Lesson 126—August 21, 2016
Make No Mistake about John the Baptist
Scripture: Luke 7:24-30
Lesson Goal: John the Baptist, a real prophet, endorsed by Jesus “none greater.”
Introduction: From Herod’s prison cell, John the Baptist enlisted two of his disciples (those who had responded to his message of repentance) to go and ask Jesus if He is really the Messiah or should they look for another (Luke 7:19-20). The men found Jesus and, on behalf of John, asked the question: “Are You the Coming One or do we look for another?” Even as they posed the question, Jesus was offering testimony of His messiahship by His very actions. “And that very hour, He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.” In response to their question, Jesus simply says, “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. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Luke 22-23). Jesus understood and knew that John would come to the proper and right understanding.
There are times when even the greatest belief and strongest faith need reassurance. Can you recall and testify to a time in your life when you needed the reassurance of Jesus? How did Jesus bring reassurance to you? Please prayerfully and thoughtfully explain.
(v. 24) In John’s discouragement, he asked Jesus the deepest question of his heart. Jesus understood where he was coming from, mentally, emotionally, socially, politically and spiritually. Jesus answered with a reassurance and a reaffirmation that John would certainly recognize and understand. Now, Jesus addresses the multitude concerning the life, preaching and ministry of John the Baptist. In the following verses, I believe the Lord paid His tribute to John by asking three questions of the people. But I also believe that Jesus wanted the crowds to understand correctly concerning John the Baptist and his role in the Kingdom.
Have you ever been on the outside of a conversation that you could only hear bits and pieces of, but still you made conclusions based upon what you had heard, only to find out that the conclusions you drew were completely inaccurate? No doubt some of the multitude had heard the two men bring John’s question to Jesus, and in turn had heard Jesus’ response. Jesus, wanting absolute clarity with no misunderstanding, addresses the crowd. Jesus uses the “nip it in the bud” philosophy. Nip in the bud any misunderstanding by the people concerning John. In doing this, Jesus asks three questions of the multitude:
“What did you go into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” When John the Baptist began his ministry, he was not preaching in temples and synagogues. He was literally preaching in the wilderness areas of Judea. Because of the strength, power and anointing of his message, people went out to the wilderness to see and hear him. Jesus asked the crowds: “What did you go to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken in the wind?”
The Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke explains:
A reed is a cane-like grass that grows on the banks of the Jordan River. To compare a person to a reed was to say that the person was without moral fiber or courage, easily tossed about by various opinions, never taking a stand on anything. In addition, reeds were commonplace. Obviously, the people did not flock into the wilderness to see something commonplace, nor did they go to see a weak and fearful person. Instead, the people were attracted by John’s fiery preaching and willingness to speak out against sin.
Warren Wiersbe states:
John the Baptist was not a compromiser, a reed blowing in the wind (see Ephesians 4:14), nor was he a popular celebrity, enjoying the friendship of great people and the pleasures of wealth. John was not only a prophet, he was a prophet whose ministry was prophesied (see Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). The last of the Old Testament prophets, John had the great privilege as God’s messenger of introducing the Messiah to Israel.
All of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) point out that great crowds gathered at the Jordan River to hear John the Baptist. He was viewed as a prophet, indeed, and rightly so.
“But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments” (v. 25)? John the Baptist did not seek the approval or the applause of the crowds. He did not wish a big name for himself. He did not preach a popular subject to gain a following. He preached a message of repentance. John unapologetically preached a message that denounced the religious establishment and those that sought their own celebrity status among the multitudes by selfish attraction and selfish ambition. His clothing was not the attire of the rich and famous or of the religious aristocrats. John, by the call of God, chose a different kind of life. He was not obliged to work within the religious establishment but chose to walk the path of the ascetic prophet.
Based on societal norms, John would not be considered great. He would be viewed as anti-social, abrasive, politically incorrect, and in general a bothersome, irritating nuisance. He had no wealth, social prominence, or formal education. He achieved nothing notable by the typical standard of measure; he held no position, built no organization, and left no literary works (MacArthur).
(v. 26) “But what did you go out to see? A prophet?” Jesus is saying: “Let me indeed tell you about this prophet that you went to see!” John’s life, actions, manner of life, message and calling testified that he was indeed a true prophet of God. With words of power, he proclaimed the Word of God. With a fire in his voice, he preached the truths of God. With a holiness of character, he testified to God’s hand upon him. He indeed was a prophet, a prophet in the manner of the Old Testament prophets who preceded him, but “more than a prophet.”
(v. 28) Jesus spoke of John the Baptist as being greater than all the prophets who came before him. He said John stands above all others in the prophetic line. But then Jesus says some climatic words: “But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (28b). Let us not be confused or misinterpret Jesus’ words.
John the Baptist fulfilled his God-given purpose and calling. He had been charged to be the voice that inaugurated the messianic age and announced the coming Kingdom of God. With this charge came a great privilege for John (“more than a prophet”). But then Jesus explains the privilege that comes to all who will be part of His Kingdom.
John would die before Jesus is crucified and rises from the grave on the third day. What a privilege to be a part of the Kingdom of God by way of a personal relationship with the risen Savior.
(vv. 29-30) God not only used John to be the forerunner to the Messiah, but at his preaching many came to repentance. Because of John’s message and preaching, many repented of their sins and turned to God. As a result of their repentance, many were baptized by John. Luke tells us that in this number were “even the tax collectors.” Through John’s message, people became justified to God by repentance. John had fulfilled his calling unto God, pointing the way to Jesus, “the Coming One.”
But there were also those who heard John’s message and refused to accept or receive it. They felt they had no need of repentance. They saw themselves as righteous, so why repent? They were blinded by their own sin and self-righteousness, so they rejected John’s message and many would therefore reject Jesus’ message.
How is it that the same message brings such different responses?