Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he
sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he
that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus
answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which
ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the
lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are
raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning
John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with
the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed
in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings'
houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I
say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he,
of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say
unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a
greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the
kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom
of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
St. John of Chrysostom in his Homily 36 on Matthew 11 says:
"What follows is among the most thoroughly controversial points…He who knew Him before His miracles, he who had learned it of the Spirit, he who heard it of the Father, he who had proclaimed Him before all men, does he now send to learn of Him, whether it be Himself or not?…It is evident that John neither sent disciples because he was himself in doubt, nor asked in ignorance…What then is it he is bringing about?…John's disciples were starting aside from Jesus…They had always had a jealous feeling toward Him (Cf.John 3:26)…For as yet they did not know who Christ was, but imagining Jesus to be a mere man, but John to be greater than He after the manner of men, they were vexed at seeing the former held in esteem, and the latter, as he had said, now ceasing…Now, when he was on the point of dying, he used greater diligence: fearing as he did lest he might leave a foundation for bad doctrine, and they should continue broken off from Christ. For as he was diligent even at first to bring to Christ all that pertained to himself, so failing to persuade them, now towards his end, he exerts that much more zeal…Now if he had said, 'Go off to Him; He is better than I,' he would not have persuaded them…What then does he do? He waits to hear from them that Christ is working miracles…In this way the inquiry might be made without suspicion, so that from His acts they might learn the difference between Jesus and himself…But Christ, knowing John's purpose, did not say, I am He, for this would again have offended the hearers…but He leaves them to learn it from His acts."
St. Hilary of Poitiers said:
"What violence! People did not believe in John the Baptist. The works of Christ were held to be of no importance. His torment on the cross was a stumbling block. Until now, the prophecy has been dormant. But now the law is fulfilled. Every prediction is finished. The spirit of Elijah is sent in advance. Through John's words, Christ is proclaimed to some and acknowledged by others. He is born for some and loved by others. The violent irony is that his own people rejected him, while strangers accepted him. His own people speak ill of him, while his enemies embrace him. The act of adoption offers an inheritance while the family rejects it. Sons refuse to accept their fathers' last wills, while the slaves of the household receive it. This is what is meant by the phrase, 'the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence.' Earlier expectations are being torn apart. The glory that was pledged to Israel by the patriarchs, which was announced by the prophets, which is now being offered by Christ, is now being seized and carried off by the Gentiles, through faith."