Jesus is the Son of Man
John the Baptist Doubts
All right. Please turn in your Bibles with me to Luke chapter 7. IF you do not have a Bible, if you need one, please see me after the service and I will get one into your hands as our gift to you.
Now, you might notice that we are going just a bit out of order today and for the next few weeks. Normally, our next passage would be Luke 7:11-17. However, we are going to skip over that passage temporarily and come back to that section on Easter Sunday.
So, we are looking at this next passage here this morning. Luke has been recording a number of signs, teachings, and evidence of Jesus’ power and authority. The Jewish nation had been waiting for this Messiah, this Christ, for thousands of years.
God the Father sent him, in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, second member of the trinity. But Jesus was not like what they expected. And this caused even his most ardent followers to wonder at times, Is this really the one?
So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 7, verses 18 through 35. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luke writes:
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers[e] are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus[f] began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just,[g] having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
John was imprisoned at this point because he was publicly critiquing and calling out the King Herod and his abhorrent morality. Even in prison, he and his disciples heard all about Jesus and his teachings, his miracles, his signs and wonders. His disciples came back and reported them to John.
John knew the message preached in the Sermon in the Plain. He had heard of the various healings that Jesus performed. He knew of Jesus raising the bot from the dead, which is what he temporarily skipped over this week.
John knew what he said when Jesus came to be baptized, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World.” He knew what he saw after Jesus he was baptized; The Holy Spirit descending like a dove, the Father’s words spoken loud and clear, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.”
John knew all this and had seen some of this with his own eyes… And yet…
And yet, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask the question, Are you the One? Or should we keep waiting?
John had some expectations regarding Jesus that he did not see being fulfilled. John knew has was the forerunner to the Messiah. And John was called to be a very specific person. He preached hell fire and brimstone, calling the Jewish leaders of the day a brood of vipers, calling them to baptism and repentance. We looked at why it would have been insulting to the Jewish leaders to be told they had to get baptized when we look at Johns ministry earlier in Luke’s Gospel. Only Gentiles who were converting to Judaism were supposed to be baptized, to wash, essentially, the gentile off of them. But John told them they had to do it too. John lived alone in the desert, ate locusts and honey, was one strange looking dude. And he was imprisoned. It would be safe to assume that John would have expected the Messiah to carry on his ministry, since he was the forerunner.
But Jesus ministry was vastly different than Johns. Jesus preached holiness and repentance and he preached on Hell, but he did so while preaching mercy, grace and compassion.
So, John was confused. It seems Hes thinking to himself, Did I get this wrong? Is he really the one? Or is he another forerunner like me? So, he sent the messengers to Jesus to ask him directly.
Now, part of our human nature is that we like to think the best of the people we like. We don’t like to acknowledge their faults or their weaknesses. This is a trap we can fall into with people characters as well. There are some who think that John didn’t actually have any doubts about Jesus. Instead, it was the disciples who passed the stories of Jesus along to John who were having doubts and that John sent them to ask in order to confirm their faith instead of his.
The problem is that this is nowhere in the text. When we prop people up, and ignore the fact that they are not perfect, when we put people up on a pedestal, especially Bible people, then we have to read into the text what isn’t there in order to justify our beliefs.
John was having doubts, he was confused and wondering. And he sends this question to Jesus. Jesus, when he receives this question, we see how he responds. He responds first with signs and wonders. He heals disease. He restores sight. He casts out demons and unclean spirits.
Jesus tells Johns to Disciples, “Go tell that to John.” Then he quotes scripture to them, Old Testament prophets who describe the ministry of the long-awaited Christ. Isaiah specifically, as Jesus quotes Isaiah 35:5 & 6, and Isaiah 61:1, which he also read during his first sermon in Nazareth, opening his public ministry. I think it’s important to notice how Jesus responds to John, he does so with dignity and patience. And he sends the disciples of John back to John with this affirmation of who He is, encouraging John in his faith, encouraging him through his doubts.
Notice what and when Jesus does next. It would be easy to dump on John for doubting. TO get frustrated at him for not understanding and for questioning. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead, he praises John.
John rejected luxury and riches. He didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear. He was indeed a genuine prophet. In fact, he was more than a prophet, he was also prophesied about. Verse 28, Jesus famously says that, “Among those born of a woman, none is greater than John.”
Luke writes parenthetically that God saves sinners, no matter who they are. No matter the outer appearance, those who trust in God, have faith in His son, will be justified. Those who, no matter what their appearance is, no matter who moral they act, no matter how conservatively they vote, if you reject God and his purposes, then you will be rejected as well.
Jesus then speaks to this generation. Its important to note that generation is not a limited generation. Often in the Bible, and the New Testament especially, generation is often used for the time between Jesus 1st coming and his upcoming 2nd coming. This is absolutely important when it comes to accurately understanding the context of the words of Jesus.
So, he is talking to those around him then and he is talking to us now, all a part of the same generation. And he says that this generation is like petty children. Each one trying to come up with a game for them to play, but nobody agreeing on anything. RC Sprouls describes it as children playing and some rejecting every suggestion or every game that another one suggests. It’s a no-win situation in which some are never satisfied, no matter what.
Jesus points out to the religious leaders, John came, didn’t drink, didn’t eat, and they rejected him and criticized him for it. And then Jesus comes along, eating and drinking, and they criticize him, saying, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!
The religious leaders were not willing to hear anyone that God actually sent to speak to them. Because even if Jesus and John had different styles and focuses, they were both speaking the Words of God, and that challenged people. It challenged their view of self. It challenged their view that they were good enough, that they earned their good standing with God. Sure, they were looking forward to the promised Messiah, but they didn’t really feel like they needed him. We see this often today. A lot of people are looking forward to Jesus coming back, but they don’t really believe, live or act like it matters.
IF we don’t feel a need for Jesus and his saving grace, his saving work on the cross, then we won’t listen to anything that God has to say. We won’t feel the need to read his Word and to obey his commands. We won’t feel the need to confess our sins and to repent. We won’t realize that the right way is to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. And we wont trust in Christ alone for our salvation, thinking consciously or not that we can earn good and right standing before God.
But, as we know, Jonathon Edwards said, you don’t contribute anything to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul’s writes, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” If we reject that mediator, we reject God.
John the Baptist was the greatest born of women, but as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3, that’s not enough. We need to be born of the Spirit. John obviously was this as well. It is simply through the grace of God alone that allows us to be born of the spirit. Ephesians 2 tells us that our faith is a gift from God, that’s through his grace. That faith, is the vehicle through which he pours out his salvation and through which the Holy Spirit changes our hearts from a dead heart of stone to a heart of flesh, born in the spirit. By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And that faith that he gives, we see this morning, through this example of John, this faith is big enough for the occasional doubts. Mark 9 tells the story of a man whose son is having trouble with an unclean spirit. He asks Jesus to heal the boy, Jesus responds that, “All things are possible to one who believes.” The father blurts out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”
I think if we are all honest, we all have those times in our walk. John knew, probably stronger and more true than any of us could know, that Jesus was the one. That he was the Christ, the Messiah. I don’t know if anyone could have been as sure as John was. Leaping in the womb, seeing him as the Lamb of God, seeing the trinity after the Baptism. And then, through the circumstances of life in this fallen, broken world, he questioned, he doubted, he wondered. Then he knew again, Jesus walked through that time with him.
Our walk, our growth, our sanctification is not linear. Its is not a straight line up. IT is much more of a jumbled mess. Ups downs, lefts, rights, all over the place. The bigger the picture, the more we will see our walk improve, but if we narrow it in too much, we will see moments in our life that show up as dips or doubts or struggles.
Jesus ends this section saying that 5 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children. Essentially this is another way of saying that we will know a tree by its fruit. Words mean nothing if not accompanied by actions. IF you have wisdom, that wisdom will bear many children. The effects of that wisdom will show up in a number of different ways. The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
If you are going through one of these times. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself. Jesus is still right there walking with you, bringing you through this season. HE uses his works his grace poured out on this world, and he uses his Word to testify to who he is. I don’t have all the answers, but I can point you to them. God is clear that the answers are contained in him and his Word.
Jesus is the Word incarnate. When you feel furthest from him, when you are having questions or doubts, that is the time to cling to Jesus the tightest. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Cling to him, to that old Rugged Cross and he will bring you through the other side.