Messengers from John
After giving his disciples their marching orders, Yeshua is approached by messengers from John, inquiring if he’s the leader John has been predicting. Rather that state it outright, Yeshua instructs the messengers to report what they’ve seen to John and let him decide. In much of Christian orthodoxy, John is heralded as Elijah, who’s expected to return ahead of the Messiah, and that appears to be the intent here, and, in fact, Yeshua says as much in praising John.
Once the messengers leave, Yeshua goes on to praise John in a round about way. He asks why people went to the wilderness to see John and says there was no one born of a woman greater, but then adds that the least in the Kingdom is greater. His care in how he mentions John supports the notion that his movement was an offshoot of John’s, or, at least, he wanted people to think so. The fact that John has to ask who he is suggests John is more important to Yeshua than Yeshua is to him. In some of the language, it sounds like he’s describing events considerably past, as he speaks of “the days of John” even though John’s apparently still alive at this point.
Yeshua goes on to cite Scripture, claiming John fulfills another prophecy.
This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’Matthew 11:10
The line is from Malachi 3:1:
“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.Malachi 3:1
There’s not enough context in the surrounding passages to clarify exactly who’s being spoken of here. Malachi is among the twelve prophets who weren’t Isaiah or Jeremiah, that, in modern Bibles, finish off the Christian “Old Testament”, many of which are sources for descriptions of the Messiah. Matthew was most likely quoting Malachi as it was translated in the Septuagint. In a lot of cases, these prophets are making self-referential statements when they speak of messengers in the wilderness and this could be the case here, but the passage is sufficiently vague that it can be applied to just about anyone, so, here, it’s applied to John.
Yeshua segues from John into talking about the times in which they live, stating that the Kingdom has suffered violence. He finally makes the connection between John and Elijah saying pretty clearly that John’s the one they should have been listening to all along. He then leaves it up to his listeners to connect the dots and see who Yeshua is claiming to be.
In true prophetic form, he chastises cities that failed to heed his ministry, mostly the surrounding towns, including Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon, and his own home base of Capernaum. He invokes the most infamous of cities, Sodom, stating the people there would have listened if they’d been given the signs the current generation has witnessed.
At last, he dispenses with speaking of the Son of Man in third person, telling the crowd:
All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:27-30
Yeshua Bar Abbas or Joshua, Son of God, is here and the Kingdom of God will soon follow. At least, that was the expectation. Matthew’s audience probably had their own opinions on the matter.