Summary: To "Prepare His Kingdom" John the Baptist inquires about Jesus' Kingship through 1) The Request (Matthew 11:2-3), 2) The Reply (Matthew 11:4-6), and 3) The Recognition (Matthew 11:7-11)
During the opening festivities for Kitchener’s annual German Christkindl (“Christ Child”) Market on Thursday night, a choir sang traditional carols and a hymn. Then a woman stepped forward to read the Christmas story from the German translation of the Gospel according to Luke. She was interrupted when people associated with the festival turned off her microphone and played elevator music to drown out her voice. City staff then told the woman that there could be no scripture reading during the festival. When her Pastor, Jacob Reaume, began to tell festival-goers about the Christ Child and why He came into the world, his microphone was turned off, too. In a radio interview after the event he explain that: “after all, Christkindl is German for “Christ Child,” and we figured there’d be nothing wrong with reading the Christmas story at the Christ Child Market, and even the Christmas story in German, seeing this is a German Christmas celebration … ” The radio interviewer asked the pastor if he felt that the Christkindl Market was an “appropriate setting” to “share (his) message.” The pastor replied: “If Christmas time is not the appropriate setting to share the message of Jesus Christ and offer His love and forgiveness and mercy to the world, I don’t know what is,” (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/city-switches-off-grandmas-mic-while-reading-christmas-story-at-christ-chil?utm_content=buffer6048c&utm_medium=LSN%2Bbuffer&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=LSN)
Expectations can have a tremendous bearing on Christmas. We have expectations of particular gifts, events and even rewards. On these, if the outcome does not match our expectations, then we will be disappointed. But, if the issue resolves around eternal realities, then our expectations can have eternal consequences.
We see in the Gospel of Matthew, in terms of expectations, that John the Baptist is concerned because his present imprisonment does not match his understanding of the arrival of the Messiah which was to bring blessing on those who repented and judgment on those who did not (cf. Mt. 3:11). Jesus’ ministry, however, is in line with prophetic promises about the time of salvation, as seen especially in these descriptions that recall the words of Isaiah (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1842). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.) In Matthew 11, the glorious character of the kingdom of (Heaven) comes into view and then in turn the reality of judgment for those who reject it (Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (299). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.)
Christmas season reminds us about the reality of a Kingdom. John the Baptist's questions of Jesus help us to focus on the reality of meeting Christ face to face and if we are ready. Understanding who Jesus is, and being an obedient citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven is being a ready citizen of that Kingdom.
1) The Request (Matthew 11:2-3)
Matthew 11:2-3  Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (ESV)
King Herod, also known as Herod Antipas, had imprisoned John the Baptist (4:12). Herod..had married his own sister-in-law, and John the Baptist had publicly rebuked Herod’s blatant sin (Barton, B. B. (1996). Matthew (pp. 218–219). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.). John was expecting an imminent end of the age involving the judgment of the wicked (Matthew 3:12). He had heard rumors of messianic-like deeds performed by Jesus. The phrase is comprehensive and is intended to summarize all of Jesus’ activity in word and deed (4:23–9:35). While Matthew is quite definite about the messianic nature of Jesus’ deeds (calling him the “Christ”=Messiah), John’s inquiry indicates that Jesus’ activity did not immediately settle in his mind the identity question (Chouinard, L. (1997). Matthew. The College Press NIV commentary (Mt 11:2). Joplin, Mo.: College Press.)
John's expectations are called into question because his wicked captors had not yet been judged and he had not yet experienced the fulfillment of the messianic promise of “liberty to the captives” (Isa 61:1; and even more vividly, Isa 42:7). He continued to sit in the prison of Herod Antipas (in the fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, according to Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2) and thus could only send his disciples (cf 9:14; 14:12) to Jesus with his question (Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (300). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).
He was now perplexed, and he sent word by his disciples, and said to Him, “Are You the one who is to come/Expected One, or shall we look for another/someone else?” A number of John’s disciples had already been observing Jesus for some time, probably on John’s instruction. After Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain, “the disciples of John reported to him about all these things” (Luke 7:18). The question from John’s disciples in Matthew 9:14 suggests that John, like the Pharisees, may have found it hard to accept the free attitude of Jesus to religious propriety, and the company he kept.( France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (422). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.)