“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom is it written: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” ‘ “
Jesus asked what the people went out “to see” three times, each time followed by a second question. He answered each of them Himself...except for the the first one.
He answered the “soft garments” question, and also the prophet question. But He left the “reed shaken by the wind” question unanswered. Why?
The people didn’t go out to see John because he dressed nice. He wore camel’s skin clothing. Pretty common and plain, I might assume for that part of the world. Then Jesus contrasted the lifestyle of John with that of royalty, stating that those who were living nice and comfortable were wealthy. John didn’t draw his crowds by his fashion statements.
The people did believe John to be a prophet, and Jesus added that John was not only a prophet, but much more than a prophet. Jesus also tied John’s ministry into His own as the one who was prophesied to pave the way for the Messiah.
So why ask the question about a “reed shaken by the wind”? John’s disciples had just come from prison with a message from John to Jesus. That message was a question. And a very important one, at that. John wanted to know if Jesus truly was the Promised One, the Messiah that would deliver His people. Was John “shaken” by some sort of wind? It would seem so. But I think that it lead the people to be even more sure of John’s ministry and role when they saw that he couldn’t be easily moved. It wasn’t until he thought that his life might be in jeopardy that he even considered that there might be some mistake. And I don’t feel that anyone faults him for that. A “wind” shaking the reed? Certainly not a breeze, it took a hurricane to get John.
We can take some courage from this in a couple ways. Though we have no need for doubt, even the greatest of all prophets (except Jesus, of course) had his moment, too. And John was true to what he knew to be the Bible truth. He called out the king and queen for being in an adulterous relationship, and he paid for it with his life. And if we stand behind what we know to be the right thing, we can rest assure that even if we struggle with doubt, Jesus can and will take care of us through that time.