Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that he has revealed himself in his Word. Praise God that we can know the truth about life, salvation, and eternity. Praise God that he has appointed ‘gifts’ to the church for the preaching and teaching of his Word, and for the work of God the Holy Spirit in applying that Word to our lives. Ephesians 4:11-16.
Confess the sin of not laying hold of the truth of God’s Word as you may have in your inner life. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to do so.
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.
Let's read Luke 7:24-30. Sometimes, it not clear because we are expecting something else.
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
V24. John's disciples leave, and Jesus speaks.
When the two disciples of John leave, what happens? Why does Jesus speak to the crowd about John? It's a case, isn't it, of making sure that no one has misunderstood what they have just heard. Note that Jesus waits until John's disciples have left to avoid confusing them. They have a message to take back to John. It is an important message, as we saw yesterday, given both John's desire to know whether Jesus is the Messiah or not, and Jesus' interest in clarifying the situation for him. In responding to John, Jesus doesn't want the two messengers dwelling on, or being sidetracked by, anything else, so he keeps it simple. They have what they need to know, so, as soon as they have gone, Jesus turns to inform the crowd of what they need to know; it too will be simple.
There are several lessons to be drawn from this. First, the best messages in life are often the simplest ones. Life is a relatively straightforward process; sin makes it confusing and chaotic. Christ gives us all that we need; the problems begin when we start allowing the idols of our hearts to tell us that it's not enough; we need more. It is in the pursuit of the unnecessary 'more' that the trouble arises. Paul's experience of learning to be content in whatever situation he found himself in, is a blessing. Philippians 4:11,12. Second, Jesus' approach shows the importance of clarifying why we have said what we have. Sometimes we just want to cut to the chase and get on with it. I have been guilty of that. But I have learnt through the experience of mistakes made that while people may nod, 'yes, let's get on with it', when it doesn't turn out as they expect, there is the propensity to come back and ask 'why did you do that', and with a tone of aggression. Taking the time to explain our motives and perspective when conveying a decision is often the best course, even if it may come across as 'labouring the point'. Of course, we need to be receptive when others want to explain their thinking to us. A lot of hurt could be prevented in relationships if this approach were to be implemented more frequently.
V24. Jesus asks three questions.
Jesus addresses any potential misunderstanding that may have arisen by asking the crowd a question. In fact, he is going to ask them the same question three times. The threefold repetition of something in God's Word underscores the significance of what is being stated or asked. Within such a series of questions, there is often an escalation in the purpose or directness. Obviously, with the intent of constraining those listening to engage, to process, to respond. This is not a 'take it or leave it' scenario. This is a ‘deal with this' situation. Jesus wants those listening to both face and address this. When you come across such a formation of questions, it is a good idea to stop and ask, ‘What is it that God wants?'
Crowds had flocked to hear John's preaching in the wilderness. Jesus asks, 'Why?' and he doesn't leave the answer hanging too long. What does he mean by, "A reed shaken by the wind?” Essentially, he is saying, 'Did you go out to see and hear someone who was unclear in their thinking and speaking? An ambiguous, changeable type? A man who left you wondering what he was really saying? Someone you knew could be easily swayed by the crowd?’ Far from it. Those who had heard John knew exactly what he had to say. They were left in no doubt about his message. And they knew with certainty that he was never going to be won over by the majority, even if he was in a minority of one. So, the issue for them, those of them who had heard John, was this – had they taken hold of what John had to say, or had they just gone to hear him for the experience, 'I went and saw John the Baptist today.' Was that all it had amounted to? Jesus is testing their desire, not only to hear the truth, but to own it in their lives.
Jesus' second question continues in the same vein. What does he ask them this time? What do John's clothes have to do with his teaching? Everything! He speaks about John's refusal to play to the gallery, no matter how prestigious. He may be within the royal palace of King Herod, the fortress of Machaerus facing the Dead sea, but not as a finely dressed courtier who has pleased the King by his words. John was languishing in his camel's hair covering, as a destitute prisoner in the fortress jail. His crime, known to all – daring to challenge the King about an inappropriate relationship. What type of man had they gone out to see? A soft, effeminate performer or a rugged serious declarer of truth? Being entertained by the former may be considered okay by some, but it is not worthy of the latter. A performer, John is not. His words are not only to be heard; they are to be considered, weighed up and acted upon.
The third question Jesus addresses to the crowd relates to John's calling, his role, his task. John is a prophet. One whose task it was to declare the Word of God; call his hearers to face the reality of their plight and flee to God for repentance. Knowing this, is that not the reason why they had gone out to hear John? Did they not have a hunger in their souls to be made right with God? Or had they been merely interested voyeurs, celebrity seekers? Again, Jesus answers the question so that there can be no opportunity for misunderstanding. Quoting from Malachi 3:1, he reminds them of who John is, and does so with a measure of force – "I tell you..." John, in the eyes of Jesus, is given the highest place possible, in terms of his life and work. Simply put – there is no one greater. What an accolade! Had these people any idea of just how privileged they had been, to hear God's message from the lips of this man John? This uncompromising, honest, godly, fearless man. But then Jesus says something remarkable. He compares John to the least in the Kingdom of heaven and concludes that such a person is greater than the great John. What does Jesus mean? Well, he is not denigrating John's character, nor the work that he has done. That work needed to be responded to. I am going to take up how it was responded to and come back to this point of 'least' and 'greatest' tomorrow.
V29. The difference between those who hear and do, and those who hear and….
Jesus speaks of the responses to John's preaching and teaching. His call to repent and be baptized. As with all preaching of God's Word, there were two responses. There were those who, by faith, declared God to be just, and were baptized, and there were those who rejected God's Word and were not baptized. Included in the former were the despised tax collectors. The key players in the latter were the Pharisees. (To find out more about who the tax collectors were, please see the ‘Daily Encouragement’ of 8th May 2020, and for the Pharisees see the 7th May 2020. Those DE's are on the church website, https://rpcottawa.org/blog/category/daily-encouragement/). Those who saw themselves as being nothing before God responded to God's call to repent and believe. Those who felt that they were right with God, based on their religious compliance, rejected John's message and would ultimately suffer through eternal separation and punishment by God.
'What did you go out to see? A man who was not worth listening to or a prophet of God? Was it merely entertainment, or have you invested in your mind and heart the truth you heard? Do you think about it? In what way is it challenging you? Is your reflection upon it resulting in a change in your life, or are you satisfied with some form of routine religion?’ The questions to you and me are the same. When confronted with God's Word, whether by way of reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that we may be equipped for every good work, how are you responding?
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 48 - What do the words "before me" in the first commandment teach us?
Answer - These words "before me" in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of and is much displeased with the sin of having any other God.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you find proof texts.
Thank God for the privilege of hearing his Word preached, expounded, explained. Pray that you would be thoughtful in your hearing of it and subsequent response to it. Pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in this.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley