Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that his ways are not our ways, and that his timing is perfect. Praise God that there is a time for everything and every matter under heaven. Praise God that he has plans for us, plans which are marked by hope and an eternal future. Isaiah 55:8-9, Jeremiah 29:11.
Acknowledge and confess the sin of planning, but not owning that God establishes our steps. Confess the sin of being angry with God and others if it is not allowing matters in our lives to develop within our timescale. Ask for God's help to be patient and to wait quietly on him. Proverbs 16:9, Lamentations 3:25-26.
Let's read Luke 7:18-23. Sometimes, it is not clear because we are expecting something else.
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
V18. John is perplexed.
It's not clear when the events recorded in this passage take place, but they do revolve around John the Baptist. While nothing has been heard of him, because he has been in prison, he had been receiving regular updates about what Jesus was doing. Those updates, though, had caused him some concern. Why? Several reasons have been given. Why do you think John acts in the way he does? I think he was simply confused, maybe puzzled is a better word, at the fact that Jesus had not begun to take on the powers in the land and begin to establish his kingdom.
What does John do? What are the two questions he asks Jesus through his two disciples? The first question, "are you the one who is to come?" has its roots in the Old Testament – Psalms 70:7 and 118:27. It was a term John had used in his 'preparing the way' ministry. Luke 3:16. It is a phrase that would be used when Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time, along streets lined with people shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Matthew 21:9. So, this idea of the 'coming' Messiah was an ever-present theme in the Jewish mind, and John is now using it to ask Jesus if he is, in fact, the Messiah. The second question follows through and implies that if you are not the Messiah, then let us know so that we can start looking for the person who is.
What lay behind John's double-barrelled question? It was his perception of Jesus' failure to execute judgement. John was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah; God had pointed that out to him. John 1:33,34. He had believed that because he willingly preached it, “Behold the Lamb of God”. John 1:36. But what perplexed John was the news back that Jesus was only preaching grace and healing people. Of course, he knew that was necessary, but there was no swinging of the axe, and no use of the winnowing fork to clear the threshing floor and gather in the wheat. There was no cutting down and throwing into the fire of those trees which were not bearing good fruit. Matthew 3:10-12. John had preached that the one coming after him would bring judgement. Hence, the command 'repent and believe for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. The absence of judgement in Jesus' ministry is now leaving him baffled.
It is a concern that speaks to the prevailing issue in all prophesy – the issue of ‘time’. The Old Testament prophets, John himself, and the prophesies of Jesus and the New Testament, while they are all clear about what will happen, they are singularly silent on the timing. Grace and judgement are stated, but the matter of their respective timing is solely in the hands of God and he has chosen, in his infinite wisdom, not to reveal it. As Jesus told the apostles, immediately before his ascension, when they asked him if he was going to restore the kingdom 'now' – "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." Acts 1:7. We all want to know when things are going to take place. The child travelling in the car on a long journey asks, 'Are we there yet? Is it time?’ This is where faith comes into its own. 'Sight' wants to know the time, so that it can make decisions on how and when to prepare. Live for a while like this, but when it comes time to get serious about God and his ways, then I can shift gear. 'Faith' requires us to strive to live in a constant state of increasing preparedness. It is the absence of knowing the ‘when’ that keeps us looking to Christ. Because we do not know what a day may bring forth, we have to engage with God and run the race daily with perseverance. The gift of not knowing ‘when’ is the best gift we could have. For it means that we, as believers in Christ, have to be continuously living by faith, and are therefore located in that place of reliance upon God where blessing will flow. Constantly wanting to know when God is going to sort the problem in your life, address that besting issue, is not good. Don't yearn for it to be different; God knows exactly what is going on in your life and what is best for you. If you did know, you would act to sort the problem yourself; and then that would be to your detriment. Trust him.
Note the seriousness of this matter. It’s seen in the fact that Luke records the coming of the two disciples and then the presenting of John's questions to Jesus, word for word. This is not a side issue, a trivial matter to John, nor for ourselves.
V21. Jesus is clear.
What is happening when John's disciples reach Jesus? It is as though the very basis for John's concern is being dramatically enacted as they arrive. Grace and healing, not judgement. But it is also providing the answer to John's questions. For it's giving Jesus the context to direct John back into the Old Testament, to a reference adapted from Isaiah 35:5,6, which speaks of the work of the Messiah in showing mercy, and to Isaiah 61:1 where the Messiah is presented as preaching the good news to the poor. Jesus is saying to John, through these two men, ‘look at what I am doing. See, in my preaching and healing, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies about me.’ The omission of judgement is not a statement of its rejection; the judgement will come, but in God's time.
Note the gentle warning at the end of Jesus' words to John. It is a beatitude, a blessing, but, unlike those in Matthew 5:2-12, this has a negative explanation. “Blessed is the one who is not offended” or literally 'trapped against me'. The one who gets caught in rejecting me because they will not accept who I am. In other words, 'John, look and see, and then take care to trust in what is happening rather than question it because of what is not happening.'
Sometimes in the church when good things are happening, people want to make a case for what is not happening. Now, of course, we need to be vigilant for what is publicly wrong in our midst, but the one who has an eye only for what is missing, and constantly seems oblivious to the grace and healing work of Christ in his Bride, needs to take care. The fact that such questioning may present itself as pious and only wanting the best for the church, should not cloud the fact that it shows an attitude of heart that is discontent with God's work and his ways. Such people need to be warned that they are in danger of being trapped in rejecting Christ.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 84B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
What a privilege it is to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 47 - What is forbidden in the first commandment?
Answer - The first commandment forbids the denial of, or failure to worship and glorify, the true God as God and our God; and it forbids giving that worship and glory to any other which is due to God alone.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you find proof texts.
Thank God that his Word is clear about who he is, who man is, and the way of salvation and sanctification, even if we cannot see it at times. Pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in illuminating God's Word. He really can, and does, help us to understand it.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley