fields great and dreadful day of the Lord;" that “white unto harvest :” but still great is, before the destruction of the Jewish numbers, no doubt, were saved, and the state by the terrible judgments of God. people were prepared for the labourers That Elijah himself was not intended, as sent forth among them after the resurrec- some of the Jews dreamed, and indeed tion; for we read in several places of the still expect, but one called prophetically Acts, that in different parts“ multitudes and figuratively by his name, on account believed.” The body of the nation, of a similarity of character, we have conhowever, remained impenitent; and Jeru- firmed to us by the same authority which salem especially maintained its ancient dictated the original prophecy; for the character for the obduracy with which its angel sent from God to announce John's inhabitants rejected the testimony of God; birth, declares, He shall go before in

« PreviousContinue »