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Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.

Messengers from John the Baptist

2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

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41. He who receiveth a prophet He begins with the prophets, but at length comes down to the lowest rank, and embraces all his disciples. In this manner he commends all, without exception, who truly worship God and love the gospel. To receive a person in the name of a prophet, or in the name of a righteous man, means to do them good for the sake of honoring their doctrine, or of paying respect to piety. Though God enjoins us to perform offices of kindness to all mankind, yet he justly elevates his people to a higher rank, that they may be the objects of peculiar regard and esteem.

Shall receive a prophet’s reward This clause is variously interpreted by commentators. Some think that it denotes a mutual compensation, or, in other words, that spiritual benefits are bestowed on the prophets of God instead of temporal benefits. But if this exposition is admitted, what shall we say is meant by the righteous man’s reward? Others understand it to mean, that those who shall be kind to them will partake of the same reward which is laid up for prophets and righteous men. Some refer it to the intercourse of saints, and suppose it to mean, that as by our kind actions we give evidence that we are one body with the servants of Christ, so in this way we become partakers of all the blessings which Christ imparts to the members of his body.

I consider it simply as denoting the reward which corresponds to the rank of the person to whom kindness has been exercised; for Christ means that this will be a remarkable proof of the high estimation in which he holds his prophets, and indeed all his disciples. The greatness of the reward will make it evident, that not one kind office which was ever rendered to them has been forgotten.

By way of amplification, he promises a reward to the very meanest offices of kindness, such as giving them a cup of cold water, He gives the name of little ones not only to those who occupy the lowest place, or are held in least estimation in the Church, but to all his disciples, whom the pride of the world tramples under foot.

2. Now when John had heard. The Evangelists do not mean that John was excited by the miracles to acknowledge Christ at that time as Mediator; but, perceiving that Christ had acquired great reputation, and concluding that this was a fit and seasonable time for putting to the test his own declaration concerning him, he sent to him his disciples. The opinion entertained by some, that he sent them partly on his own account, is exceedingly foolish; as if he had not been fully convinced, or obtained distinct information, that Jesus is the Christ. Equally absurd is the speculation of those who imagine that the Baptist was near death, and therefore inquired what message he should carry, from Christ’s mouth as it were, to the deceased fathers. It is very evident that the holy herald of Christ, perceiving that he was not far from the end of his journey, and that his disciples, though he had bestowed great pains in instructing them, still remained in a state of hesitation, resorted to this last expedient for curing their weakness. He had faithfully labored, as I have said, that his disciples should embrace Christ without delay. His continued entreaties had produced so little effect, that he had good reason for dreading that, after his death, they would entirely fall away; and therefore he earnestly attempted to arouse them from their sloth by sending them to Christ. Besides, the pastors of the Church are here reminded of their duty. They ought not to endeavor to bind and attach disciples to themselves, but to direct them to Christ, who is the only Teacher. From the beginning, John had openly avowed that he was not the bridegroom, (John 3:29.) As the faithful friend of the bridegroom he presents the bride chaste and uncontaminated to Christ, who alone is the bridegroom of the Church. Paul tells us that he kept the same object in view, (2 Corinthians 11:2,) and the example of both is held out for imitation to all the ministers of the Gospel.

3. Art thou he who was to come? John takes for granted what the disciples had known from their childhood; for it was the first lesson of religion, and common among all the Jews, that Christ was to come, bringing salvation and perfect happiness. On this point, accordingly, he does not raise a doubt, but only inquires if Jesus be that promised Redeemer; for, having been persuaded of the redemption promised in the Law and the Prophets, they were bound to receive it when exhibited in the person of Christ. He adds, Do we look for another? By this expression, he indirectly glances at their sloth, which allowed them, after having been distinctly informed, to remain so long in doubt and hesitation. At the same time, he shows what is the nature and power of faith. Resting on the truth of God, it does not gaze on all sides, does not vary, but is satisfied with Christ alone, and will not be turned to another.

4. Go and relate to John As John had assumed for the time a new character, so Christ enjoins them to carry to him that message, which more properly ought to have been addressed to his disciples. He gives an indirect reply, and for two reasons: first, because it was better that the thing should speak for itself; and, secondly, because he thus afforded to his herald a larger subject of instruction. Nor does he merely supply him with bare and rough materials in the miracles, but adapts the miracles to his purpose by quotations from the Prophets. He notices more particularly one passage from the 35th, and another from the 61st, chapter of Isaiah, for the purpose of informing John’s disciples, that what the Prophets declared respecting the reign of Christ was accomplished and fulfilled. The former passage contains a description of Christ’s reign, under which God promises that he will be so kind and gracious as to grant relief and assistance for every kind of disease. He speaks, no doubt, of spiritual deliverance from all diseases and remedies; but under outward symbols, as has been already mentioned, Christ shows that he came as a spiritual physician to cure souls. The disciples would consequently go away without any hesitation, having obtained a reply which was clear and free from all ambiguity.

The latter passage resembles the former in this respect. It shows that the treasures of the grace of God would be exhibited to the world in Christ, and declares that Christ is expressly set apart for the poor and afflicted. This passage is purposely quoted by Christ, partly to teach all his followers the first lesson of humility, and partly to remove the offense which the flesh and sense might be apt to raise against his despicable flock. We are by nature proud, and scarcely anything is much valued by us, if it is not attended by a great degree of outward show. But the Church of Christ is composed of poor men, and nothing could be farther removed from dazzling or imposing ornament. Hence many are led to despise the Gospel, because it is not embraced by many persons of eminent station and exalted rank. How perverse and unjust that opinion is, Christ shows from the very nature of the Gospel, since it was designed only for the poor and despised. Hence it follows, that it is no new occurrence, or one that ought to disturb our minds, if the Gospel is despised by all the great, who, puffed up with their wealth, have no room to spare for the grace of God. Nay, if it is rejected by the greater part of men, there is no reason to wonder; for there is scarcely one person in a hundred who does not swell with wicked confidence. As Christ here guards his Gospel against contempt, he likewise reminds us who they are that are qualified to appreciate the grace of salvation which it offers to them; and in this manner, kindly inviting wretched sinners to the hope of salvation, raises them to full confidence.

5. The poor receive the message of the Gospel By the poor are undoubtedly meant those whose condition is wretched and despicable, and who are held in no estimation. However mean any person may be, his poverty is so far from being a ground of despair, that it ought rather to animate him with courage to seek Christ. But let us remember that none are accounted poor but those who are really such, or, in other words, who lie low and overwhelmed by a conviction of their poverty.

6. And blessed is he who shall not be offended in me. By this concluding statement Christ intended to remind them, that he who would adhere firmly and steadfastly to the faith of the Gospel must encounter offenses, which will tend to interrupt the progress of faith. This is said by way of anticipation, to fortify us against offenses; for we shall never want reasons for rejecting it, until our minds are raised above every offense. The first lesson, therefore, to be learned is, that we must contend with offenses, if we would continue in the faith of Christ; for Christ himself is justly denominated a

rock of offense and stone of stumbling, by which many fall,
(1 Peter 2:8.)

This happens, no doubt, through our own fault, but that very fault is remedied, when he pronounces those to be blessed who shall not be offended in him; from which too we infer, that unbelievers have no excuse, though they plead the existence of innumerable offenses. For what hinders them from coming to Christ? Or what drives them to revolt from Christ? It is because he appears with his cross, disfigured and despised, and exposed to the reproaches of the world; because he calls us to share in his afflictions; because his glory and majesty, being spiritual, are despised by the world; and in a word, because his doctrine is totally at variance with our senses. Again, it is because, through the stratagems of Satan, many disturbances arise, with the view of slandering and rendering hateful the name of Christ and the Gospel; and because every one, as if on purpose, rears up a mass of offenses, being instigated by not less malignity than zeal to withdraw from Christ. 77     “Pource que tous non seulement sont bien aises de se retirer de Christ, mais aussi tachent malicieusement d’entrouver les moyens;” — “because not only are all strongly disposed to withdraw from Christ, but they even endeavor maliciously to discover the means of doing so.”