Good morning. Yesterday we began to focus on the question that John the Baptist was asking of Jesus: "Are you the one who was to come, (the messiah) or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:19) Why would John ask such a question? Didn't John know? Well, what did John know about Jesus? Well, we know that Luke tells us that John the Baptist and Jesus were related. However, when Jesus is at the river to be baptized in Luke's account John does not seem to recognize him. (At least no indication that he did) In Matthew, if you recall John fussed with Jesus because John did not think he should be baptizing Jesus. Luke simply has Jesus waiting his turn for baptism along with all the other people. So, if they were related how could John not know? Well, as I said yesterday there is a strong possibility that John spent his life in the desert. Jesus grew up in Nazareth. They did not have social media back in those days. *Funny thought! Do you know what social media was back when I was a kid? The old party line system. LOL My aunt is probably still fuming at me for ease-dropping on her and her boyfriend. Well, it is quite possible that the only time Jesus and John laid eyes on each other was when they met at the river. I have cousins that I have not seen in years. So, if one walked into my office today I most likely would not recognize him/her.
In the Gospel of John it appears that once the ministry of Jesus begins then ministry of John comes to an end. However, there is evidence found in the other gospels that indicate that John's ministry continued and that John had followers who were independent to those of Jesus. After all, John sent his followers to ask Jesus the question that we are looking at.
So, why would John ask this question? We know that even for the disciples of Jesus the frustration level was building due to the fact Jesus never really showed himself as the messiah they were expecting. Could it have been that John had the same expectations? Did John expect the messiah to come with a sword? Well, let's explore this a bit. What else do we know about John the Baptist? He had a weird diet, he looked like a wild man, he baptized and he ended up with his head on a platter. Matthew and Mark tell us about the death of John. He was killed at the order of Herod. Herod the Great was said to be suspicious of everyone. It was once said that it "was safer to be Herod's pig than Herod's son." Matthew tells us that John was arrested by Herod because of what John had saying. "John had been saying to him: 'It is not lawful for you to have her.'" (Matthew 14:4) Herod had persuaded Herod Phillip's (Herod's brother) wife Herodias to leave Phillip and marry him. Herodias was actually the daughter of Herod's half-brother, therefore making her his niece. And, she was his sister-in-law. Hmm...sounds like a good soap opera to me.
Matthew tells us that "Herod wanted to kill John." (Matthew 14:5) However, Mark tells us that Herodias was the one who wanted John dead because "she nursed a grudge against him." (Mark 6:19) Herodias was not able to kill John, therefore she had her daughter dance for Herod and his guests at a banquet. This was not any dance. No, "she pleased Herod and his dinner guests," and the King said to the girl, 'Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." (Mark 6:22) The dance was a part of the act of a professional prostitute. What was her request? The head of John the Baptist on a platter. John was clearly not afraid to speak to power. Josephus, the early Jewish historian even records events dealing with John's stand against Herod. Josephus indicates that John was more of a political prisoner than just someone who dabbled in the moral "affairs" of others. In fact, Josephus indicates that Herod was afraid of an uprising. Could it have been that John expected the messiah to arrive at any moment to help? Well, maybe...but I don't think this was all there was to it.
Now, back to where we started. John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one to come or not. They arrive and ask Jesus the question. Now, keep in mind, John is imprisoned when he sends these disciples to ask this question. So, yes, there is the likely possibility that John wants to know if Jesus is going to "hurry up and do something." But, what was Jesus' answer? "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on my account." (Luke 7:22-23) Honestly, if I'm John I don't know how I would react at hearing this. Especially if I'm hoping that Jesus is going to do something that might free me. Oh, I forgot! The reason why John asked the question to begin with was because: "John's disciples told him about all these things." (Luke 7:18) What things? Jesus was performing miracles and teaching such things as loving your enemies and not judging others. That's why John sent them to ask the question. Jesus' response to John, through his disciples was: I am the one who has come "to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed..." and I'm doing just that. Remember, Jesus read the words of the prophet in chapter four, now he is doing the work of the prophet. In other words, his answer to the question is: "Yes. I am the one." But, was his answer satisfying to John? We don't know.
Well, join me again tomorrow as we continue looking at the Gospel of Luke. I pray you have a great day. God Bless! -Pastor Rick