JOHN the Baptist, a rugged, outdoor ascetic, found prison life depressing and sent to know whether Jesus really was the Messiah. Great men may know moods of doubt and despondency. Our Lord simply declared that His works proved His mission, then paid John fine tribute. Here, He declared, was no comfortable, fashionable court preacher but a real prophet, and that no greater man had arisen. Yet the humblest believer in the age of grace is greater, in point of privilege, than John who lived under law. The difference is in position, not a matter of moral worth.
Our Lord declared (Matt. 11:12) that the kingdom suffered violence, and the violent took it by force—comparing those who were pressing into the kingdom to soldiers storming a fortress. Verily, the things of God are not for loafers: we must be violently resolute if we are to press into the deeper things; we must be diligent to make our calling and election sure. Then He said John was the Elijah prophesied in Malachi 4:5-6. Meanwhile, the Pharisees were like spoiled children who could not be suited with any kind of preaching, the fasting of John or the feasting of Jesus. But wisdom is vindicated by her children—in the lives of her disciples, in that wise children receive truth in any garb, and in the sense that wisdom is proven by what she does, the results she produces.
A neglected verse in this account (Matt. 11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35) is verse 6 in Matthew and verse 23 in Luke: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” John the Baptist had become offended in the Lord. Jesus was not doing things the way John had expected. He had prophesied a Messiah of flame and fire, and Jesus was merely going about doing good. How wide are the applications of this truth!
Believers often are tempted to pout regarding the Lord like those of Malachi’s day who said: “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” So men pray and do not receive, and, like Martha, when our Lord delayed His coming, they grow rebellious. Others are offended at hard doctrine like those in John 6:30ff., or because of persecution as in Matthew 13:21.
Mistaught Christians are grieved today because Christianity is not conquering the world but things are growing worse. But our Lord said it would be so. He is working His wonders still, as He did in John’s day, and is carrying out His plans just as He intended. We have misunderstood His method and mission and message. He will come one day as conquering King, but now the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the poor have the gospel preached to them. He would have us not to be offended (John 16:1), and if we love His law we shall not be offended (Ps. 119:165). Our Lord is carrying out His program on schedule time. Let us learn the beatitude of the unoffended.