Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Pharisees
Luke 7:18-35 – October 17, 2021
Luke 7:18-23. John’s Question and Jesus’ Answer
John’s question in verse 19 is significant because it signals that even Jesus’ forerunner is struggling to understand the nature of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is not the type of savior John was expecting, so he sends 2 of his followers to Jesus just to make sure. Jesus’ reassurance of John makes the latter a figure like Theophilus (1:4).
The question John asks may surprise you as it seems John doubts Jesus. But his question is specific. He does not wonder whether Jesus has been sent from God. However, he truly desires confirmation that Jesus’ ministry is the promised ministry of deliverance. The reference to “the one who was to come” recalls John’s own words in 3:16, But one who is more powerful than I will come. John is asking if Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
Luke 7:24-30. Jesus’ Appraisal of John
Jesus first notes people did not travel to see reeds in the desert or fine clothes when they went to see John. The reference to reeds is either an allusion to the scenery at the location of John’s ministry or a figurative reference to what John was not – easily shaken like a reed. I have heard it taught both ways. However, since the second part of the question is about fine clothes, it should be taken literally, thus the reference to reeds is also very likely literal. People did not go to see John because of the beautiful scenery at the Jordan River or for a fashion statement! They came for another reason: to see a prophet, a very special prophet.
John represented the end of an era – 400 years without a prophet and then there was John. And he pointed to the dawn of a new era in God’s plan. The words of Scripture in verse 27, I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you are from Malachi 3:1 and point to his role. As Elijah boldly preached to the nation, now John declared God’s will to the people and helped prepare them for that new era. In fact, John’s role of going before the people also recalls Exodus 23:20, where God directed the people in the desert by saying, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.
Then Jesus lets us know John’s greatness is nothing compared to those who participate in the new era’s blessings and benefits. What a surprising remark! Jesus states in verse 28, I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. This is nothing short of astounding and standing alone a great affirmation of the believer’s status – our status – in Scripture.
Luke 7:31-35. Jesus’ Rebuke of the Pharisees
Jesus warns the current generation of religious leaders about their response to John. He does so through a parable, as he often does when discussing the kingdom. He calls them the people of this generation and compares them to an ancient game of children at play. The parable is told from their perspective (We).
Those who respond, wisdom’s children, are contrasted with those who do not, like the comparison in verses 29-30. Jesus’ associations and John’s call have registered with some, but not with them. The rebuke through the parable is another way to reveal the leadership is hardhearted in its rejection of God’s way.
Major features of these verses are information it provides on both Jesus’ and John’s ministries. The nature of John’s reaction to Jesus, and the importance of the new era.
A fascinating aspect of this passage is the different styles used to accomplish the same goal: bringing sinners to God. The fundamental issue in evangelism is not in the style or form of evangelism, but in the commitment to lead people to God. John, the ascetic withdrawn in the desert, and Jesus, the “gluttonous” friend of tax collectors and sinners, are both accomplishing God’s will. We should major not on style, but on having substance in our ministries.
Style does not matter …. Flash is not necessary.
Doing is what is important.