After two years, the wait was finally over. All 200,000 words filling 448 pages with 1,100 footnotes was handed to the top authority. Ninety minutes would be needed to talk about it before 327 million people would be able to read it. And it takes nineteen hours, three minutes to read or eighteen actors to perform it live at a church. And people are talking. Morning, afternoon and evening, people are talking and will be talking some more…about the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election better known as the Mueller Report.
In Luke 7, Jesus met a man’s need by the power of his bare word. In Luke 7, Jesus met a mother’s need by the power of his bare word. And people were talking. Morning, afternoon and evening, people were talking. “And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country” (7:17). And people were talking some more. “The disciples of John reported all these things to him” (Luke 7:18). What was this report?
According to Luke 7:17 and Luke 7:18, this report was about Jesus and things, specific things, at least three specific things: a certain centurion whose servant was at the point of death; a mother whose only son had died; and that the word about Jesus was spreading all over the place, even beyond the borders.
The Wait Was Finally Over
And now the wait was finally over. Listen again to Luke 7:18, which might be the most important verse in this passage. “The disciples of John reported all these things to him.” After three chapters and sixteen verses; that is, after Luke 4 and Luke 5 and Luke 6 and Luke 7:1-16, the wait was finally over. What was John thinking? More specifically, what did John think of these things?
John has been almost forgotten. It has been so long since he was last mentioned that you may even be wondering, “Who is John?” Well, he is better known as John the Baptist. In fact, this will be the first time in Luke that he is called John the Baptist (7:20). And there has been no mention of him for about year. There was no mention of him in Luke 4. There was no mention of him in Luke 5. There was no mention of him in Luke 6. And there was no mention of him in Luke 7, until verse eighteen. There has been no mention of John since he was locked up in prison (cf. Luke 3:20). By the way, the prison is thought to have been in this fortified hilltop fortress on the eastside of the Dead Sea, overlooking the Dead Sea. Luke 7:1-10 took place in the town called Capernaum. Luke 7:11-17 took place in the small town called Nain, not too far away from Capernaum, about twenty to twenty-five miles away. And where John heard about these things is really far away from Nain.
But the point is that there is no mention of John until he hears this report about these things.
Who Told John These Things?
And who was it that told John about all these things? Keep looking at verse eighteen. The disciples of John told John about these things. John was in prison and his disciples traveled a long way to tell him about these things. So, why did they feel the need to tell John about these things? Are they tattle-tales? Are they gossips?
John is rather important to Luke’s Gospel. Why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel? There are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over (cf. Luke 1:4). And the first thing Luke wants to tell us about in Luke’s Gospel is Christmas. And the first thing that Luke wants us to know about Christmas is…John.
There was this man named Zechariah. He had a wife named Elizabeth. And Zechariah had been praying for a long time for a child. He and Elizabeth had been married a long time and had no children. It is not known how long Zechariah had been praying for a child, but apparently it was a long time, so long, perhaps, that Zechariah got to a point that it was not worth it to pray about it anymore. He and his wife were old, too old. Well, one night at work – Zechariah was a priest – the angel named Gabriel appeared to him and even spoke. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:12). These were the first words out of the angel’s mouth! Zechariah, you will have a son! Your wife will bear you a son! And you will call him John! But what is the most exciting news in that sentence? Your prayer has been heard.
The disciples of John are only mentioned three times in Luke’s Gospel. I want us to notice something about the first time these disciples are mentioned. Keep in mind that a disciple, in one sense, is a learner or a teacher’s student. So, these were people learning from John. Here is the first mention of his disciples in Luke: And they [the Pharisees] said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers…” (Luke 5:33). And here is the third mention of his disciples in Luke: Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). The second mention is Luke 7:18. So, why did they feel the need to tell John about these things? And what had they been learning from John? And where did John learn what he was teaching them? What does this say about John? I think it says something about John and prayer. Pray. Keep praying. And do not give in to the thought that prayer is just not worth it anymore. So, when John hears the report about Jesus and about these things, why does he say what he says?
What did John say about Jesus? “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). What else did John say about Jesus? “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29). He did not call Jesus his friend, he called himself Jesus’ friend! And narrow in on what John said about this friendship. “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” John was just permeating with joy! So, when John hears the report about Jesus and about these things, why does he say what he says? What did he say? Listen to verse nineteen. “And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
Why is John important to Luke’s Gospel? It is because he tottered. Some say he doubted. Some say he was disappointed. Some say he was discouraged. Some say he was disillusioned. He tottered. He went from filled with joy to, are you really the one I thought you to be? Or should I keep on looking? And the big question is, why is he thinking this way? I read someone say that this was not John’s finest hour. I do not think that is true. This was his most relatable hour. And it is really the last record of John in Luke’s Gospel.
Blessed Is The One Not Offended By Me
John sends two of his disciples with this question to Jesus. Keep in mind that John is in prison and it is a really far distance to get back to Jesus. What is going through the minds of these two disciples? What are they talking about? When they finally get to Jesus they ask the question. “John the Baptist wants to know,” (first mention of John the Baptist) “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And what does Jesus answer? Nothing. He says nothing. Instead, in that hour and maybe for the whole hour, he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. He did what he has been doing. Except this is the first time in Luke that he restored sight to the blind. But still, it is quite an answer. Look at his works. Examine his works. Remember his works. John was to know and recognize these works.
Then Jesus speaks. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” This is the answer. Wait, this is the answer? And just so that these two disciples get the answer verbatim, Jesus reiterates: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk (remember, that was Luke 5:17-26), lepers are cleansed (remember, that was Luke 5:12-16 something that was said is more difficult than raising the dead), and the deaf hear, the dead are raised (remember, that was Luke 7:11-17), the poor have good news preached to them. What is interesting is that Jesus is quoting or echoing several Old Testament passages like Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 42:5-9; Isaiah 61:1-2a; especially Isaiah 61:1-2a. Look at his words. Examine his words. Remember his words. John would know these words.
And remember Isaiah 61:1-2a. It is the passage Jesus read back at the synagogue and then declared that the year of the Lord’s favor is now here. The Messiah is now here. He is now here. “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21). Although in Jesus’ answer he says nothing about proclaiming liberty to the captives or setting free those who are oppressed. And who at this moment is a captive and in prison? John. And his circumstance will not change. He will spend maybe another year there and will be executed.
Is this Jesus’ answer? No, at least it is not his complete answer. Listen to verse twenty-three. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The two disciples then depart. This was all they were told. And most likely this was all that they heard. It is Jesus’ answer to a desperate man’s question. And it is almost as if Jesus waited for those two disciples to vanish out of sight before he talks to the crowds which have gathered. Many of which just had their lives restored, which, too, probably drew an even larger crowd. It is likely then that this crowd also heard the question, Jesus’ answer and that it was John who was asking and needing the answer. He then goes on to say something about John the Baptist. In Jesus’ estimation, John is the greatest man to have ever lived. Why is that?
And So, Why Did John Ask His Question?
And so, why did John ask his question? Why was he, this great man, tottering? Jesus thought John to be a great man because, in part, John did not try to live up to the culture’s expectations and in this case, the religious culture’s expectations. He knew God’s plan for him and he did it without complaint, without waver, until this particular moment. Jesus will quote a children’s poem and apply it to John and I think himself, too. “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’” (Luke 7:32-33). Why? John would not dance to their tune. He was going to fulfill the ministry given to him. So, why did he ask his question?
It is why Jesus, gently and kindly – oh, Jesus is such a kind Savior – responded to his struggling friend, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” It is a beatitude! And maybe the most needed beatitude today. The word offend is such a strong word. It is from a Greek word that sounds like scandal. It means to trip up the traveler. It is a disappointment with the way God chooses to work.
John proclaimed that the coming one, who is mighty, would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire and he would have a winnowing fork in his hand, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:16-17). And John was right. He, though, may have been wondering, “Where is the fork? Where is the unquenchable fire? What is Jesus doing?” This was a two act drama. The fork, judgment, will come one day. But this was the year of the Lord’s favor. The day of judgment would soon follow, but a year is a whole lot longer than a day (Isaiah 61:2). John, do not get disappointed with how Jesus chooses to work. John, do not get disappointed that Jesus works according to his own timetable and his own tune. John, you will blessed. And so it is with us, Jesus’ disciples. Pray. Keep praying. And do not give in to the thought that prayer is just not worth it anymore. Look at his works. Examine his works. Remember his works. Look at his words. Examine his words. Remember his words. And James, do not get disappointed with how Jesus chooses to work. James, do not get disappointed that Jesus works according to his own timetable and his own tune. And James, you will blessed. Your circumstances may not change for a long time, if ever. But you will be blessed.