Matthew 11:7-15 – John the Baptist and the Kingdom Goal
|| Luke 7:24-28
MT11:7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus started to tell the crowds regarding John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A breeze rattling some willows? MT11:8 But, what did you go to see? A human dressed in soft clothes? Look! Those who wear soft clothes are in royal houses. MT11:9 But, why did you come out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. MT11:10 This person is the one about whom it has been written, ‘Look! I am sending forth My messenger before your person. He will prepare your way ahead of you.’ [Isaiah 40:3] MT11:11 I tell you this truth: None generated by women have been raised up who are greater than John the Baptist. But, a lesser person in the Realm of the Heavens is greater than John. MT11:12 From the days of John the Baptist right up until now the Realm of the Heavens is being zealously pursued and those in energetic pursuit are grabbing for it. MT11:13 For the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. MT11:14 And, if you wish to accept it – John is Elijah, the one who was to come. MT11:15 Let the person with ears listen.”
St John the Baptist by Titian, Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.
 What did you go out into the wilderness to see: We have learned earlier that all Judea went out into the desert to see this strange prophet who dressed primitively and eat honey and locusts.
 A breeze rattling some willows: Possibly a bit of sarcasm? Others render this phrase: KJV: a reed shaken with the wind; RIEU: a reed swaying in the wind; NEB: a reed-bed swept by the wind. As a metaphor John the Baptist could not be characterized like a reed-willow easily blown about (Ephesians 4:14). Rather, he was stalwart and firm – even dogmatic.
 Soft clothes: John was dressed roughly in harsh clothing. His clothes and manner must have attracted inquisitive crowds wondering about this strange man. The phrase is rendered by others: WMS: silks and satins; NJB: fine clothes.
 More than a prophet: The Bible is fill with “prophets” of the two types: the one foretelling events and the one declaring God’s righteous will. The word “prophet” occurs over 500 times in the Bible. Jesus makes clear the Baptist is more than just a prophet and he now explains what he means. The idea of saying that someone is more or greater than another is something Jesus uses several times. Compare Matthew 12:41, 42; Luke 11:31, 32.
 It has been written: Jesus quotes Isaiah 40:3.
 My messenger: Literally the Greek is “my angel.”
 Who are greater than: John the Baptist is at least equal to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, or Elijah.
 A lesser person: The Greek is MICROTEROS and is rendered: KJV: least; ASV: little; PME: humble.
 In the Realm of the Heavens: It is possible this phrase is limited to that Realm of Profession, or the territory or domain over which Lord Messiah reigns – his congregation of disciples. In other words: the most humble member of the Christian Church is greater than John the Baptist and therefore greater than all the ancient worshippers of God. See notes in Matthew chapter 13 on identifying the “kingdom of the heavens.” Some also believe this to mean John the Baptist and the ancient patriarchs would not attain to heaven but would be raised in the resurrection of the righteous on earth (John 3:13; Hebrews 11:39, 40; 1 Corinthians 15:20-24).
 Zealously pursued: This is a classically difficult text. Most translators tend toward the idea that the kingdom is attacked violently and the violent seize it. However, from John the Baptist to the present of Jesus’ statement there is little evidence of persecution against the King or his realm. The Greek word here is BIAZETAI and its root meaning is “violent.” Jesus repeats the word group in the next phrase (See Acts 2:2). The word is rare in this form. However, there are two verses in Luke which might shed light on the Nazarene’s intent. Luke 13:24 literally means, ‘agonize to enter through the narrow door.’ And, the parallel in Luke to Matthew here is, ‘everyone is violently forcing [BIAZETAI] themselves into (the Kingdom of The God).’ This could mean violent men force themselves violently into the kingdom; or, it could mean the agonizing struggle to enter the realm of profession. This is the first interpretation the New Jerusalem Bible gives in its footnote “f” – “1. The praiseworthy violence, the bitter self-sacrifice, of those who would take possession of the kingdom.” Strong’s (#971, #973) offers “vital activity, energetic.” Thayer’s (page 101) says: “a share in the heavenly Kingdom is sought for with the most ardent zeal and the intense exertion… utmost eagerness.” Thus, the context and the parallel in Luke suggests the possibility that Jesus is describing the agonizing zeal his disciples have demonstrated in their pursuit of the “kingdom” – willing to make any sacrifice, willing to surrender their soul in the process.
William Barclay suggests a possibility: “‘The Kingdom of the Heaven is not for the well-meaning but for the desperate,’ that no one drifts into the Kingdom, that the Kingdom only opens it doors to those who are prepared to make as great an effort to get into it as men do when they storm a city.… Only the man who is desperately in earnest, only the man in whom the violence of devotion matches and defeats the violence of persecution will in the end enter into it.” (Matthew, Volume 2. page 8)
 Prophets and the Law prophesied until John: The complete phrase linking the Law and the Prophets is used by Jesus elsewhere (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40). There is now to be a great transition. Hebrews 1:1 states that The God used to speak in a variety of ways to the prophets of old, but now speaks to us by means of a Son. With the coming of John the Baptist in the year 29 AD a new season, a new age begins to open up – a Messianic one. Grace and Truth will now come by means of Jesus the Nazarene (John 1:17).
 John is Elijah: Jesus explains this to his own disciples elsewhere (Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13). Compare Luke 1:17. Elijah’s name (My God is Yah) occurs 100 times in the Bible and most importantly at Malachi 4:5 where the prophet is foretold to appear before the Day of Yehowah. The end of the Jewish Temple Age is upon that generation. The name Elijah only occurs twice outside the Gospels (Romans 11:2; James 5:17). Note Elijah is missing by name in the Book of Revelation. He is alluded to at Revelation 11:5, 6.
 Let the person with ears listen: This becomes in Revelation a phrase identified with Jesus (Revelation 2:7). PME: the man who has ears to hear must use them.
Matthew 11– Intro to The Nazarene’s Commentary: Encouragement for John and Reproach for cities
Matthew 11:1 Encouragement for John and Reproach for cities 1 Twelve Sent out to Teach
Matthew 11:2-6 Encouragement for John and Reproach for cities 2 Imprisoned Baptist Encouraged