Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
Thesis: Jesus asked the crowds to identify John so that they would have an opportunity to enter into His life.
Introduction: We are beginning the study of a new paragraph this morning. A cursory reading of it will easily reveal this fact: Jesus asked the crowds three times, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see?". Jesus obviously wanted the crowds to give some serious thought to the answer to the question.
That Luke recorded this material, and that he recorded it in this place, is indicative of the fact that he understood both what and why Jesus was focusing the attention of the people upon John. To give our study a bit of a boost in value, I would like to point out something that the apostle John wrote in his record in John 1:7: "He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through him." For our "boost" purpose, the key word is the "all". Whatever else John may have meant by his words, it seems pretty much indisputable that he made John the Baptizer the key player in respect to the issue of faith in Jesus as the Light.
Now, if John's perception of the Baptizer is correct -- and who can dispute that? -- what we have in Luke's record is a deliberate turn by Jesus from the events surrounding the coming of the disciples of John to the crowd to minimize the "damage" of the "questioning" and to maximize the cruciality of what John's identity does for "all" men.
With this in mind, let us begin to consider what Luke tells us in this paragraph.
September 14, 2008
- I. Luke's First "Point".
- A. The arrival of the disciples of John with their question created a major "focus" event that had enormous potential for damage.
- 1. That Luke ties what Jesus had to say to "the departure of the messengers" means that He is telling us that Jesus wanted to capitalize on what had happened.
- 2. Those messengers had accomplished two things.
- a. They had raised the central issue regarding Jesus.
- 1) In respect to Luke's chapter-seven-thesis, it is crucial that we understand what "faith" is all about.
- 2) In none of the parts of the record does "faith" mean "expecting God/Jesus to give me what I 'ask in faith'".
- a) The centurion's phenomenal, and unique, "faith" was not about any "belief" he had that Jesus would heal his servant; it was about Who Jesus was in terms of What He possessed.
- b) The widow of Nain did not get her son back from the dead because she, or anyone else anywhere around Nain, "believed God for a miracle"; rather, Jesus took it upon Himself to act unilaterally and enormously -- in a way that absolutely transcended any of the expectations of any of the witnesses.
- c) Jesus' response to John's question was an "overkill" of powerful works that no one asked for, or expected: He did them to answer the question, not to give someone what they "believed God for".
- 3) The central issue regarding Jesus is absolutely not "what He will do in response to faith" but, rather, "Who is He?"
- a) If we answer the "Who is He?" question incorrectly, none of His Life flows our way.
- b) If we answer the "Who is He?" question correctly, His life will flow our way, but not in the form of the expectations of the modern "faith" movements.
- i. If Jesus is "the Mighty One", obviously He "can" do.
- ii. That Jesus "can" do does not mean that He "will" do.
- iii. Both John and his disciples questioned Jesus' "identity" because He did not do what He could do in respect to John's desire to be "out of prison": this represented a perversion of "faith" by turning it into a manipulative tool to get God to use His power to do "my" bidding.
- b. They had created a potential for a "culture of unbelief" in the crowds.
- 1) Not only did their question raise the specter of people using their example as the example of "faith" to follow: question Jesus' identity as "The Mighty One" because He does not do what we "expect".
- 2) Their example also raised the specter of people pointing to John's flagging of faith as an excuse to refuse "faith in Jesus" (If he does not believe his own message, why should I?).
- B. The arrival of the disciples of John with their question created an opportunity for Jesus to compel the crowds to deal with the real issue.
- 1. The real issue begins with Jesus' thrice repeated question.
- a. The first time He asks it, He uses a verb that Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says means to look at with care ("attentiveness").
- b. The last two times He asks it, He uses a verb that Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says means to get to know.
- c. The three-fold repetition means that Jesus fully intends that the people deal with John's place in their thinking about Him.
- 2. The real issue develops with Jesus' "possible answers".
- a. The possibilities are: 1) an unstable 'reed'; 2) a representative of an earthly king; or 3) a prophet.
- b. Each of the "possibilities" has its own "foundations" in the setting.
- 1) The shaking reed refers to John's vacillation regarding Jesus.
- 2) The representative of an earthly king refers to Herod and John's imprisonment.
- 3) The "prophet" most clearly approximates what the people actually "went out to see".
- c. None of the "possibilities" has a sufficient basis in fact.
- 3. The real issue is the issue that John raised: does Jesus' indentity actually hinge upon whether you can get Him to do what you want Him to?
- a. If "yes", then Jesus is not really the "Mighty One", He is simply your "magic genie" and you are the real power behind the power.
- b. If "no", then Jesus really is the Mighty One and His offer to you of His Life is real and you can enter in if you are willing to put yourself under Him.