There are times in life when things simply do not go according to plan. Our expectations for life have been shattered. A life filled with hopes and dreams are often shattered. The spouse, two or three children, and the white picket fence around the house become elusive. We are broken under the weight of sin. The family is torn apart. Your spouse cheats on you. You go through a divorce. Your children suffer from disease or death. Your body breaks down. Life has not gone according to your visualization of how life would go. John the Baptizer experienced a similar situation at this point in his life, which is recorded in Luke 7. The second half of Luke 7 centers on the man that was introduced to us earlier in this gospel, John the Baptizer. John is in prison because he preached to Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife.
John’s Question (7:18-23)
John sends two his disciples to Jesus with an important question. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” John wants to know if Jesus is the one who is the Messiah. We need to be amazed for a moment that John asked this question. John knew he was the forerunner to Jesus. This was told to him from the day of his miraculous birth. John knew he was the voice in the wilderness to prepare for the coming of the Lord (Luke 3:4-6) John went about preaching, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). John was the one who baptized Jesus when the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven stated, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). John knew these things. He heard and saw these things. However, now John is in prison. Things do not seem to be going according to plan. John is supposed to be preparing the way for Jesus, not sitting in prison for preaching the good news. So John sends two of his disciples with an important question while John sits in prison. Are you the one or are we looking for another?
Jesus’ response to John’s question is awesome. Verse 21 tells us that during the time of this question Jesus is healing many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits. He is also healing the blind and giving them sight. Jesus has a message for John. I think it is important to notice the gentleness in Jesus’ answer. Jesus does not chastise John for asking this. Jesus gives John the encouragement he needs. Go tell John that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. Go tell John what you have seen me do. Jesus did not do this display as some sort of power show to prove himself to John. The miracles that Jesus performs are the fulfillment of messianic prophecies.
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. (Isaiah 35:5–6 NLT)
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. (Isaiah 61:1 NLT)
Jesus’ answer is that he is fulfilling the promises concerning the Messiah. His answer by his miracles is, “Yes, I am the one who was the come. I am the Messiah.” The conclusion of Jesus’ message is just as important. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (7:23). Jesus’ words are a subtle warning for John and for all others who learn about Jesus. Do not be tripped up by the way Jesus carried out his mission. The style of Jesus’ messianic mission did not match most forms of Jewish eschatological expectation. Many had the wrong expectations about what Jesus would do. Many thought the Messiah would be the overthrower of Rome. Many thought it would be a time of economic prosperity when the Messiah came. Jesus teaches a very important lesson. Do not have the wrong expectations about Jesus and what he will do. Trust that he is the Christ even though he did not meet the expectations of the people.
We have many of the same issues with Jesus today. Many discredit that there is a God because if there was a God, then why is there war? Why do innocent children suffer? Why doesn’t God intervene against evil? How can there be so much evil in the world? Others have different expectations of Jesus. If we follow Jesus, then our suffering will heal. We will have more wealth. We will not have problems if we follow Jesus. We will have good health. We place all kinds of expectations on Jesus.
Who are we to think that we know how God should act? How do we know what is best for the universe? Why do we think that we have more knowledge and wisdom than God so that we can question him and suggest he does not exist because he does not do things the way I think they should be done? Even John seems to have certain expectations of Jesus. Jesus makes the point: he is the Lord and Messiah but he does not do things according to our plans or ways. What false expectations do we have? Do we think we should be married or should be single? Do you think God must give you kids? Do they have to be healthy? Do you have to have as many or as few as you want? Do you have to be healthy? Do you have to never be seriously sick? We have all of these expectations on God that cause us to slip when our expectations are not met.
Jesus’ View of John (7:24-30)
Once Jesus sends John’s messengers back to John, Jesus begins preaching to the crowds about John. Jesus asks what the people expected to see when they went into the wilderness to see John. Do you think you are going to find a push over living in the wilderness preaching? Did you think you were going to find a luxurious, laid back preacher living in the wilderness? He ate locusts with wild honey. What kind of person did you think you would find? The point is that they knew there was a prophet living out there. They knew that John was a prophet from God. They knew John was great. That is why they went out to the wilderness to see him.
Then Jesus intensifies his point. Yes, John was a prophet. But he was greater than a prophet. He was the prophesied forerunner to the Messiah. John is the one the prophet Malachi declared would come to prepare the way for the Lord. Not only was John a great prophet, he was the greatest person ever born of woman. Jesus simply said that besides himself, John is the greatest person to ever walk the earth. No one was greater than John. These are amazing words. Abraham was considered the greatest as the father of the nation. David was considered great as the king over Israel who was the man after God’s own heart. Moses was great who led the people to deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Elijah was the great prophet who performed great miracles. Jesus says that John was greater than all of these people.
Carefully consider what Jesus says in verse 28. “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John was the greatest person to ever walk the earth besides Jesus. But if you are in God’s kingdom then you are greater than John. Do you understand how great it is to be in a relationship with Jesus and belonging to his kingdom! Your position in Christ is so privileged and so great that your relationship with God is as precious as the greatest prophets of God.
When the crowd heard these words, they glorified God declaring him just. The people are acknowledging that God’s way is right. They are accepting that God’s call for repentance was correct. They needed to repent. However, the Pharisees and the lawyers continued to reject the purpose of God for them. Notice they were rejecting God’s purpose by refusing to be baptized by John for repentance. Some things never change. Many today are resisting God’s purpose. People today refuse to be baptize for the forgiveness of sins. They are rejecting God’s plan for their lives. They stubbornly resist and refuse to believe that they are in sin and need to turn from their sins and receive salvation. In the final section of this chapter Jesus is going to pull all of this together.
Rebuking The People (7:31-35)
Jesus now tells a parable to explain the condition of these people. He says they are like children, but not in a good way. They are like children who call to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” Jesus calls the people immature, complaining children. Notice the parable is of complaining kids who cannot get the other kids to do what they want. I am quite experienced with this problem with my own children and their friends. A child cries and complains because the others won’t do what he or she wants them to do. We played the flute but you didn’t dance. You did not do what we wanted. We sang a dirge and you didn’t weep. You did not play by our rules and fit our expectations.
Jesus uses this parable to describe the people’s criticisms of John and himself. The people knew that John was a prophet from God. Since John did not come eating bread or drinking wine the people declared he had a demon and rejected him. Jesus came eating bread and drinking wine but the people rejected him also, calling him a drunkard and a glutton. It did not matter how the messenger came, they rejected the messenger and the message. Rather than listening to God’s messengers, they are telling the messengers what to do. They want Jesus and John to play by their rules. Here is what we want John to be. If Jesus is the Messiah then this is what we want him to do.
Are we complaining or following? Do we dictate to God our terms of service or do we submit to Christ’s terms? Too often we want God to follow our rules. We will obey if God does what we want him to do. We will come to worship when we want. We will serve when it is convenient for us. God will accept what I want to give him. When we think like this we are just like these people that Jesus was addressing. God does not submit to us. We submit to him.
Finally, look at the other criticism of Jesus. Not only did he eat bread and drink wine, they criticized him for being a friends of tax collectors and sinners. What a complaint! He is friends with the sinners of this world. He did not spend his time with the religious. He spent his time with the common people of the day, teaching them about the ways of God. We must be like our master and be friends with sinners to have the opportunity to present the gospel. We cannot teach at a distance. Signs and banners will not be enough. Websites will not be sufficient. We must get to know people, know their circumstances, and show them Jesus in that relationship.
- It is great to belong to Christ’s kingdom
- What do you expect from Jesus?
- Are we dictating our terms of service or submitting to Christ’s terms?
- A friend of sinners. Reach out and teach.