Contrast of Two Ministries: Matthew 11:2-6
“2) Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3) and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4) Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5) the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6) And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”” Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭2‬-‭6‬ ‭
We now come to an intriguing text. It appears that Jesus was falling short of the expectations of John the Baptist. John was in prison and was disappointed about the reports filtering back to Him about the message and ministry of Jesus.
Notice what Jesus said to the disciples of John; “4) … Go report to John what you hear and see;” The ministry of Jesus included more than preaching, it was also accompanied with deeds of compassion and miracles. He cared deeply for people.
This was a stark contrast to the style of John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 3:1-12. He came preaching a message of repentance with little regard for the needs of the people. It was the ultimate “turn or burn” approach. It appears that he never performed a miracle but preached the Law without compromise and called people to repentance. The only emotion he displayed may have bordered on anger, but God used him greatly. Like Elijah, he was gifted at preaching the Law.
So why the stark contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus? I believe John 1:17 gives us a huge clue; “17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” The contrast between the approach of John the Baptist and Jesus was a demonstration of the difference between the Law and grace. Both pointed people to God but had radically different ways of presenting Him.
A change was taking place. The Old Covenant based on the Law and the New Covenant looking forward to the Promised ministry of the Holy Spirit were laid out in perfect contrast in the two ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus from Nazareth.
John pointed to the wrath of God, Jesus was the expression of the love of God. John was applying the Law to judge sin, Jesus fulfilled the Law to establish a way for God to forgive sin.
Read carefully John 3:17; “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” Jesus was about to take the sins of the world upon Himself and be judged in the place of humanity.
John preached a gospel of repentance based on the Law. Jesus preached a gospel of forgiveness based on His coming work as the Lamb of God. The irony is that John was the one who introduced Jesus to Israel as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (See John 1:29-34)
Understandably, John was very calcified in his style and approach to ministry. He was the ultimate example of a preacher of the Law. He preached in the spirit and power of Elijah.
But please note that he and that ministry approach both died as the Lamb of God was preparing to go to the cross! The ministry of condemnation based on the Law was coming to an end. The ministry of the Spirit of life was about to begin. (Please study 2 Corinthians 3:1-18) Notice that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Jesus fully appreciated the ministry of John the Baptist, but He did not adopt his approach. It was the perfect conclusion to the end of the era of the Law. It was time for the age of grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit to begin. One thing stood between these two administrations of God… the Lamb of God needed to go to the cross.
John’s public ministry ended in Prison. The ministry of Jesus endured the cross, passed through the grave and left behind and empty tomb. He is the resurrection and the life! (John 11:25) What an apt summary of the ministry of death and the ministry of life.
We could spend much more time on the contrast between these two ministries. They speak volumes on the difference the Old and the New, the Law and the Spirit and works versus faith. Sufficient to say the focus of the New Testament is on the ministry and Message of Jesus Christ.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global