John the Baptist was rugged, bold and popular. Imagine what the hipsters at Jerusalem U. were posting about him on FaceScroll; with the camel hair clothes and “Brood of vipers!” preaching! OK, maybe it wasn’t EXACTLY like that, but John was a firebrand. He exploded onto the scene and preached hard truth as he introduced Jesus as the coming Messiah…then we read this startling verse in Luke 7:20:
“John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’”
Suddenly, in a single verse, the image changes. John proved to be human. Not in a sinful, fall-from-grace kind of way, but in a real life, faith-in-motion kind of way. At this point John was in prison and had faithfully executed what God commissioned him to do, but doubt crept in. That’s the way it is, you’re going along doing what you know to do, and the path begins to feel strange and unfamiliar. Ever found yourself there? I have, and doubt is a very intrusive guest indeed. So let’s take a quick look at John’s question and Jesus’ awesome answers:
John’s perspective – It’s important to note what message John had preached and what he would have expected to be happening – “Judgment”, “The Kingdom”, and “The Lamb of God Taking-Away-the-Sin-of-the-World” were his themes. However, so far that picture wasn’t happening (as far as it appeared) – the Romans were still in charge, the Jewish leaders were still bullies and no sacrifice had been made. So naturally, as one who received his message directly from God, his question seems legitimate. So what does Jesus do?
He redirects the conversation – As was His method often, Jesus pointed the conversation back to scripture. By instructing them to return and tell what they had witnessed; “The blind seeing, the lame walking…etc.” (v.22), He is referencing Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 35:5-6 & others) to reassure John that he was right. He then made a statement:
“…blessed is he who is not caused to stumble because of Me.” – Luke 7:23
So, how do we not “stumble because of Him”? Well, after Jesus addresses the crowd concerning John and those present, He finished with:
“But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” Luke 7:35 NIV
This tells us wisdom is the key. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. John wasn’t lacking in faith, but he was having a hard time fitting the pieces together. What he knew to be true and what has happening in real time around him didn’t make sense. Since wisdom is the key, what wisdom did he impart? Let’s consider:
Jesus’ perspective on John (v.24-28) – He asked the crowd if they went out to see a soft guy or a prophet. He then answers His own question- a prophet; and the greatest of all prophets born of women. John was great, but those coming after him (born into the Kingdom) would be even greater.
Jesus’ perspective on the Pharisees (v.31-34) – He compares them to whiny children who complain about no one playing with them. Unlike the people who proved God right by accepting John’s message (v.29), the Pharisees rejected God’s will (v.30). This is the difference between “hearing” and “not hearing”.
He also says they were beyond being satisfied (v.33-34). It didn’t matter if He and John ate fine food or refrained, the leaders would have still rejected them. How liberating that is! To know that trying to impress self-appointed people is a worthless pursuit…so give it up!
In all of this, I can’t help but think of a Pharisee who was trying to figure it out. In John chapter 3 Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night asking questions. He wasn’t sure about what He was witnessing and was trying to fit the pieces together. Nicodemus feared God, but he had a hard time in the process. In John 19:39 we see Nicodemus again; boldly taking the body of our Lord, anointing it with a large amount of expensive oil, personally helping Joseph dress it and then helping to place it in the tomb. Nicodemus had come out of the shadows and into the light. Three days later, he would be fully affirmed by the resurrection, but not that day. Answers would come later, but in the meantime, he still acted on his faith.
For them – At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples. They are afraid and He asks, “…why do doubts arise in your hearts?” A few moments later in 24:35 Luke says, “And He opened their understanding, so that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” – (Then they saw from His perspective)
For us – James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.” – (Then we can see from His perspective)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:6-7
Series: “Thoughts on Luke” – Luke 7:18-35