The Message of the Baptist to Jesus

The day following the healing of the centurion's Luke vii. 11—1Y. servant He goes to Nam, accompanied by the disciples and many people. He there restores to life the son of a widow as they were bearing him to the grave. Whilst continuing His ministry in that part of Galilee, John the Matt. Xi. 2-1 y. Baptist, who hears of His works, sends from his prison Luke vii. 18-35. a message to Him by two of his disciples. Jesus answers their question, and addresses the multitude respecting John.

The order of events here will depend upon the reading, Luke vii. 11, whether tv 777 c^s, or ev rw c^?, "the day after," or " afterward." The weight of authority is in favor of the former.3

The Lord gives Himself no rest, but enters immediately upon new labors. From this time the Twelve were constantly with Him till sent forth upon their mission. Beside them many of the other disciples now accompanied Him, as well as much people.

» Trench, Mir. 184. 2 Thomson, i. 313.

8 Tischendorf, Robinson, Wieseler, Alford; contra, Meyer, Stier.

Nain lies on the northwest declivity of the hill of Little Hermon, commanding an extensive view over the plain of Esdraelon, and the northern hills. It is now an insignificant village, with no remains of any importance. " No convent, no tradition marks the spot. But under these circumstances, the name is sufficient to guarantee its authenticity." l

As the Jews usually buried the dead upon the same day they died and before sundown,2 it has been questioned how He could have reached Nain from Capernaum so early in the day as to meet the funeral procession. But as the distance is only about twenty-five miles, and probably less, it might be walked in seven or eight hours. As the orientals walk rapidly, and commence their journeys early in the morning, He might have reached Nain by noon, or a little after.

The restoration to life of the widow's son was the first work of this kind the Lord had wrought, and naturally produced a most powerful impression on all who heard of it. All saw in it the mighty hand of God, who alone could bring the dead to life. The Evangelist mentions (Luke vii. 16) that " there came a fear on all, and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us." No such miracle had been wrought since the days of Elisha; the fame of it " went forth through all Judea, and throughout all the region round about," and thus coming to the ears of some of John's disciples, was told by them to their master. Luke says, (vii. 18,) "And the disciples of John showed him of all these things." This may mean that they told him of all that Jesus had recently done, His works of healing, the choice of the Twelve, the Sermon on the Mount, as well as of this work at Nain; and also of His great popularity, and of the crowds that continually followed Him.

* Stanley, 349. a Winer, ii. 16, note 1.

If we assume that the place of John's imprisonment was Machaerus,1 a fortress in the southern part of Perea, just on the confines of Arabia, some days at least must have elapsed between this miracle and the coming of John's messengers.2 Perhaps our Lord continued during this interval at ISTain, teaching all who had been so impressed by His mighty work that they had ears to hear ; or He may have visited the adjacent cities and villages; or He may, after a brief circuit, have returned to Capernaum, and hither, as the place of His residence, John's disciples have come.

Some place this miracle after the raising of the daughter of Jairus, chiefly because the former is a greater exhibition of the powers of Christ. Thus Trench3 says of the three miracles of raising the dead, that " they are not exactly the same miracle repeated three times over, but may be contemplated as an ever-ascending scale of difficulty, each a greater outcoming of the power of Christ than the preceding." But this is more plausible than sound. If there be such " an ever-ascending scale of difficulty," we should find the Lord's first works of healing less mighty than the later; but this is not the case. If we compare the two miracles of feeding the multitude, the first is the more stupendous. The impression which the raising of the widow's son made on all, seems plainly to show that it was the first of its kind, (Luke vii. 16, 17.)

Perhaps the message of the Baptist may stand in close connection with the great miracle at ISTain. Such a work must have convinced him, had he before had any doubts, that Jesus was divinely sent, and that the mighty power of God was indeed with Him. The question then, " Art thou He that should come, or look we for another ? " may be an intimation that Jesus should now put forth in direct act that resistless power of which He had just shown Himself to be possessed.

i Josephus, War, 7. 6.1-3. « See Greswell, ii. 327. 3 Mir. 152.

Art thou the Messiah ? Act then as the Messiah. Thou canst raise the dead. Thou canst fulfil all the covenant promises to the patriarchs and prophets. Purge thy floor; gather the wheat into thy garner; and baptize with the Holy Ghost.

The answer of the Lord to the messengers meets this state of mind. He refers to His daily works as being truly Messianic, and such as befitted Him to perform. Not acts of judgment, but of mercy, belonged to His office. His work was now to heal the sick, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to raise the dead. He adds, as a caution to John, " Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." Blessed is he who shall understand the work I now do, and not stumble at it.

This question of John gives Jesus an opportunity to bear His direct witness to him as a prophet, and more, as the herald of the Messiah, (Matt. xi. 9, 10.) He declares also to the people, that if they will receive him, he is the Elias that was for to come; and reproaches them that they would not receive John or Himself in either of their different modes of working or teaching, (Matt. xi. 16-19; Luke vii. 31-35.) His testimony to John was well received by the people and the publicans, all those who had been baptized by him; but not by the Pharisees and lawyers, who had rejected his baptism, (Luke vii. 29, 30.)

This testimony of Jesus to John as the herald of the Messiah, was a plain assertion, though an indirect one, of His own Messianic character. But John was now in prison. How was this compatible with his being Elias ? How could he prepare the Lord's way ? Did not this very fact of his imprisonment conclusively disprove all his claims to be the forerunner of the Messiah ? This tacit objection Jesus

meets by showing that it depended on them, whether or no, he was the Elias. If they received him, if they hearkened to his words, and permitted him to do his work, then he would be to them that prophet, and fulfil all that was said of Elias. But they had not so received him ; they had said of him that he had a devil; and now he was shut up in prison ; and thus the Jews were made clearly to understand the connection between John's ministry and that of Jesus, and how the rejection of the former involved that of the latter.

Immediately upon these words concerning John, follows in Matthew (xi. 20-24) an address to the cities Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum. It is given by Luke later, and in connection with the mission of the seventy disciples, (Luke x. 13-16.) We shall discuss its right position when we consider that mission.