The Book of Luke, John the Baptistís Question From Prison Ė Lesson 86
Luke 7:18-23, And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. 19And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 20When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 21And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. 22Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
This passage begins by the disciples of John reporting to him the activities of Jesus and also the rumor that had spread throughout Judea and the regions beyond that a great prophet had arisen.
Because of this report it appears that John was not satisfied with the progress of the kingdom of God and by this question ďArt thou he that should come? or look we for another?Ē he was trying to push the program of God and to forcefully help things along.
By this question it appears that he was pressing Jesus to proclaim Himself as Messiah and if he would not do so then John and the others would reject Him and look for another.
But the scriptures speak out clearly that Jesus did not intend to announce himself as Messiah.
Jesus did not want men to accept Him as the Messiah because He claimed to be Messiah, but because the evidence was compelling that He was Messiah.
His intention was that He was to be received as the Messiah by faith.
Peterís confession of Jesus as the Messiah will come later in the gospel accounts, but when Peter does finally conclude that Jesus is Israelís Messiah, it is not because Jesus has told him so:
The Lord Jesus was blessed by Peterís confession because it was a confession that was revealed to him by his father in heaven.
It was a spiritual revelation to Peter.
Matt. 16:15-17 , He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
The reason why Jesus refused to publicly claim to be Israelís Messiah was so that flesh and blood would not reveal His identity.
He desired that the Spirit of God would do so, based upon the Old Testament prophecies concerning Messiah, and the works and words which Jesus did, proving Him to be Messiah.
It was not to be Ö.by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Jesus made it clear to the Jews who demanded to be told plainly that he was the Christ.
John 10:24-38, Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. 25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Fatherís name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Fatherís hand. 30I and my Father are one. 31Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? 37If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Jesus Christ as the Messiah, Jesus Christ as God is revealed to his sheep though the Spirit.
Lukeís account of the ďgreat confessionĒ of Peter goes even further, showing us that even after Peterís recognition of Jesus as the Christ, Jesus did not want His disciples to proclaim His Messiahship:
Luke 9:20-21, He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
Johnís question, or rather Johnís challenge, was wrong for various reasons, but one of these was that it was Christís purpose not to publicly identify Himself as Messiah.
This identification of Jesus as the Messiah was to be a work of the Spirit of God who would speak of him.
The Messiah was not to identify himself for this was a work of the Spirit.
John witnessed this very thing when he in John 1:32-34, said: I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
So it was very clear whose job it was to identify Jesus as the Son of God, as the Messiah especially to John but now while in prison he doubts his own calling.
Either you identify yourself as Messiah (and get on with the program of judgment) or else weíll find ourselves another Messiah.
Given this point of view of Johnís words here we can see Johnís doubts revealed.
John gladly accepted his role at one time, but is now, by this question, threatening to change things.
John, who was given the great privilege of being the forerunner of Jesus and identifying him as Messiah under the power of the Holy Spirit, now challenged Messiah to prove Himself.
John the Baptist expected Him to inaugurate the kingdom in a very different way and this caused him to doubt this man Jesus in spite of his witness of the Holy Spiritís very clear identification of the Messiah.
John seems to be seeking from Jesus what he had never heard, our Lordís own testimony to the fact that He was Messiah.
He who once encouraged his disciples to follow after Jesus now sends two of his disciples to Jesus, not to follow Him wherever He would go, but to change His course and to get on with the role of Messiah as John saw that role.
Jesus simply said to his disciples and he says it to us today, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.
Follow me simply means that.
We are not to take a new course, we are not to have Jesus follow us; we are to follow him.
We are not to try get in front of Christ but we are to remain behind him as he leads the way.
We are not to be impatient with God and try to force him into bringing in the kingdom, we are to be still, we are follow Jesus and wait upon him to do what and when he pleases.
And the only way to follow Jesus is to know his word.
There is no other way to know the Way then to know his word.
But it is obvious from Johnís question that he was not satisfied with how things were going and wished to see the Messiah in his role as judge and deliverer.
This mercy and healing ministry of Jesus confused and perplexed John and caused him to doubt and therefore this question was sent.
But we must remember that John the Baptist is simply a man and subject to error. He was not all knowing.
But Jesus Christ is not simply a man for Jesus Christ is God and Man.
John and Jesus were very different men.
Jesus was, it would seem on most occasions a gentle and soft-spoken man.
But we see John as a rough-hewn and outspoken man, a man of action and judgment.
Jesus was very much in contact with people, being frequently found in the cities, and often in contact with sinners.
John was a man who lived a very secluded life.
He lived in the desert, so that the people had to come out to hear him preach.
His seclusion was continued by his imprisonment by Herod Antipas.
Johnís diet was of the desert, locusts and wild honey.
But Jesus drank wine and ate foods that John did not and would not (cf. Luke 7:33).
Johnís disciples fasted, and Jesusí disciples didnít (Luke 5:33).
Johnís ministry, so far as the gospel record informs us, did not include miracles, healings and wonders.
It is possible that John may have performed miracles, but we are never told of any.
Jesus, on the other hand, frequently worked miracles and these two, the healing of the centurionís slave and the raising of the son of the widow of Nain seemed to especially affect John.
Jesusí ministry was, at the moment, very popular, while John had little or no public ministry while in prison.
Jesus indeed was increasing while John was decreasing.
The major difference between John and Jesus, the one which may explain Johnís unhappiness with Jesus, is the difference in the emphasis of the message of each.
Johnís emphasis was on sin, judgment, and condemnation, while Jesusí emphasis was on healing, salvation and life.
Both were biblical and both were important, but they were very different in their tone and in their emphasis.
The Old Testament prophets contained an emphasis on both areas, but in practical outworking John focused on the judgment side of Messiahís coming while Jesus focused on the salvation side.
What is that old saying, Find out where God is going and go with him.
Do not have a preconceived notion as to where you want God to go. That is not following but leading.
Johnís task was to condemn Israelís sins and to warn of the impending judgment of God.
It was also to call on men and women to repent for their sin to avoid the wrath of God.
So it was natural for him to expect that Jesus the Messiah, the executor of Godís judgment would take out the evil men, take out those who held John in prison.
But here was Jesus healing, bringing sight to the blind and raising the dead.
Johnís problem was that he did not understand that there were two comings of Messiah, the second of which was for the purpose of judgment, the first of which was to become a provision for manís salvation by dying for the sins of the world.
Jesusí first coming was to bear the judgment of God, not to bring it.
God judged men and the judgment was against Jesus.
Christ for he took my place and your place.
Johnís message was true, and it served the purpose of preparing men for Christís first coming by calling many to repentance.
But John was to decrease while Jesus was to increase.
Those who acknowledged themselves to be sinners found grace and forgiveness.
John was perplexed by our Lordís mercy and healing, for He expected Him to inaugurate the kingdom in a very different way.
Johnís challenge was to force the Lordís hand, to press Jesus to announce that He was the Messiah, and to cause Him to begin to bring judgment to the earth.
John had warned men that Messiah would come with fire, and John thought it was high time for Jesus to get with it, and to do as he had warned Messiah would do.
John failed to take hold of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the two-fold coming of Christ which led him to conclude that Jesus was in need of some straightening out.
That is what John set out to do, but as we shall see, this is not what happened.
How did Jesus deal with this crisis, which John precipitated?
How would you deal with this question.
Most of us would jump right in with both feet and be on John like white on rice and straighten him out without hesitation but this is not what our Savior did.
John in this passage reminds me of political handlers that tell the candidate how to act in order to get more votes.
I remember that was done to Ronald Reagan, but in the long run the message was to let Reagan be Reagan.
Godís people must remember this that we are to let the Lord Jesus Christ be the Lord Jesus Christ and not try to conform him to our notions of what the Savior should be.
We are to be conformed to him, not the other way around.
Luke 7:21-23, And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. 22Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.