What does Matthew 11:2 mean?
ESV: Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples
NIV: When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples
NASB: Now while in prison, John heard about the works of Christ, and he sent word by his disciples,
CSB: Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples
NLT: John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus,
KJV: Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
NKJV: And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples
Verse Commentary:
John the Baptist is a central figure in Matthew's telling of the story of Jesus. Before Jesus' public ministry began, John lived in the wild and preached that the people of Israel should repent because the kingdom of heaven was near. He baptized many Israelites in the Jordan River as a sign of their repentance before God (Matthew 3:1–6).

John's mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah, and He recognized Jesus as the One: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel" (John 1:29–31). John's understanding was that the Messiah was coming to bring judgment on those in Israel who did not repent (Matthew 3:7–12).

Jesus insisted that John baptize Him, as well. That's the moment when Jesus saw the Holy Spirit descend onto Him like a dove, and God the Father's voice was heard saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Not long after that, John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned by Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the tetrarch: ruler over parts of Israel under the authority of the Romans. Matthew 14 explains why John was arrested: He had spoken out against Herod's sin in marrying his brother's wife (Matthew 14:3–4).

Now Jesus receives a message from John, still in prison, through John's disciples. Scholars tell us John was imprisoned at Herod's fortress east of the Dead Sea, a place called Machaerus. He has been there for as long as a year at this point, but he has heard reports about what Jesus has been doing.

Many teachers had disciples. John's disciples were still loyal to him and serving him despite his imprisonment. They delivered John's question to Jesus.
Verse Context:
Matthew 11:1–19 deals with John the Baptist, who is in prison at this point (Matthew 4:12). John sends his own disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them an answer and then upholds John to the crowds. He reminds them of John's strength and affirms that John was the prophet who fulfilled the prophecy about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. This generation, though, rejected John's message of repentance, saying that John had a demon and that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus insists He and John will be proved right in the end.
Chapter Summary:
John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them a specific answer to use to reassure John and then upholds John to the crowds. John fulfills the prophecy about the one who would prepare the people for the Messiah. This generation, though, refused to hear John or Jesus, deciding John had a demon and Jesus was a glutton and drunkard. Jesus condemns the cities that refuse to repent and thanks the Father for revealing the truth to little children. He offers rest for those who are weary and burdened.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 11 follows Jesus' instructions to the apostles about taking His message and miracles to the towns of Israel with His own continued ministry of teaching (Matthew 10). Jesus answers a question from John the Baptist's followers, and upholds John's ministry. Jesus condemns several cities in Galilee for rejecting His teaching, despite obvious signs. He thanks His Father for hiding the truth from those who arrogantly think they are wise. He offers rest for those who will take His yoke. This leads to further confrontations with critics, recorded in chapter 12.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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