Matthew 11:7 starts out like this, “As these disciples of John were going away, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”
Disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with a question from their master in prison: Are you the Messiah or should we look for someone else (Matthew 11:1–3)? Jesus apparently was not doing the things John expected the Messiah to do right away. Jesus told John’s disciples to go back to him as eyewitnesses of Jesus’ activities and with a specific answer. That included quotations from Isaiah showing that Christ’s work was exactly what God had predicted (Matthew 11:4–6).
As John’s disciples are leaving, Jesus turns to the crowds to talk about John. Instead of dismissing John for his question, Jesus defends John the Baptist for his strength and for fulfilling his mission. Many, many Israelites had gone to see John the Baptist in the wilderness during his preaching and baptizing ministry (Matthew 3:5–6). That number undoubtedly included many who now followed Jesus, since John pointed to Him as the Messiah.
Jesus asks those gathered if they went into the wilderness to see “a reed shaken by the wind.” This would bring to mind images of the cane grass that grows along the Jordan River, where John baptized so many Israelites. Those plant stems are thin and weak—but they are also extremely common. Watching reeds blow in the wind would be akin to asking, in modern English, about watching paint dry.
The assumed answer to Jesus’ question is “no.” The people didn’t go into the wilderness to see something weak, or common, or mundane. John the Baptist was known for his strength and even ferocity.
Very, very interesting comment here. To put forth John as this strong person who fulfills his mission. This is the example that we all want to see. Determination, conviction, strength. John was that person. It’s almost as if Jesus is pointing that out and establishing His affirmation of this type of lifestyle and conviction as a follower of Jesus.