John’s disciples told him about all these things. So John called two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the Coming One, or should we wait for someone else?”
When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the Coming One, or should we wait for someone else?'” At that time Jesus had healed many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind. So he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have observed and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear again, the dead are raised, and the destitute hear the good news. How blessed is anyone who is not offended by me!”Luke 7:18-23
Notice I have turned the order of questions around from the order I had them in last Gem.
Has John lost his faith in prison or is there another explanation behind the question? There have been all sorts of fanciful approaches to John’s question over the years. Here are some of them:
- John’s question indicates that he was going through a crisis of faith in prison and doubting whether he had pointed out the wrong man as the Coming One.
- John was feigning doubt to test his disciples. That this question indicates the first time that John “gets” who Jesus was/is.
- John is disillusioned that he is still in prison and has lost his faith.
- John thinks he got it wrong and the man he pointed to was actually Elijah come back to life because of what he is doing and the links we have noted already with Elijah and Elisha.
- Jesus is not turning out to be the kind of Coming One John thought He would be.
We could debate and analyze each of these points of view and why they thought them but I will just cut to the chase. It is all to do with who they were expecting and connected to the following question.
- What does John mean by “the Coming One”?
- Or maybe more pointedly I should ask what do you think he means by “the Coming One”? It is crucial to our understanding of this interaction.
There are numbers of pictures or types used for the Coming One. He was depicted as the Prophet coming as a type of Moses. He was expected as God Himself come to shepherd His people. He was coming as the Reigning King to free Israel from the bonds of slavery and oppression to restore the kingdom of David and of God. He was coming as Messiah, the Anointed One to usher in the new age. But most Jews were expecting the Messiah the son of David, the conquering king not Messiah son of Joseph, the suffering servant. This switch confused many and it confuses us today. However this difference in biblical views of the Messiah is not at the back of John’s query given the nature of Jesus reply. Note what Luke writes first: “At that time Jesus had healed many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind.” Jesus follows it up with: “Go and tell John what you have observed and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear again, the dead are raised, and the destitute hear the good news.” These are exactly the items listed in Isaiah 35:5 / 61:1 related to God’s coming and the Coming One. But interestingly Luke doesn’t include a story of a person healed of blindness. But the point of Jesus’ answer to John is clear. You got it right. Just look at what is happening. This is all in line with what Scripture said would happen. I am indeed the One you thought I was when you pointed me out.
John was expecting Jesus to do something radical in the “now”. Not for later. And he certainly didn’t expect the suffering servant first and the reigning king later. With the kind of thing John preached to prepare the way for the Messiah later it was with the expectation of dealing with sin and bringing judgement. This was in fact the aspect of Messiah that John pointed out when he pointed to the Lamb of God the Saviour of the World. Yes that was indeed all yet to happen but the provision for dealing with sin had to be put in place first. John had not seen that element of it all at this stage. So Jesus had to reassure him that things were still on track and yes you did point to the right One. This is made even clearer by the use of the word [heteros] and not [allos]. Allos refers to one of similar likeness while heteros refers to one of another kind. So the inference here is that the expectation is one different from what John expected. John was looking for a different kind of Messiah than what was reported to him in prison.
Note how Jesus finishes this segment with the words “Blessed is anyone who is not offended by me.” Isn’t that so true? We can have our version of Jesus who at times can be nothing like the real one. For many of us our version of Him is “gentle Jesus meek and mild” yet Jesus came to set family member against family member. He came to bring division and the sword. There is a mixture in Jesus. It is the truth and grace combo we have talked about before during the Gems of John and of Romans. So often we see things as black and white and find ourselves unable to hold the contradictions close to one another. We want to separate them far from each other. But in Christ they are inseparably bound together. Our task is to introduce Jesus to people not to explain Him. Introduce them and then let the chips fall where they may. More on this in a later Gem at the right time.
- Why has Luke suddenly switched the focus on to John down south?
- Is that where he is focusing now?
- Why is John suddenly the centre of attention?
Actually John is not the centre of attention, Jesus is. The way Luke has structured this whole series of pericopes is to drive home the point of who He is. By ordering the series of stories as he has, he uses the cut down version of the close of the sermon to make the point that these people may call him Lord but their speech and their actions are not actually in sync. Next Luke stacks and orders the stories of Jesus to reinforce the point of His Lordship. He uses the story of a Roman Centurion who demonstrates the true significance of calling him Lord but accepting that this One only has to say the word and it will be done. (He is after all the living Word.) Not only does He have dominion over disease with a word but this One also has dominion over the grave by the power of His word. The authority that Jesus had came from a higher power; directly from God. The inference is, with the Lord sayings, that He is the LORD, YHWH. It is not as clear as the statements in John’s gospel, but it’s implied. Luke then follows this pericope with a carefully crafted segment linking all this to John in prison in southern Israel. John’s question becomes a focus which serves to bring together all of what has gone before to the point of culmination. It takes us back to the point of John pointing out to the people of Israel their own Messiah, the Coming Anointed One. Nothing has changed, yes indeed John you got it right when you pointed out the Lamb of God. He is all of that and more. All that Scriptures says of this One is true. Are you happy with the Messiah you have got or do you want another one?
So now what are you going to do about it? Call Him Lord and not obey what He says or bow your knee and submit like a true man of faith would do?
And what’s more, we haven’t finished yet. There’s more to come.
Only when our plans are aligned with Jesus’ are we are happy with his arrival.Anon
The question in salvation is not whether Jesus is Lord, but whether we are submissive to His lordship.John MacArthur
I think as I’ve grown older, I’m less into self-improvement + more into self-replacement. Just letting Jesus take over the entire house?Rick Godwin
If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance!Anon