Greater than John
Luke 7:11-35 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. 12 Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” 17 This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.
18 The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. 19 Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” 20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John 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. 23 Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
24 When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
28 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.” 29 When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.
31 “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
In John 1:26-34 it says: John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John saw and knew, by the Spirit, that Jesus was the Son of God, that He was the Lamb of God, the promised Savior. Yet in today’s text it says: 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 came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” So was John’s faith wavering? Was He questioning if what he had seen in the Spirit was true? Perhaps it was that John was in prison, knowing that he would lose his life because of his faith and he hoped that Jesus could change his circumstances. Perhaps, nearing his life’s end John simply wanted to know that what he dedicated his life to was meaningful.
Surely Jesus could have answered John’s question directly. Jesus response to John though was to allow the results of His ministry to verify who He was. Jesus says: “Go and report to John 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. Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” There are times that we too may feel like we need a more direct answer. Like John, perhaps we are at a point in life when we want to know for certain that our faith, what we believed and lived was and is real. Things would be so much easier if we could just have Jesus directly answer a few simple questions. Like John, Jesus wants us to see and know through the eyes of faith, to believe in Him. Sometimes we tend to attribute the things we see, healing miracles and the preaching of the gospel, to the abilities of people. Jesus says: “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” If we will truly look with eyes of faith, attributing every good thing we see to God, we will know that He is real. God’s creation was made perfect. People are created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus, the promised One is the One who is responsible for restoring all that has lost God’s perfection because of sin. James 1:16-18 says: Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. Every good thing, everything that is perfect and light, not dark comes from God. We need to see with eyes of faith, believing what God has done.
James says: so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. In today’s text Jesus says: “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.” How is it that we are greater than John? Is it that our faith is greater? Surely there are few if any who are or were more dedicated to ministry or more successful in fulfilling their call. As the text says, John was: the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ John’s mission, his call was to prepare the way of the Lord. John preached a message of repentance so that people would be prepared for the coming Messiah. For those in the kingdom, for us, Messiah has come. On the cross Jesus said: “It is finished.” Everything that Jesus came to do, redemption, reconciliation and restoration is complete, finished. We no longer have a mission or message of preparation for the promised One. Our message is a message of the finished work. Our message is a message that redemption from sin, reconciliation to God and restoration to His perfect plan for creation is complete in Christ. We, the least in the kingdom are greater than John because we live on this side of the finished work of the cross. John’s call was to prepare the way. Our call, our commission is in Mark 16:15-18: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” If we will walk in the fullness of our calling, declaring the finished work of the cross, the good news of the gospel, Jesus will verify who we are in the same way He verified that He was/is the promised One.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the evidence of Your goodness, for all that You do. Thank You for the witness of the Holy Spirit that we can know You. Thank You most of all for the finished work of the cross, through which I have been redeemed, reconciled and restored. May I walk in the fullness of my calling and commission, that the world will see the evidence of the finished work of the cross both in and through me. Amen.