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? Matt. 11:7
Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the thorough-going Jewishness of Jesus is His method of teaching. Over the past fifty years, studies of the Jewish nature of the early Church have brought to light many new insights into the first century documents, especially concerning the idioms and Galilean teaching methods of Jesus. In these articles we will study some of the more common idioms in the life of Jesus and His disciples.
One of the most powerful idioms was referred to as The Parable of the Reed and the Oak. This concept is seen in Jesus reply to the Jewish crowd in Matthew 11:7, concerning John the Baptizer. He asks, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?"
There was a well-known parable during first-century Judaism. The Reed and the Oak Tree was often used by teachers to illustrate an important truth regarding conviction and commitment.
Without an understanding of this parable it is difficult for us to grasp the imagery behind this passage.
According to the parable, a giant oak tree and a thin reed were both planted by the river. Whenever a storm came, the deep roots of the oak kept it firmly established, enabling it to withstand most winds. It could, however, be blown over by a wind of sufficient strength. There was nothing wishy-washy or compromising about the oak.
The reed, on the other hand, would bend to the right or left, even with a slight breeze.
The conclusion of the story was that the oak, because of its refusal to compromise, could end upon losing its life in the storm, but the reed, though it might survive, could only do so by continual bending.
Jesus was clearly pointing to this familiar Jewish story when He asked, "Did you expect John to be a reed blowing in the wind?" In other words, Did you expect this prophet of God to be a weak-kneed compromiser? The Jews who heard this immediately understood what Jesus was saying and asked no questions.