v.1 This verse marks a transition from the previous discourse where Jesus is instructing his disciples (on their missionary work) to a new section with Jesus teaching others and doing mighty works. Jesus is said to go about preaching (see also 9:35).
Jesus and John the Baptist (11:2-19)
Parallel passage in Lk 7:18-35.
v.2-3 John was imprisoned by Herod Antipas for denouncing Herod’s immoral marriage to his brother’s wife (14:1-12). While awaiting death in prison, he hears about the things Jesus (the Christ) is doing. John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah or should they look for another. John is expecting the the Messiah to usher in a messianic kingdom in which those who repent are rewarded and the evil punished (see 3:1-12).
v.4-6 Jesus points out his deeds that prove that he is the long awaited Messiah (Jn 5:36) and that the prophesied time of salvation had indeed come (the year of the Lord’s favor, Is 61:1-3). The blind see (Is 35:5), the lame walk (Is 35:6), lepers are cleansed (Is 53:4), the deaf hear (Is 29:18-19), the dead are raised (Is 26:18-19), and the poor hear the gospel preached to them (Is 61:1). While Jesus points to the old testament prophesies concerning the Messiah, he also recognizes that some aspect of his ministry is unexpected. But blessed is the one that believes anyway (lit. is not offended by me, Is 8:14-15). His own hometown toke offense at him (13:57), is this not the carpenter?
v.7-10 Jesus begins teaching the crowds about John as the disciples leave to report back to John what Jesus said and did. He asks several rhetorical questions. What did the people go out to the wilderness to see (in John), a reed shaken by the wind?, no!, a man dressed in nice clothing?, no!, a prophet? yes!, John is the one foretold by the prophet in Mal 3:1 (Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you). John is the very one who proceeds the Messiah. And Jesus is the Messiah/Christ/“Coming One”, Mt 16:16.
v.11 Jesus continues his praise of John. Of those born in the ordinary way, none has risen that is greater than John. BUT, the very least of those having received the new birth (born again), is greater still.
v.12 That the kingdom of God has suffered violence probably refers to the opposition by the religious establishment.
v.13-15 All the prophets and the law prophesied until John indicates a closing of the old age and the initiation of the church age. John was the coming of Elijah (Mt 17:10-13 and Mal 4:5). Take care to understand this (he who has ears to hear).
v.16-19 Wisdom is justified by her children. The people rejected Jesus because he did not conform to their expectations. They are like selfish children, always wanting things their own way.