Saturday, December 31, 2022

Disappointed with Jesus - Luke 7:18-23 - January 1, 2022

 Luke 7:18-23 Disappointed with Jesus

Good morning and happy New Year!

New Years is a funny time, a time to reset, a time to start some things over. New diets, gym memberships, Bible reading plans, kicking bad habits, starting new good habits, these ideas are all very popular this time of year. I once preached a sermon entitled, “Pay for your gym membership by the year,” it’ll hurt more when you quit. I have no idea what that sermon was about…

Well, we aren’t starting anything new here this morning, we are going to continue to do what we’ve been doing and that is examining Scripture book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse.

If you are determined to change anything about yourself or your life in the New Year I would challenge you to consider aligning your expectations to what the Bible actually says. That is the topic of our text for this morning in Luke chapter seven, verses eighteen through twenty-three, and that’s on page 864 in the pew Bibles.

Let’s look at it together.

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Let’s pray.

So this is among the most perplexing accounts in the New Testament in my view. In our walk through the Gospel of Luke we have examined the life and ministry of John the Baptist. In Luke one, we read about his special birth, born to a barren couple who was, to put it politely, “advanced in years.” 

The angel Gabriel appeared to John’s father Zechariah while he was serving as a priest at the temple in Jerusalem and told him to name his son John. 

When Zechariah doubted the word of the angel he was made mute until the child was born when he wrote out on a tablet that the baby’s name was John as the angel had directed him. 

John was also Jesus’ cousin through their mothers, and he was about six months older that Jesus. After Mary had conceived she went to visit Elizabeth, John’s mother, and when Mary arrived the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leapt for joy.

Luke 1:80 says, “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”

Fast forward to Luke chapter three when John did finally appear publically where Luke record the words of Isaiah the prophet concerning John the Baptist in verses 2-6:

…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

And here is what John said about himself there in chapter three and verses 15-17.

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

And then there’s this passage in the Gospel of John (a different John) in chapter one:

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Now, having heard all this, are you with me in thinking that our text from Luke 7 is perplexing?

John the Baptist, who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the coming of Mary to visit, who was prophesied about in Isaiah as the new type of Elijah preparing the way of the Lord, who testified himself that Jesus was in fact the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, now, just a year or two later seems to doubt whether or not Jesus really was the Messiah. Why?

The scholars are divided on this like they are about everything. Some claim that John did not in fact doubt Jesus, that this was an attempt to get his disciples to follow Jesus rather than him, some hold John to be completely blameless here and it appears that they hold him up as being almost guiltless of any sin at all. 

And though Jesus Himself says that there is no one born of women greater than John, John was not without sin, not without guilt, and not without his own set of expectations of Jesus.

Why didn’t John himself go to see Jesus, why did he send two of his disciples? Because he was in prison.

And why did he send them to ask if Jesus really was Messiah or should they look for somebody else?

The answer, I think, is simple and disappointing, and all too familiar. John was disappointed by Jesus, not by anything that Jesus had done but what He hadn’t done.

John was a fiery preacher and he was expecting a fiery Messiah. Where was the winnowing fork, where was the separation of the wheat from the chaff, where was the unquenchable fire of judgment, where was the axe already laid at the root of the tree?

John didn’t ask if Jesus was the Messiah because of unbelief but because of impatience. Jesus brought blessings and benefits not punishment. John was sent to prepare the Way of the Lord but it turned out to be a Way that not even he expected.

But why is that? Was it just because of his personality? Did he expect the Messiah to look and act like him with his camel hair robe, leather belt and diet of locusts and wild honey?

Jesus’ response to the inquiry gives us the clue of exactly why John was disappointed, and in His response He also shines light on why we too are often disappointed with Jesus.

 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Why was John disappointed? Because his expectations of Jesus didn’t line up with what the Bible actually says about Jesus.

Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah chapter 61:1-2 when He was in Nazareth from Luke 4,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And here in His response to John’s disciples Jesus quotes:

Isaiah 29:18-19, In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. 19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 35:5-6, Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

This isn’t magic, I’m just reading the cross references you have right there in your own Bibles.

John’s understanding of Messiah wasn’t completely wrong, it was just incomplete. His expectations were that Jesus would do all of those things, all the judgment and fire as well as the healing and liberty immediately and all at once.

I don’t say all this to chastise John the Baptist or to put him in a bad light. I only say all this because I think that John and us have this in common: that sometimes we wish that things were different than they are, and sometimes we have unmet expectations of Jesus because we don’t really know what the Bible actually says about Him and what He is doing and is going to do.

But as great a man as John the Baptist was we have some tremendous advantages over him as we will see later in this chapter, we have the Bible in its entirety, we have two thousand years of scholarly work and study of it, and most importantly, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

So in the words of Saint Augustine of Hippo, “Take up and read!”

Read your Bible, ask questions, think about what you have read, meditate on it, chew on it, get to know what the actual Words of God say about the real Jesus Christ, the humble, healing Messiah, who preached good news to the poor, who died on the cross in our place, who rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and is coming back again with the unquenchable fire of judgment and a warm welcome into His eternal kingdom for all who believe in Him.