The Gospel According to Luke: Part 21 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

An Exposition

Luke 7:18-30: In Praise of a Prophet

“And the disciples of John reported to him about all these things. Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the LORD, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’ When the men had come to Him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’ At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits, and He granted sight to many who were blind.

“He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.’ When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the multitudes about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? Was it a reed shaken by the wind? What did you go out to see? Was it a man in soft clothing? Behold, those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces.

“But what did you go out to see, a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD! I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ I say to you, among those born of women, there is no one greater than John, yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ And when all the people and the tax gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (Luke 7:18-30, NASB).

By the time this story took place, John the Baptist had been put into prison on the orders of the wicked and incestuous Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and the son of Herod the Great who had died years before. Antipas had been in power for over twenty years and had taken his brother Philip’s wife, named Herodias, for himself. She also happened to be his niece. This act of pure incest was denounced by John and angered Herodias, who demanded that he be put to death. Because Herod had some admiration for John, he spared the Baptist’s life, but would end his life in a dungeon cell away from his disciples and from the task to which he had been called by God to perform.

When John had been a free man and began his preaching ministry near the Jordan River, he told of the coming Messiah, His inevitable judgment upon the wicked, and the restoration of Israel as the chosen nation of God. Upon seeing Jesus, John declared before his followers that this was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:36).

Now John finds himself within the confines of a dank, filthy dungeon, not knowing if he would live to see the end of the day. He is beginning to harbor doubts about the One whom he baptized in the Jordan River a short time ago. John had told his disciples that he needed to decrease in terms of relevance and importance and to let Jesus and His ministry increase (John 3:30). John saw himself merely as the messenger, but even the most faithful of God’s servants can have times where the seeds of doubt and exasperation take root.

The Scriptures tell of the emotional struggles of prophets and statesmen who had dedicated themselves to the work of the LORD and were met with varied forms of adversity. No one in the Scriptures who had been used by God lived a life of ease and freedom from troubles, and the same principle happens today.

The call to serve God is not a surrender to what some perceive as a life of bliss and plenty. A mature believer will accept degrees of hardship and struggle as part of the plan for his or her life. There are those times, however, when even the most stalwart servant of the LORD will pause, look around, and often wonder if it was worth the trouble that came their way for taking a stand for God and His direction. John had seen himself as being used by God for a grand purpose, but now he wondered if the One he pointed out to the crowds was the One that God had chosen. As he saw it, Jesus had not “burned the chaff” or had denounced Herod and Caesar for their sins? The disciples of John saw this in their master, and on his request, sent them to Jesus to inquire about this matter.

When John’s disciples approached Jesus concerning the doubts raised by the Baptist, Jesus gave a reply not to rebuke or challenge John’s lapsing faith, but to encourage him and let him know that his proclamations were correct and in the will of God.

Jesus’s role as the Judge of all the Creation will come in due time and according to His plans. He will bring condemnation on His enemies at the end of history as we know it; but for now, He will fulfill His prime mission of showing mercy and grace to sinful people who deserve nothing but judgment themselves. The Scriptures show that He healed the people, drove demons out of the possessed, gave sight to the blind, raised dead people to life, and most important, had the gospel preached to them in order to bring them to the throne of God in a state of repentance and surrender to His sovereign will and love.

If the Lord Jesus had done nothing but offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and redeemed us from an eternity in hell as a result, nothing else would have mattered. The fact that we will live forever with Him in a place free from sin, sickness, and the devil’s schemes by trusting in Him as Lord and Savior is cause for praise and rejoicing on our part. Our LORD is more than just a political deliverer and healer, He is the liberator of our souls. He came to set us free from the bondage of sin and the spiritual death it produces. When He does return, all will be made new as He promised, we shall see Him face to face, our tears will be wiped away, and sorrow will be turned to joy. His praise shall be on the lips of His people, and at the mention of His name, all people will bow to Him either as Savior or Judge.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. He is our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom all majesty, glory, honor, and praise belong.

In turn, He gives John due praise and honor in His response to the disciples. First, John’s message and demeanor were unshakable and uncompromising, content with the simple things in life, his life and words focused on serving God and not being afraid of proclaiming the message before men. John was not one to be content with the world’s luxuries that fade away and turn to ruins. No earthly wealth interested or tempted him. Jesus considered him the greatest of all the prophets that God had ever called throughout the history of Israel but also said that the least notable subject in the kingdom of heaven was greater than this man of God. What did Jesus mean?

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was a recipient of God’s saving grace, but was done so through the covenant established prior to the final sacrifice given by Christ to redeem us from sin, and the killing of an innocent animal for the sake of atonement would no longer be necessary. The author of the book of Hebrews would make this his central theme in later years. The animal sacrifice and bloodshed in our place was a graphic picture of the consequences of sin and wickedness for which we could not in any way, shape, or form redeem ourselves in our own strength or ability. Christ’s death and resurrection put an end to this bloody affair which had developed into a routine without thought or contemplation for most of Israel.

The sinless blood of Christ saves and secures the vilest of individuals who come to Him in an attitude of repentance and humility. The smallest grain of faith in Christ is enough to usher anyone into the presence of God and have eternal life. There really is no need for long-winded prayers when it comes to asking Christ to save us, or to “repeat” a “sinner’s prayer” that takes up as much time as most sermons. We confess to Him that we are sinners and are unable to save ourselves. We repent of our sins and ask Jesus to save us and let Him have full rule over our lives.

What Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10 has been sufficient for over two thousand years and does not need a revision. John called on the people to repent and get right with God. The Lord Jesus calls on us to do the same and to trust Him to guide us in that venture. The apostles also called on those who heard the Gospel to repent and trust in Christ for salvation.

Have you done so? If not, heed what our LORD has proclaimed and surrender your life to Him today.