John isn’t finding Jesus’ yoke easy or load light! He is the greatest prophet from OT times. He is the one who is preaching to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He is the forerunner, Elijah as was foretold, for those who take his message to heart. And yet he is in prison, and he’s beginning to wonder if everything he thought about Jesus was wrong. So he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus a question: “Are you the one who is to come?” Jesus responds by reminding them of Isaiah 61:1 (11:4). Jesus is doing exactly what God said the Messiah would do! And that is an important reminder to us. Whenever we are hurting, whenever we are doubting, whenever we are in despair, we need to turn to the Word. The Word reminds us of who God is and what God does. The Word reminds us that God is at work. The Word reveals fulfilled prophecy, and the Word predicts what is in our future. The Word provides directions for our lives, and the Word provides perspective for our lives. The Word comforts, encourages, and gives us hope!
Jesus also reminds us of another important truth: as great as John was, those who believe are greater! John is a transitional figure between the Old and New Testaments. He is preparing the way for the coming Messiah. The era of law effectively ends with Jesus death, and the era of grace begins. John dies before the era of grace begins, so he can only look forward to it without fully understanding everything that it means, and we see that confusion here. We are blessed because we can fully understand and experience that grace in our lives! And there is a warning here: if we refuse to believe and repent we face judgment. Are there degrees of judgment suggested here (11:24)? I would suggest that it’s probably just dramatic hyperbole for effect. Judgment is judgment, and it’s not pleasant. No-one should want to experience it.