What did Jesus mean by a reed swayed by every breath of wind?
NIV - 24 After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
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Jesus spoke these words after John the Baptist (who was in prison) sent two of his followers to Jesus to ask Him whether He was, in fact, the prophesied Messiah, as John had preached. Jesus then called the attention of John's disciples to the works and preaching that He was doing as evidence of His identity as the Messiah, and told John's disciples to encourage John to remain strong in his faith. After John's disciples had left, Jesus asked those who were with Him, and who had earlier gone out to hear John preach, what they had expected to see by doing so. I think that, by addressing this topic, Jesus was seeking to counter any disappointment with John, or loss of esteem for him, that might have resulted among Jesus' listeners from hearing of John's questioning. By asking them whether they had anticipated seeing a reed swayed by the wind, I would say that Jesus was making a comparison similar to the one later made by Paul in Ephesians 4:14. He was stressing that John had not been an ordinary or inconsequential figure, nor had he been someone who was "blown here and there by every wind of teaching" (as Paul put it). Instead, he had been a true prophet who was willing to endure imprisonment and even his forthcoming death for his faith. And, even more than that, he was the specific fulfillment of the last prophecy of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6) in his role as the one who prepared the people of Israel for Jesus' imminent appearing.
Jesus referred to John the Baptist as a reed who would not be swayed by the different doctrines of men as a wind blows in different directions as he had been telling Herod it was not lawful to have his brother’s wife. Then he was arrested and bound and put in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. (Matthew 14:3) John was preaching baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3) for the Savior of the world was come and was in their midst. And therefore they were asked to bring fruits worthy of repentance, if not, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into fire." Moses had given them their laws and commandments of God about how to live their life and offer sacrifices for their sins. And now being told to repent and be baptized was a new doctrine to them as they were ready for any change as they were under the Roman's burden with taxes. They were looking out for their redeemer as it was written by their prophets. They had all sorts of questions about how to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, their king. (Like 3:9)
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