Sending Messengers – Luke 7

Elijah and Elisha were two of the great prophets of the Old Testament.  Like Moses before them, they performed amazing miracles in the power of God.  Later prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, while experiencing some miraculous acts, were more focused on presenting a prophetic message about the coming kingdom of God.  They also presented the signs to watch for to identify the Coming One – the Messiah, or Christ, who will lead this new kingdom.

Centuries later, John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah to herald the arrival of the Christ.  His Holy Spirit-fueled charisma drew large crowds and helped to open their eyes and hearts to recognize the coming arrival of their heavenly King, fully human yet fully God.  John baptized the people in the Jordan River as a sign of their repentance, a turning back to the ways of God.  

Moses, Elijah, and Elisha were not shy about confronting Pharaohs and kings about their sinful choices.  John did the same, confronting King Herod about marrying his brother’s wife.  While the earlier prophets managed to avoid vengeful punishment, Herod threw John in prison.  Though John was a tough fellow, having lived his life in the wilderness surviving on locusts and wild honey, Herod’s dungeon got to him.  He began to have doubts whether Jesus truly was the Christ, and sent messengers to Jesus to ask Him this question:

19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

It is ironic that John sent messengers to ask this of Jesus.  John had been spoken of centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah as God’s special messenger sent to prepare Israel for Jesus’ coming.

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  Luke 7:22-23 NKJV

Jesus quoted to John Isaiah’s qualifications for the Messiah, then told his disciples that John was also a fulfillment of one of Isaiah’s prophecies:

27 This is he of whom it is written:

‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’  Luke 7:27 NKJV

Then Jesus made a challenging statement:

28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  Luke 7:28 NKJV

What could Jesus mean by this statement?  My interpretation is that He was referring to the importance of keeping faith in Him.  Though John had already testified to the crowds that Jesus was the Christ, his personal troubles had led him to the point of doubting.  God always emphasizes the importance of maintaining faith in our lives.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

It is likely that this was just a momentary lapse of John’s faith, and that Jesus was simply nudging him back to where he belonged.  Even the greatest of prophets are only people, and we all have our moments of weakness and discouragement.

But what of those who are “greater than John”? We get to enter the kingdom of God when we respond positively in faith to Jesus Christ and invite Him into our hearts and lives.  He is our only salvation, and by His grace we are saved.  When we receive Christ in our heart, the Holy Spirit enters in, and we receive a new, ever-living spirit and a citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.  We are born again, from above.

In John 3, Jesus was visited at night by one of the religious rulers, Nicodemus.  This man believed in God and in the coming Messiah but did not have a personal faith that Jesus was the One.  To Nicodemus’ credit, he was open enough to the concept to come and investigate for himself under the cover of darkness.  The other rulers had already written Jesus off and were looking for ways to kill Him.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus’ faith and told him that he must be born again.  Nicodemus shows up other times later in the book of John, and the implication is that he did develop a faith in Jesus and receive Him as the Messiah and King.

Reflection

Like John the Baptist, the great Messenger of God, most of us have moments of doubt in our lives.  If so on your journey, what happened to cause it, and how did God strengthen your faith once again?

Who is Jesus to you?  Do you know Him as the Lord of your life?  Today is a great day to take that step of faith in Him, and to invite Him into your heart.

Lord, we all experience trials or hardships that put our faith to the test.  Help us to stay strong in our devotion and love for You.  Restore to us the joy of Your salvation. Help us to live a life that is pleasing to You and useful for Your kingdom.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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