Commentaries
English
Matthew
  
1. THE ELDERS OF THE JEWS REJECT CHRIST
(MATTHEW 11:2-12:50)

a) Jesus’ Answer to the Baptist’s Disciples
(Matthew 11:2-29)
2And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples3and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”4Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:5The blind see 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.6And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Malachi3:1; Isaiah35:5-6,31:1; Luke7:18-23)


After Christ had sent His messengers to towns and villages, He followed them, established their work, completed their services, and made their listeners stand fast in the gospel of the kingdom of heaven; thus He became well known everywhere. At the same time, they began to whisper one to another, “Is this the promised prophet sent by God? For He has performed wonderful miracles like the Messiah to come, as no one else can raise the dead but Him.”
The service went on, though John was in prison, and it added no affliction, but added a great deal of consolation to his bonds. Nothing is more comforting to God’s people in distress, than to hear of “the works of Christ” – especially to experience them in their own souls. This can turn a prison into a palace. Some way or other Christ will convey the truth of His love to those that are in trouble and bring peace to their conscience. John could not see the works of Christ, but he heard of them with pleasure. Blessed are they who have not seen, but only heard, and yet have believed.
John, while in the dark prison, heard of Christ. He expected Christ to come and release him by a miracle since John had prepared His way through his call to repentance. He was his most beloved friend, and had suffered unjustly in prison for the sake of truth. He looked forward to destruction of unjust rulers through the triumph of the great kingdom of heaven. But, in spite of the long wait, Jesus did not come, and John was still bound, depressed, and alone in prison.
John began to doubt Christ’s power and divinity so he sent two of his disciples to ask Him, “Are you the promised Messiah, or not?” Christ does not answer him directly, but He refers him to the prophecy stated in Isaiah 35:5-6 explaining to him that the promised servant of God has come, and He shall save many from disease, sin and death. His unique works are the unanswerable proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Some think that John sent this question for his own satisfaction. It is true he had carried a noble testimony of Christ. He had declared Him to be “the Son of God” (John 1:34), “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), “the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33), and “the One sent of God” (John 3:34), which were great things. But he desired to be more fully assured that He, Jesus, was the Messiah that had been promised so long ago and expected by so many.
John expected a religious, political king who, by his authority, would wipe out the injustice prevailing in the world and would free the persecuted followers of God. But Christ would not use an axe to cut bad trees. He saved the lost, healed the weak, and planted hope into the hearts of the doubting. He did not come with political power to punish, but came as the meek Lamb of God who would take away the sins of sinners.
John’s doubt might have arisen from his present circumstances. He was a prisoner, and might have been tempted to think that if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, why was it that John, his friend and forerunner, had fallen into this trouble. Why had he been left so long in it, and why had Jesus never visited him, nor sent to him or inquired after him? Why did He do nothing to ease or hasten his imprisonment? Doubtless there was a good reason why our Lord Jesus did not go to John in prison. There may have been an agreement between them. But John might have interpreted it as neglect, and it was perhaps a shock to his faith in Christ.
Others think that John sent his disciples to Christ with this question, not so much for his own satisfaction but for theirs. Observe that, although he was a prisoner, they stayed with him, attended on him, and were ready to receive instructions from him. They loved him and would not leave him. John was, from the beginning, ready to turn over his disciples to Christ as a teacher does with students going from grammar-school to the academy. Perhaps he foresaw his death approaching, and was therefore bringing his disciples to be better acquainted with Christ, under whose guardianship he must leave them.
John had to change the essence of his thought to understand that Christ is love and, as the perfect Lamb of God, would willingly suffer and die to redeem the sinful world. This new thought was a hard lesson for John. It was not in conformity with the spirit of the Old Testament that was understood and taught by the Jews. God’s love kindly appeared in Christ, humbly and meekly – not with domination, nor violence, nor dictatorship.

Prayer
Our holy God, You are merciful love. We worship You, and beg You to pour Your love into our hearts that we may walk joyfully, humbly, patiently, and with great patience. Help us to recognize the reality of Christ in the man Jesus and follow Him to death, that we may be filled with His virtues and become holy and blameless in holiness. Strengthen us that we will not doubt in You when we may come into distress but will abide in You in all circumstances.
Question
Why did Jesus not release the Baptist from prison?