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(For word document click title above) John the Baptist. Luke 7:18-32 When John the Baptist doubted. John asked two questions. What did John mean? Why would he ask these questions?
John the Baptist. Luke 7:18-32 Lorna Laister 19th February 2017
when John the Baptist doubted
Read Luke 3:19-20
John had been preaching repentance of sin. He had baptised Jesus and seen the dove descend. He knew THEN that Jesus was the Messiah. When John dared to reprove King Herod for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-18), Herod had John thrown into prison. After some months, alone and isolated, John began wondering whether Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah.
We must ask – why would he doubt? Wasn’t he full of the Holy Spirit? Wasn’t he REALLY close to God? Didn’t he do EVERYTHING that God had asked?
Context: John is an Old covenant prophet. He never saw Jesus die and rise again. He believed that the Messiah would be a warrior king. A king who would set the people free. Remember that there was great social inequity – there were the very very rich and the extremely poor. And the promised Messiah was going to change everything.
It looks like nothing was changing. The kingdom of Herod was still reigning strongly! Where was this new kingdom that Jesus had been talking about?
So maybe the questions were fair questions. It must have seemed hopeless and he was depressed caused by “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12). The status quo hasn’t changed; those in power continue to abuse their privilege, and the promise of change doesn’t appear to have materialized.
Verses 20-21 so whilst they were waiting – standing there – Jesus performed miracles.
Jesus did not give John a “yes” or “no” answer. He pointed John to the miracles he was performing and the message he was proclaiming. Jesus repeated to John several Old Testament scriptures as evidence of the arrival of the Messiah. Isaiah 61:1 describes the preaching of the good news to poor, captive, oppressed, and spiritually blind sinners.
But john is more than disappointed. He is angry. Jesus is NOT doing what he should be doing. Imagine John saying “Hey Jesus! I’m still in jail!! John wanted Jesus to reveal himself. Out loud. In public
Verses 22-23. NB. Jesus’ answers John. Yes, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and even the dead are raised up. But, the most important aspect of Jesus’ ministry is that the people have good news preached to them. It is one thing to have physical healing, but it is a completely different thing to have spiritual healing. But, if they themselves were not reconciled to God, their physical healing was all for nothing. All people desperately need to be reconciled with God
Verses 24-28a. Jesus said that John was the greatest. John’s greatness came because he was the one given the task of introducing Jesus Christ to the world. All of the prophets before John longed to see the day when their prophecies came to pass. Only John prophesied and then lived to see it unfold. His greatness came because of his role as the forerunner.
Verse 28b. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
The newest, weakest Christian is greater than John the Baptist. This is because we have experienced the finish work of Christ. We know first-hand things that John only dreamed of. We know of sins forgiven and repentance. We know about the cross and the tomb. We know that the grave could not hold our Lord. We know about the universal call to repent and believe. We know that He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for the saints. These are things John didn’t know. John saw only the beginning. We have seen the complete story of redemption.
Faith Tested. What do you do when your faith is shaken? What do you do when the very foundation of your life has been pulled out from under you?
Here’s the real issue going in John’s thinking…Do I really believe and do I really trust Christ with my life even when things aren’t going well or when I’m in the midst of a trial? John was suffering and so was his faith. John’s worry was this:
“Could he place his life in the hands of God?”
After all, look where trusting Christ had gotten him so far! John stands as a monument that sometimes God’s will for one of His children is not comfort and security in this life but trials and suffering.
When John’s faith was being tested, he went to the one place we must go if ours is ever tested…Jesus.
In Herod’s castle prison wondering, thinking, and considering is Jesus really the Messiah?
Was He really the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of God’s people?
Was He the One or should we look for another?
Is this really the Kingdom of God?
Is Israel really being restored?
Why is all this happening to me?
If Jesus was the Messiah, why am I here in prison?
It is SO human NOT to want to go to Jesus! But don’t be ashamed or guilty that you doubt. Go to Jesus anyway.
Have you ever been in that situation? Have you ever been confused and tried by the will of God? Like us, John is a man.
You see we tend to think of John as a hero. As so holy that he couldn’t doubt. The irony is that he should have SEEN and hence believed. But he was human and his faith waivered.
God’s perfect timing At the very moment John’s friends come to Jesus, He has people already lined up to heal so that John’s friends could be eyewitnesses and go back and share with John this is, in fact, the One.
Isaiah 61:1. What’s interesting is that Jesus doesn’t quote the ending of Isaiah 61:1. This was another problem John was having. You see, John was in prison. Jesus came to set prisoners free. Jesus doesn’t quote that part. Do you know why? It wasn’t time yet. In order to set the captives free, Jesus was going to have to die and the time for His death hadn’t come yet.
For John, he needed to be reminded that some of the promises concerning Messiah were coming to pass but in God’s providence, they all had not come to pass yet.
Unrealistic expectations. What should we do when, despite our ardent efforts, the status quo isn’t changing -- when those with power and privilege serve themselves at the expense of the powerless, and when God seems to sit idly by while Rome wins? Doesn’t that look like today? When in the townships people are suffering? There are not enough jobs for everyone. There is not enough help for everyone. There are not enough good schools for the children. Yet we are admonished to believe that a time is coming when the Kingdom of god will cover the whole earth. How can we believe this when all we see round us is wretchedness? And we want that KINGDOM NOW!!!
Don’t be isolated. Don’t detach. Keep close to the body of Christ. Keep praying – even when it seems useless. Just because we doubt doesn’t mean we are failing.
Jesus is the long-expected promised Messiah who was born some 2,000 years ago. John was the greatest of all people living under the old covenant. However, every believer today is greater than John because of the enormous privileges that we enjoy. We have the entire word of God. We know of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and present session at the right hand of his Father. We have received the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live moment by moment for the glory of God. Let us embrace Jesus then as our Lord and Saviour today. Amen.
At the same time pray with renewed vigour “Let thy kingdom come!”