Greater than John

I can remember as a boy wanting a Robocop outfit. Complete with the Robocop gun and mask, it was every young boy needed in order to combat the bad guys. So that was what I asked Santa Clause for Christmas: a Robocop kit, with mask and gun. Christmas day finally rolled around and excitedly I ripped through the gifts until I got to one that was rather square and was just the right size that a Robocop kit would be. I tore it open and there it was. With great joy I remarked, “Wow, Santa Clause really did get it for me!”

Looking back, I can remember that it wasn’t really a genuine Robocop outfit; it was the generic kind but kids don’t really notice that. What mattered to me was that I got what I had for so long asked for (at least to a kid Christmas takes forever to finally arrive). That is kind of what we find in Luke 7.18-35. For so long, Israel has been asking for their Messiah. Indeed, John the Baptist, who is locked away in prison (see 3.20), has preached the good news that the time for the Messiah is upon the people.

However, when Christmas day arrives and when they open their package from heaven, they sort of stare at it with confusion. And perhaps the disciples of John if not John himself are asking whether or not they have received a ‘generic’ Messiah instead of the real deal. Therefore, it seems necessary for John to send some messangers to Jesus , the so called Messiah, to see if indeed he is the real deal.

The Request of John

We can only assume that John was an honest doubter. It is he who calls his two messangers together and gives them the message. But certainly his opinion could have been swayed by the reports he had been hearing and perhaps some commentary from those who brought the message. “He’s not doing what we think the Messiah should be doing, John.” “Are you sure this is the right guy, John?” Thus, he sends messanger to ask in what one commentator calls “a vague messianic expression” whether Jesus is the one who was to be sent. If not, are we to expect the “name brand” Messiah at some later time?

The Reply of Jesus

Jesus does not become angry, at least there is no appearance of anger in his reply or the text. What we are seeing, then, is a Lord who is gentle with those who doubt and ask questions. He doesn’t say, “Well, if he wasn’t sure, why did he even preach about me being the Messiah. He shouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t sure.” Instead, we find Jesus very gently giving John the proof he needed in order to come to his conclusion. And certainly, John being familiar with Old Testament prophecies, would readily recognize that Jesus is in essence quoting from the Old Testment in order to say one thing: I am the Christ. All the miraculous signs Jesus is performing are evidence that Jesus is who John said he is.

The praise for John. Once the messangers leave, Jesus breaks forth in praise for John. John was not a reed shaken in the wind; instead he was a pillar who stood for truth and a preacher committed to righteousness. He was not a man dressed in ‘soft clothes;’ he was a man who was rugged and did not indulge the sinful nature. John was a prophet in the truest sense of the word. He spoke the word of God by the power of God for the glory of God. He was the fulfillment of prophetic mandate. But even in this exalted position, “the greatest among men,” there is a position which is far greater and that is “least in the kingdom.” Certainly following John was good and important, but of even greater importance is living in the kingdom. Jesus is putting the kingdom in perspective: it is the most important thing man can ever attain to. Certainly John the Baptist did the same thing when he uttered the words, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Therefore, pursue entrance into the kingdom. John fulfilled his role and function in prepare the way for the King. But now that the king is here, he inaugrates something greater for man.

The People and John. John came preaching the kingdom. It was the best news Jews who have been waiting for the kingdom of God could ever hear. It is the still the greatest news ever to fall on sinful ears. Therefore, the purpose of God was fulfilled in some people. The “acknowledged God’s way was right” and were baptized with John’s baptism. However, there were a group of people who refused God’s purpose for their lives. Note that, God’s purpose for a person can be rejected. This utterly smashes to peices the idea of predestination. Certain men are not born simply to stoke the fires of hell. God has a purpose for them and that is salvation. “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and knowledge of the truth.” The Pharisees characterize people who refuse to be obedient to God and therefore reject God’s purpose for them and stand condemned, not because God made that way, but based on their freewill decision to not accept the free gift of life.

The Prejudice against John. Not only did they refuse God but they cast off His prophet, John. And not only did they refuse to join in the dance, but when weeping broke out they refused that as well (v.32b). Be it John coming in utter poverty and deprivation or Jesus coming and eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners,’ these self-righteous men will not join either. However, the wise man can the see the wisdom of God in both the actions of John and Jesus. God’s way is always right and those who are truly wise will pronounce it to men who will accept it.

We always want to avoid becoming like the Pharisees. I don’t think there are many more sadder statements than v.30. God’s had a purpose for his people, but because of their “stiff-necks” and their “sinful, unbelieving hearts,” they refused it. But also we should walk away knowing that we serve the true Messiah. Jesus was the one to come “once for all” and by acknowledging this truth, we are not only children of the King, but we are children of wisdom, proving right the judgments of God. Finally, we should also acknowledge our lofty position and “take heed, lest we fall.” There is always the danger of rejecting the purpose of God. We can fall away into apostacy and must always be cautious of our walk with God. We hold the greatst position men could ever hold for we stand in the kingdom of God. We are sitting at the banquet of the King, enjoying the riches of his blessings in the heavenly realms.

Note: The above outline was adapted from The Outline Bible.

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