IF JESUS ASKED YOU: Questions Jesus Asked from the Book of Luke
But what did you go out to see?
Luke 7:18-30 SCC 10/16/11
GOD’S MESSAGE IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO ATTRACT ATTENTION 24-25
In the context John’s disciples depart the scene and Jesus uses the occasion to turn to the crowd and ask some revealing questions about John the Baptist. Jesus had just affirmed that he is indeed the Expected One that John was anticipating v 19. Jesus credentials were the same as the coming predicted Messiah’s—miracles of healing and restoration (Isa 35:5-6 for instance), which reveals a new day of God’s kingdom, established.
24 Three times Jesus asked ‘But what did you go out to see?’? Two descriptions are made to John the Baptist in this first question—the ‘wilderness’ and a ‘reed’. The wilderness is where people had to go in order to see and hear John. It was not in the synagogue where the religious officials presided. The wilderness is the place associated with John. He was not part of the religious establishment. A reed shaken in the wind revealed that people did not journey out into the wilderness merely to see the Jordan River’s vegetation. There was something going on out there. Reeds and wilderness did not attract their attention. It was much more.
25 But Jesus continues with the questions. Here is another question with a heightened contrast anticipating an emphatic addition to the previous question. Here John the Baptist is compared to one with ‘soft clothing’. This seems to be a strange question. Of course the answer is no. John’s apparel is not what people went out to see. He did not wear expensive clothing or the latest style. If you want to see that you will need to go to the palace and the kings court where this attracts attention. John was an ascetic. Jesus us saying that what drew people to the wilderness was neither the locale nor John’s clothes but his message. It was God’s message powerful enough to attract people’s attention.
What is interesting is that Jesus chose to identify his ministry with that of John. John baptized Jesus. 1. John called people to repentance. 2. John prepared people to receive Jesus as Messiah. 3. John remained independent from groups like the Pharisees and the Sadducees who looked to their religious heritage instead of repentance for their position before God. Jesus ID with this and not with them. What is important is not the messenger but the message. And that message is powerful enough to attract the attention of people. It is a unique message—one of repentance that calls the question. It is that unique piece which makes it attractive or repulsive.
One thing is for certain; when the Word of God is spoken people are forced to have to decide what to do with it. Even today people juggle the Word of God as if there are other options. It is ridiculed, rejected, marginalized, replaced, ignored, and spurned. There are modern day Pharisees who ridicule and reject the Word of God. There are others who determine to listen. Either way it/s message attracts attention.
GOD’S WORD WITNESSES OF HIS PLANS 26-27
26 Jesus asks the question for the third time. What caused people to go into the wilderness was the presence of a prophet. This is the first positive reply of the three questions. John is a prophet but even more than one. The reason why he is qualified as more than a prophet is because of his mission and his message. The fact that he is a prophet tells us that he is a messenger sent from God. He did not just show up on his own. This timing of his mission and the content of his message were divinely ordained.
27 Jesus quotes Malachi 3:1 and applies it to John. First, his prophetic mission is as a messenger sent to the people of Israel ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face’. Here John is sent to prepare the nation for God’s coming in Messiah. So far Luke has focused on the nation’s response to the mission and message of Jesus, as introduced by John and his ministry. Luke records the response of the nation each time Jesus teaches or performs a miracle. Although John works for God and goes before the Messiah, he also prepares the people for Messiah’s coming.
Second, his prophetic message is to ‘prepare your way before you’. In this sense John functions as a prophet who warns the nation by calling for repentance and one who prepares for God’s coming by calling out a faithful and ready remnant of believers. To respond then to John’s message is to be prepared for the coming of God in His Messiah and be delivered. To reject this message will only result in judgment.
One purpose of God’s Word is to reveal to us what it is God is doing. What is God’s view of the world? God has delivered to us His purpose and plan about eternity, salvation, the end of the world, the work of the church, life and death, heaven and hell, the spiritual warfare. All of these are God’s view of things and that is the nature of His Word to us. Just like the people of Israel, we herald this Word as God’s view and anticipate a response. The nature of God’s revelation demands one. And like the ministry and message of John and Jesus, people will receive it or reject it. But what we cannot do is change the message. Be faithful to its message—all of it. Be faithful to God’s view of the world.
GOD’S PLAN INCLUDES AN ERA TO COME THAT WILL BE THE GREATEST 28-30
28 First, Jesus praises John as the greatest man ever born. John’s elevation is the result of His belonging to a special time—a transition period—one promise to the other fulfillment. John serves as the bridge from one era to another. Jesus describes John as great because of this. John’s position is the result of his mission in announcing the new era. Even though part of the old era, he anticipates the new era’s arrival with its fulfillment in Jesus Christ! However, John is only seen as a prophet who is a forerunner. He is not the Messiah.
Second. John will be in the kingdom—the new era he is announcing and Jesus fulfills—but he dos not yet have the benefit of what Jesus offers. And though no one of the old era is as great as John, everyone in the new era will be greater than he ‘yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he’. So we gain some new insights about the nature of the era to come; (1) Presence in the kingdom changes and elevates everyone who shares in it. The nature of this kingdom will be unlike any other kingdom we have known. The scales of evaluation will be entirely different. You can take the scales of evaluation in the world today—status, power, elitism, and prestige—and know that the opposite will be greatness in this kingdom. Jesus said this himself—the greatest will be the servant of all; humble your self and you will be exalted. (2) It is more significant to be the least member in the era of fulfillment than to be the greatest prophet as John in the old.
29-30 So the bottom line is what will you do with this message from John? (1) All the people and the tax-gatherers acknowledged John’s baptism and thus God’s justice. They had repented and received John’s mission and message by baptism. (2) But the Pharisees and the Lawyers rejected God’s purpose for John’s ministry. How did they do this? By refusing to be baptized by John and thus not repenting and being forgiven. It’s interesting that the ones most concerned about the interpretation of the Law still missed the will of God within it. Their hearts are very hard.
A kingdom is coming—one different in character and scope from any before. We are citizens of this kingdom—one yet to come but possible because of Jesus Christ.