Reader: “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting,”
Response: “or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Scripture: Luke 7:18-30
The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way before you.’
I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!”
When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.
John the Baptist is a unique character to say the least! He is actually the last Old Testament prophet even though he appears in the New Testament for a couple of reasons. First, the sins of the people in Old Testament times were not actually atoned for which was why sacrifices were offered over and over. They were a shadow of what was to come. The same sacrifices were offered in John’s and Jesus’ time. These early sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Second, Malachi―the last book in the First Testament― ends its prophecy with these words: “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5-6) 400 years of no prophets with no message from God, and then out of the desert comes this weird (there’s no other way to say it) prophet preaching fire and brimstone repentance. To no one’s surprise, he attracts large and curious crowds, some of whom actually become his disciples.
John and his preaching became quite controversial among the political and Jewish religious leaders which resulted in his imprisonment. He colored outside the lines! Rabbis in those days had their own disciples called talmid (singular) or talmidim (plural). The talmidim dedicated their lives to following a rabbi, absorbing everything they could about his way of life, his way of thinking, becoming as much like the rabbi as possible. One of John the Baptist’s talmidim was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Some of John’s talmidim told him some of the miracles Jesus was doing so John sent Andrew to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah “we’ve been waiting for for the last 400 years . . . or should we keep waiting and watching.”
So, Andrew found Jesus and asked him the question John had given him. Now when you think about it, this could be a little puzzling because John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins who were six months apart in age, John being a little older. Had they ever interacted as boys? Did they ever talk about their miraculous births? The Bible says nothing about Jesus and John’s prior relationship, but we wonder. John was trying to put it all together, hence his question to Jesus.
Jesus’ answer to John was to quote First Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (Is. 29:18-19; 35:5,6; 42:18; 61:1). Jesus concluded his answer to John’s question with a very direct, “If my words don’t offend you, you will be blessed.” Jesus appealed to the prophetic Scriptures, God’s words, the highest authority, to confirm who he was. Jesus then asked the crowd about their preconceived ideas about the prophet John by quoting Malachi confirming that John the Baptist was indeed the Elijah foretold. Those who had been baptized by John understood― the leaders, who had rejected John’s appeal to repent of their sins, did not.
There is a principle here bearing comment. John in proclaiming the coming Messiah, the King of the Jews, may have assumed Jesus would at this point be assembling an army to overthrow the occupying Romans. Since Jesus was not doing that, he sent Andrew to find out if Jesus was the Messiah or if someone was coming after him to set up God’s kingdom. Jesus’ plan was not quite what John expected. We live in a world where we often have ideas as to what God should be doing about various situations we face as Christians, as a society or as a country. And God doesn’t do what we think should happen. John the Baptist did not fit what people expected. Jesus did not fit what people expected. And at times, Jesus does not fit what we expect or wish. That is why it behooves us to spend time each day in the Scriptures as his talmidim to find his mind and heart. Notice Jesus’ pattern of answering questions was to refer people back to the Scriptures. The same holds for us.
Music: “What Child Is This?” Fernando Ortega
Bonus: “What Child Is This?” Chris Rupp and Home Free (In case you missed this from last year! Terrific!!
Lord Jesus, your ways are so different from what we expect. You came as a baby in a manger visited first by shepherds, the lowest class of society. You went into exile as an infant to avoid death. As a twelve year old, you taught the most brilliant theological minds of the day. You never had a home of your own. You spent more time with the poor and powerless in society than with the leaders. Your kingdom was not what anyone expected. Sometimes your ways are still peculiar to us. You seem to be out of touch . . . or actually, it is we who are lost in our world and are out of touch with what you are doing. Christ Jesus, grant that our hearts and minds wouldn’t be so stuck in our preconceived ideas about you, that we would spend time with you to trust you more and not run ahead in our own time but rest in yours. Help us to move from ideas about you to a deeper relationship with you. This we pray in your Holy Name. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp