Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
September 14, 2008
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
1901 ASV Translation:
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.
26 But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there is none greater than John: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
29 And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
- I. The Two Issues: What Jesus Said and Why Luke Recorded It.
- A. In the immediate context, there are six "stories".
- 1. The centurion's "unique" sought-by-Jesus "faith". [Note: the centurion's "faith" was not that Jesus would heal his servant (that he had no idea if Jesus would do that is evidenced by his request of the Jews that they represent his request to Jesus); his "faith" was that Jesus is the One with authority (of this he, apparently, had no "doubt").]
- 2. The restoration from the dead of the widow of Nain's son. [Note: there is no focus upon "faith" by anyone in this record; rather, the record summons the issue of "faith" to the very fore.]
- 3. The questioning of John from prison. [Note: John's question provides Luke with the foil he wanted in order to focus the "faith" issue -- Are you 'the Coming One' (which is to say, "Are You the Mighty One" of the Luke 3:16 declaration)?]
- 4. Jesus' identification of John.
- 5. Jesus' excoriation of the Pharisees and lawyers.
- 6. The hypocrisy of Simon in contrast to the sinful woman in light of Jesus' "love" thesis.
- B. The "stories" begin with a sought-after "faith" and end with a great "love", and the parting "shot" is the Luke 5:24 thesis: He forgives sins.
- 1. In the "identification of John" record, the comment is made that the "people...and the publicans" had been "baptized of John" and in the excoriation of the Pharisees and lawyers, the comment is made that they had not been "baptized of him".
- 2. The baptism of John was made notable in Luke 3:3 as being a "baptism of 'repentance for the remission of sins'". This means that John's message was that if a person repented, his sins would be remitted and 'baptism' was simply the token of personal acceptance of that message. The rejecting leaders of Israel did not believe that forgiveness was extended upon repentance. Thus, they, having refused the message, also refused the token of identification with that message.
- C. This means this: the immediate context is significantly about the question of both the "how" aspect of "forgiveness" and the "why" aspect of it. "Faith" is the "how" and "Love" is the "why".
- 1. The bottom line of all theology is this issue: What drives everything that is driven?
- 2. The answer to that "what?" is Love.
- 3. Therefore, the next most basic issue is the question: How do you get "persons" who are totally self-absorbed to "love"? (How do you transform sinners into saints so that there can be a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?)
- 4. Jesus' answer is: Give them the opportunity to repent and forgive them if they take it.
- D. The next issue builds from this progression: if forgiveness is the driver to Love, and Faith is the mechanism of that forgiveness, then a most crucial issue is the development of Faith.
- 1. In this most crucial issue, there is the question of "foundations": what is required for "Faith" to be conceived and flourish?
- 2. At this point, Jesus introduced the question of John's real identity. The apostle John, author of the Gospel with his name attached, said of John the Baptizer, "The same came for a witness to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe." (John 1:7). If John the Baptizer stood in this crucial position as the intermediary of "faith" for "all", clearly the issue of his identity stands out as of paramount importance.
- E. It appears, then, that we have the answer to the issues of what Jesus said and why Luke included it in his record.
- 1. Jesus "said" that John was "much more than a prophet".
- 2. Luke recorded it because it is seminal to his doctrine of "faith unto love".
- 3. We can say it this way: No one gets to Jesus, but by John, and no one gets to the Father but by Jesus. [It's probably no accident that in the jokes about getting into heaven, the gatekeeper is "Peter" instead of "John" ... the subtilties of twisting Truth even make their ways into what we think is funny.]
- II. Jesus' Use of the Occasion of John's Disciples' Appearance With John's Question.
- A. The text says, "Now the messengers of John having departed, He began to say to the crowds...".
- B. There are two issues involved.
- 1. The question that the disciples came to ask as surrogates for John is a huge issue in light of the theological realities developed above: Are You the One?.
- 2. The identity of the questioner is no less crucial: What did you go out to see?
- C. Thus, the two meld into one: Identity.
- 1. Who is Jesus?
- 2. What was John?
- D. And the followup question addresses the reality of John's questioning.
- 1. Was John a "shaken reed"? Is this what his current question means?
- 2. Is there a place in the plan of God for fallen men to be His critical instruments?
- 3. Does a trauma-induced fogginess of faith nullify God's use of a person?