Here we find more on John the Baptist. After John’s inquiry and “schooling”, Jesus talks to the crowd: What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Nope.
OK, John’s preaching had created a sensation. It’s time for Jesus to set the record straight. Reeds were common—a dime a dozen—and weak. This is a way to ask, “Was John just an ordinary person?” Maybe the point is that John had asked a very normal human question, but is he just normal, like everyone else? The question is rhetorical, and the implied answer is, “Of course not.” By the same token, as you didn’t expect a common person, did you expect someone elite? Come on. We are so ready to disrespect/disregard anyone: “He’s too plain;” “He’s too elite.”
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”
John wasn’t dressed in the fine clothes of the elite, as clothing in those days was a marker of social status. John wore the rough clothing of a prophet, modeled on that of Elijah. So John was neither a common person nor from an elite class or elite education. In those days class divisions were both sharp and meaningful, and a person not from the proper class had no rights to certain benefits of society. The point was that John was in a class by himself and not bound by the rules and restraints of mankind’s little categories. Instead, he was a mouthpiece for God.
Every generation notices the magnetic draw that anyone who might have a connection with God has on the people. If people think that someone or something might be able to connect them with God, people flock by the thousands. In April of 2011, Ambilikile Mwasapila, a 76-year-old retired Lutheran pastor in Kenya, claimed he had invented an herbal miracle cure that could heal any ailment: cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other terminal diseases. Mwasapila has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to try his “cure.” Similarly, some people claim to see the image of Jesus in a water tower, or on a wall, and people assemble in droves in the hopes of being blessed or healed. Can you imagine if someone like John or Jesus showed up, saying the things they were saying, and doing the things they were doing? John had all the great qualities of a true prophet: vigorous moral conviction, integrity, strength of will, and a fearless zeal for truth and righteousness. It was commonly agreed that a true prophet had not appeared for centuries, until now.
So here’s what’s going on. John was recognized as a prophet. And Jesus shows us that he is MORE than a prophet—he was also prophesied ABOUT. He was more than the bearer of prophecy; he is a specifically mentioned OBJECT of prophecy. He is more than a bringer of the Word of God; he is someone whom the Word of God itself predicted. Now, John spoke of Jesus—prophesied about Him. So what does it say about Jesus that John, the “more than prophet,” prophesied about Him? It gives anything John says extra credibility. Notice that the prophecy John fulfilled with his person (listed here), is the one about the messiah, so this is where his credibility is suggested to be higher.
This, of course, is following testimony that Jesus was the one who had healed the blind, raised the dead, and worked on behalf of the poor. So if John is more than a prophet, Jesus is more than a more-than-a-prophet. He stands in the place of God Himself—Emmanuel: God with us. In the Old Testament it was God Himself for whom the forerunner was to prepare, and certain small changes have been introduced into the texts to make the quotations refer to Jesus. This should not be taken as a sign of dishonesty or intention to deceive. Since they knew the texts referred to God’s eschatological intervention in the person of his Messiah, it was right to rephrase the prophecy so as to put its precise application beyond doubt.
7.29: All the people, even the TAX COLLECTORS, could get what he was saying. There are people we think will never catch on: the spiritually incorrigible, immune, hardened, or rejecting, for whatever reason. but no one is out of reach. No one.
Ah, but it says in v. 30 that the Pharisees “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” Despite how religious they were, they rejected God’s purpose for themselves. To be religious is not God’s purpose for us. To know the word of God is not God’s purpose for us. God’s purpose for us is oneness with God. It’s following Jesus.