As usual, the passage can be read here. This week’s notes have been provided by Bill Capper.
We know from Matthew’s gospel (chapter 11.12) that John was in prison when this happened. He had been put there by Herod who didn’t like the awkward truths John told him (Luke 3.19). Here we have the last recorded action of John. His life’s work was to make ready a people prepared for Christ’s (Messiah’s) coming (Luke 1.14-17). How appropriate then to send two followers to Jesus. John sent them to get reassurance about who Jesus was, either for John himself, or for his followers themselves who were soon going to have to manage without John.
What reply was Jesus going to give to John’s followers? What they needed was not only a spoken word of assurance but a conviction in their hearts that Jesus was indeed the expected Messiah. So Jesus allowed the two of them to witness many mighty miracles with their own eyes. Then he told them to report to John that all these miracles of healing were happening, and that they had seen them with their own eyes. He added that the poor had good news preached to them, which it seems they had heard with their own ears v22, and which was another of the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 61.1-2).
John continued the ministry he had been given up to the end – pointing people to Jesus. As he said in the desert, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 129).
Jesus taught us that we would recognise that a work is true or false by the fruit it produces (Matthew 7.20). Here we see Jesus showing by example what he meant. He did not answer with “Yes, I am the Messiah”, but instead he demonstrated it by his actions. We evaluate the ministries we hear about by the fruit that they produce.