And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”
I think this passage of scripture is one of the most touching there is. These words of Jesus gave His complete stamp of approval on the ministry of John the Baptist. They verified that he was indeed prophesied in the Old Testament; that he was sent by God Himself to prepare the way for Jesus. That’s pretty high praise.
The crowds of people that followed Him heard the conversation between Jesus and the disciples John had sent. Human nature is so fickle, it is possible that the people had forgotten John, or even disrespected him because he was, after all, in prison!
Have you noticed that people who are in authority tend to very righteously espouse the idea that it is wrong to question or criticize authority–until they themselves are no longer in authority! Then the worm turns. So it is in American politics, and so it has been all down through the centuries in the sad history of man’s inhumanity toward man, often in the name of religion. Tsk. And please pardon that little rabbit trail.
Jesus, knowing the fickle hearts of the people, draws their attention to John. First He asks them what they had gone out into the wilderness to see. Had they expected to see a weak man, perhaps a bit deranged? A reed, shaken in the wind was a Hebrew idiom for an unstable person, a weakling who was irresolute and unsteady. John was stable.
Soft clothing? Beautiful, luxurious fabrics were worn only by the wealthy. John’s simplicity drew attention to his ruggedness. No weakling, he subsisted on locusts and wild honey (very good for allergies, by the way) and dressed in animal skins.
Did the people go out to see a prophet? Oh, yes, but much more than that! This was the one, the very man, that God had promised in Malachi 3:1. Think of that–a living, breathing fulfillment of the Word of God!
Jesus has more to say, and it is clear that He had great love and respect for His cousin.