Matthew 11:3
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
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(3) Art thou he that should come?—There are no adequate grounds for assuming, as some have done, that the Baptist sent the disciples only to remove heir doubts. The question comes from him; the answer is sent to him. No difficulty in conceiving how the doubt which the question seems to imply could enter into the mind of the Baptist after the testimony which he had borne and that which he had heard, can warrant us in doing violence to what would seem to be the plain meaning of the history. And the meaning of the question is not far to seek. The sickness of deferred hope turns the full assurance of faith into something like despair. So of old Jeremiah had complained, in the bitterness of his spirit, that Jehovah had deceived him (Jeremiah 20:7). So now the Baptist, as week after week passed without the appearance of the kingdom as he expected it to appear, felt as if the King was deserting the forerunner and herald of His kingdom. The very wonders of which he heard made the feeling more grievous, for they seemed to give proof of the power, and to leave him to the conclusion that the will was wanting. And so he sends his disciples with the question, which is one of impatience rather than doubt, “Art Thou the coming One of whom the prophets spoke” (Psalm 40:7; Psalm 118:26; Malachi 3:1)? but if so, why tarry the wheels of Thy chariot? Are we still to look for another and a different Christ?”

11:2-6 Some think that John sent this inquiry for his own satisfaction. Where there is true faith, yet there may be a mixture of unbelief. The remaining unbelief of good men may sometimes, in an hour of temptation; call in question the most important truths. But we hope that John's faith did not fail in this matter, and that he only desired to have it strengthened and confirmed. Others think that John sent his disciples to Christ for their satisfaction. Christ points them to what they heard and saw. Christ's gracious condescensions and compassions to the poor, show that it was he that should bring to the world the tender mercies of our God. Those things which men see and hear, if compared with the Scriptures, direct in what way salvation is to be found. It is difficult to conquer prejudices, and dangerous not to conquer them; but those who believe in Christ, their faith will be found so much the more to praise, and honour, and glory.Art thou he that should come? - That is, Art thou the Messiah, or the Christ? The Jews expected a Saviour. His coming had been long foretold, Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 9:1-6; Isaiah 11:1-5; Isaiah 35:4-6; Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:24-27. See also John 6:14. Compare Deuteronomy 18:18-19. In common language, therefore, he was familiarly described as "he that was to come." Luke adds here Luke 7:21, that at the time when the messengers came to him, Jesus "cured many of their infirmities, and plagues, and of evil spirits." An answer was therefore ready to the inquiries of John. 2. Now when John had heard in the prison—For the account of this imprisonment, see on [1261]Mr 6:17-20.

the works of Christ, he sent, &c.—On the whole passage, see on [1262]Lu 7:18-35.

Ver. 2,3. The instance of this text alone is enough to convince the observing reader of holy writ, that the evangelists do not set down all things in that order as they were done. We have heard nothing before of John’s being cast into prison in this gospel, nor do we hear any thing here of the story of it, till Matthew 14:6, when our evangelist occasionally relates it something largely. He here tells us of something done during his imprisonment, viz. his sending two of his disciples to Christ, to be satisfied whether he was the promised Messias, or they must look for another. Luke reports the same thing, Luke 7:19. Could he that was sent before Christ to prepare his way, and that had baptized him, and seen the Spirit descending on him, and heard the voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, and who had showed Christ to his disciples, John 1:29-31, &c., doubt whether he was the Messiah? Undoubtedly no; but John saw how some of his disciples, either envying for his sake, as John 3:26, or else inclinable to the common error of the Jews about the Messiah, were something shaken with the clamours of the scribes and Pharisees (who were far more favourable to John than to Christ). That they might be satisfied from their own sight of the works of Christ, he a little before his death sendeth them to Christ on this errand,

Art thou he who should come (in the Greek, who is coming)? Which lets us know the full expectation the Jews generally had at that time of a Messias coming. They desire only to be satisfied whether Christ was he.

And said unto him,.... By the disciples he sent; this was the message they came with, and this the question they were to ask, and did,

art thou he that should come? A "periphrasis" of the Messiah, well known to the Jews; for he had been spoken of frequently in the prophecies of the Old Testament, as the Shiloh, the Redeemer, the Prophet, and King that should come; particularly, by this circumlocution, reference seems to be had to Habakkuk 2:3. "It shall surely come", , which may be rendered, "for he that cometh", or "is to come, shall come". So that the question in plain terms is, whether he was the Messiah? John could not be ignorant of this, who had seen the Spirit of God descending on him at his baptism, heard a voice from heaven, declaring him the Son of God; and had so often pointed him out to others, and had borne frequent testimonies that he was the Lamb of God, and bridegroom of his church: wherefore this question was put, not upon his own account, but his disciples, that they might have from the mouth of Christ a full and satisfactory answer, which would remove all their doubts and scruples, and attach them to Christ, now he was about to die, and leave them, than which nothing was more desirable to him. Though some have thought, that John's faith was somewhat slackened; and through his long imprisonment, he began to doubt whether he was the Messiah or not: and others have been of opinion, as particularly Dr. Lightfoot, that the reason of this message was, neither the ignorance and unbelief of John, or his disciples; but that John, with the rest of the Jews, having a notion of a temporal kingdom, and hearing of the mighty works of Christ, wonders that he himself was not delivered out of prison by him, grows impatient upon it, and asks, if he was the Messiah? And if he was, why did he suffer his forerunner and chief minister to lie in prison?

or do we look for another, to release me, and set up this kingdom?

And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Matthew 11:3. Σύ] Placed first for sake of emphasis. Comp. ἕτερον.

ὁ ἐρχόμενος] He who is coming (Hebrews 10:37), i.e. the Messiah, who, because His advent, as being certain and near, was the object of universal expectation, is called, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the coming one (הַבָּא), perhaps in accordance with Psalm 40:8. Olshausen, Hilgenfeld, Keim, suggest Psalm 118:26; Hengstenberg suggests Malachi 3:1; Hitzig, Daniel 9:26.

ἕτερον] so that thou too wouldst, in that case, be only a forerunner.

προσδοκῶμεν] may be conjunctive (as commonly preferred) or indicative (Vulg. Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Fritzsche). The idea of deliberation is, for psychological reasons, more appropriate. The we in the question is the expression of the popular expectation.

Matthew 11:3. εἶπεν αὐτῷ, said to Jesus, by them, of course.—Σὺ εἶ: the question a grave one and emphatically expressed: Thou, art Thou ὁ ἐρχόμενος? Art Thou He whom I spoke of as the One coming after me when I was baptising in the Jordan (Matthew 3:11)? It is a question whether Jesus be indeed the Christ. Lutteroth, basing on the hypothesis that for popular Jewish opinion the Christ and the coming One (a prophet like Moses) were different persons, interprets the question thus: “Art Thou, Jesus, whom I know to be the Christ, also the coming Prophet, or must we expect another to fill that rôle?”—ἢ ἕτερον, not ἄλλον, which would have been more appropriate on Lutteroth’s view = a numerically distinct person. ἕτ. suggests a different kind of person.—προσδοκῶμεν: may be present indicative (for future) as Beza and Fritzsche take it, or present subjunctive deliberative = ought we to look? (Meyer-Weiss, Holtz., H.C.), the latter preferable. What was the animus or psychological genesis of the question? Doubt in John’s own mind, or doubt, bred of envy or jealousy, in the minds of his disciples, or not doubt on Baptist’s part, but rather incipient faith? Alternative (2), universal with the fathers (except Tertullian, vide de prœscrip., 8, de baptis., 10); (1) common among modern commentators; (3) favoured by Keim, Weizsäcker, and Holtz., H.C.: “beginnende Disposition zum Glauben an Jesu Messianität”. The view of the fathers is based on a sense of decorum and implicit reliance on the exact historical value of the statements in fourth Gospel; No. (3), the budding faith hypothesis, is based on too sceptical a view as to the historic value of even the Synoptical accounts of John’s early relations with Jesus; No. (1) has everything in its favour. The effect of confinement on John’s prophetic temper, the general tenor of this chapter which obviously aims at exhibiting the moral isolation of Jesus, above all the wide difference between the two men, all make for it. Jesus, it had now become evident, was a very different sort of Messiah from what the Baptist had predicted and desiderated (vide remarks on chap. Matthew 3:11-15). Where were the axe and fan and the holy wind and fire of judgment? Too much patience, tolerance, gentleness, sympathy, geniality, mild wisdom in this Christ for his taste.

3. he that should come] Literally, He that cometh. One of the designations of the Messiah; in every age the prophet said “He cometh.”

It is often disputed whether John sent this message (1) from a sense of hope deferred and despondency in his own soul; he would ask himself: (a) Is this the Christ whom I knew and whom I baptized? (b) Are these works of which I hear, the works of the promised Messiah? or (2) to confirm the faith of his disciples, or (3) to induce Jesus to make a public profession of His Messiahship. (1) The first motive is the most natural and the most instructive. In the weariness and misery of the prison the faith of the strongest fails for a moment. It is not doubt, but faith wavering: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” (2) The second has been suggested and found support rather from the wish to uphold the consistency of the Baptist’s character than because it is the clearest inference from the text. (3) The third motive would have been hardly less derogatory to John’s faith than the first. And would not our Lord’s rebuke Matthew 11:6 have taken a different form, as when He said to Mary, “Mine hour is not yet come”?

Matthew 11:3. Ὁ ἐρχόμενος, he that should come) cf. Psalm 40:7; Hebrews 10:37.—, κ.τ.λ., or, etc.) There was not at that time any other, for John excludes himself by this disjunctive particle.—ἕτερον, another) They recognise as a certain fact that there is some one who should come.—προσδοκῶμεν, must we await) sc. with longer delay.[510]

[510] The time of waiting in expectation was now by this time coming to an end; for the Seventieth week of Daniel was close at hand.—V. g.

Verse 3. - And said unto him. The question was brought from John; the answer is sent back to him (ver. 4). This points to the cause of the question lying ultimately, not with his disciples, but with himself. Although John might justly fear that they would follow him rather than Jesus (cf. Matthew 9:14, note), yet he seems to have made this inquiry for his own sake. He who stood on the Jewish side of the threshold of the kingdom (ver. 11) did not understand the methods by which the King was acting, and thus his faith was tried (comp. Tertullian, 'Adv. Marc.,' 4:18). In this he recalls his great prototype, whose plans seemed to have failed and his boldness to have done no good (1 Kings 19:13, 14). To both the answer implied that success was assured to quiet spiritual work. Art thou (emphatic) he that should come? he that cometh (Revised Version); ὁ ἐρχόμενος (comp. Matthew 3:11, note). The title was probably derived from Psalm 118:26, and would become the more known from the LXX. of Habakkuk 2:3 (comp. Hebrews 10:37), and perhaps also from a directly Messianic interpretation of Genesis 49:10. Or do we look for. The word (προσδοκῶμεν) contains no thought of looking about for, but only of earnest expectation. Another? Ἕτερον, and so in Luke 7:19; but ἄλλον in Luke 7:20 (where, however, Westcott and Heft margin reads ἕτερον). Observe that in both records the evangelist's own summary of John's message speaks of a difference in kind, but that in the form given by the messengers (Luke 7:20) it is only a matter of a second person coming (comp. Galatians 1:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 12:8, etc.; 1 Corinthians 15:39, etc.). John's disciples, that is to say, are represented as failing to catch the point of their master's question whether he must look, after all, for a Messiah who acts differently from the way in which Jesus acts. Matthew 11:3Thou

Emphatic. Art thou "the Coming One?" - a current phrase for the Messiah.

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