Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2
September 21, 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 "Shaken Reed".
- A. This imagery is that of a man blown by the wind (shades of the imagery of James in 1:6), who is over-much affected by his circumstances as they relate to his "Theology".
- 1. The word translated "shaken" is used by Luke in 6:48 where it clearly does not mean "shaken"; rather, it means "destroy" (though the means of that destruction might be "shaking until the connections are broken apart"). He also, however, uses it also in 6:38 where one is "given unto" in a measure that is enhanced by "shaking" the product so that more of it will fit into the container. But, even here, the "point" of "shaking" is to break down the naturally occurring barriers to compaction. In the imagery of a "reed" that is "shaken" by the wind, the idea is that the reed is torn loose from its moorings so that it either lies on the ground effectively destroyed, or is blown through the air wherever the wind carries it. But, again, Luke uses the same word in Acts 4:31 to describe what happened to the "place" when the church "had prayed". Clearly, here he does not mean the house fell down. But, in the imagery that is present, it just as clearly does mean that the power of the threats (4:29) was broken/demolished. In Acts 16:26, the jail in Philippi was "shaken" by a massive earthquake so that "the doors were opened and the bands on the prisoners were loosed." Again, though the building did not fall down upon the heads of those within, the idea of "connections" being broken apart so that their purposes were completely defeated could not be more obvious.
- 2. The question is about whether John has turned out to be so much different from what they "went out to see". Clearly, no one who saw and heard him as he functioned as the prophet in the wilderness would visualize a reed destroyed by the wind; it is only as a prisoner, locked up in Herod's cell, wondering if Jesus is the "Coming One" that he looks a bit like such a reed.
- 3. Acts 2:25 (written by Luke's hand) is a quote of David in which he declares that the solution to being "unshaken" in a distinctly destructive world is to "foresee the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand."
- B. Jesus' purpose for bringing this up is two-fold.
- 1. On the one hand, He has to deal with the unhidden reality that is: some of the people witnessed John's question to Jesus. They might "be shaken" if they think that John has been.
- 2. On the other hand, He clearly wishes to make the truth about the Kingdom and its ways a bit more evident (He does not toss the content of verse 28 into the mix thoughtlessly).
- a. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:2 it is a favorite ploy of the adversary to attempt to "shake" believers from their certitude of mind and, thus, "trouble" them. His method is deceit.
- b. Jesus' words in Luke 7:28 strongly imply that this "shaking" can occur as people value the wrong things, or pursue the right things in the wrong way.
- II. The Way of God.
- A. In His preparation of John, He kept him in the "wildernesses" until "the day of his shewing unto Israel" (1:80).
- 1. This was a major, and effective, element in John's own edification.
- a. It was "major" in that John had to have the proper "attitude".
- b. It was "effective" in that John developed that "attitude" (3:17).
- 2. This was a crucial addition to the early and permanent indwelling by the Spirit.
- a. The actual ministry of the Spirit to those whom He indwells is not as "magic" as we often think it should be, nor is it as "unilaterally effective" as we often think it should be.
- b. Besides the impact of the "outer" setting in terms of "theological" understanding, there is the impact of the "outer" setting in terms of growing in our "anthropology" (ourselves under the magnifying glass).
- B. When it was time, He compelled those who were to hear and respond to John's message to go out into the wilderness to have their exposure to it (3:2).
- 1. It is an unhappy reality that "words" do not have the impact they are capable of having if the "setting" is not "right".
- a. Words spoken mildly are easily ignored.
- b. Words spoken fiercely will be ignored if there is a pattern of non-enforcement.
- c. Words about the extreme dangers of hedonism, covetousness, or status seeking, spoken in an obviously hedonistic, covetous, or glory-seeking setting will be ignored.
- 2. Even when the "outer" setting is "right", words will fall to the ground in the hearts of those who refuse the "inner" setting.
- C. When the message was given, it was given in very stark terms that "fit" the wilderness setting (3:4-8).
- D. When the message was established, He determined to enhance John's character so that he could inherit more abundantly in the Kingdom (3:18-20).
- E. During the enhancement period, He compensated for the difficulties that came along during the process (our text today).
- 1. John did this "right": he sent to Jesus in the period of his confusion.
- 2. When we do what is "right", we can expect that God will address us mercifully.
- 3. When Jesus asked if John was a "shaken reed", He was contradicting all of those who would have used his "example" as a basis for their own unbelief.