St. Luke 7:19-35 “Why We Should Believe Who Jesus Is—And Why People Don’t”
19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.
22 Jesus answered and said to them, “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. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
24 When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning 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 clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written:
‘ Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.
28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
31 And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying:
‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”
In verse 19, we read that John the Baptist sent two messengers to ask the question, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus mother Mary and John’s mother Elizabeth were relatives, and I find it difficult to imagine that John the Baptist did not know who Jesus was, at least by reputation. And the fame of Jesus had grown, as we read in verses 16 and 17, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” It was this that prompted John to send the messengers, but, not simply to inquire about who Jesus was. They were to ask, “Are you the Coming One?”
God had promised to Moses that he would raise up a prophet like him, as he says in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” And so the people of Israel were looking forward to the coming of this prophet, and John was asking Jesus if he was that prophet, or if they should wait for another.
And that’s the same question we should ask. Is Jesus the One who has come?
In answer to this question, Jesus does not first speak. Instead, we read in verse 21, “And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.” Jesus performed miracles, that is, he took those who were sick, and by the power of his word, declared them to be healed, and they were healed. And clearly, in this case, there was not one or two who were healed, but as the Scriptures tell us, “he cured many of infirmities… and to many blind He gave sight.”
This is why I get so angry at modern day faith healers. They try to imitate the work of Christ, and even claim to have succeeded, but instead what they do is a pale imitation of the work of Christ. Never do we have record of Christ having tried to do a miracle and fail. Instead, Jesus spoke the word, and those who were sick, and afflicted, and had evil spirits, and were blind, were healed immediately and completely.
Having done these actions, Jesus then points to them and says to the messengers who came from John, and 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.” Jesus asks them to look at the works that he is doing. And, that is exactly how God speaks to us. He speaks to us first through his actions. He speaks to us through the creation, as he says in Romans 1, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (vss. 19 and 20) And since the creation of the world, God has continued to speak through his actions, primarily through his work in his chosen people, the people of Israel. As God preserved them and cared for them and led them, he brought them through the Red Sea, he brought them into the promised land, he defeated their enemies time after time, and even when he allowed them to be taken into captivity, he brought them back, and showed by his actions that he was their God.
And so here, Jesus first points them to his actions, actions which no mere man can do. And again, my anger against the modern faith healers is stirred up, because in their sham imitations of the work of Christ, they do not show themselves to be the One that John was looking for, or even true followers or imitators of Christ. Instead, by their failures, they show themselves to be frauds. While I am not suggesting that we it do it today, the Lord tells us in his word that such people deserve death (Deut. 18:20-22). Jesus is telling the messengers that they should look at his works to know the truth or falsehood of whether Jesus is the One.
But then our Lord adds something else. He says, “the poor have the gospel preached to them.” It is not just his actions, but his words that can be tested to see if indeed he is the Messiah that God has sent. And so it is with God our Father. He speaks to us through his actions, such as the creation, and his care for Israel. But then, he also speaks to us, so that we will not be left without a word to know what the truth is. Jesus tells the messengers from John, that he is proclaiming the good news to the poor. In doing so, he is saying words that can be tested against what God has already said. When someone says to us that they are from God, we can test them, for if they proclaim a gospel other than the good news that has already been proclaimed to us, the Lord tells us that he should be set aside for destruction (Galatians 1:8).
But he warns them that there will be those who will not believe the truth, and so he says to them, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (verse 23) Jesus points this out here because it is at the point where are see the works that he has done, and hear the good news that he proclaims, that we are forced to choose between the truth that God reveals through him, that he is indeed the son of God, or the lie that better suits our own hearts and desire. Many are indeed offended, because they refuse to come to the one who offers them eternal life, and through his actions and words clearly demonstrates that he is the One who is to come.
But after the messengers leave, Jesus goes on to explain why many do not believe, and he uses John’s preaching to make his point. He asks the question, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” That is, when John was preaching, people didn’t go out to see him because he was weak, like a reed shaken by the wind. And, as our Lord says, they did not go out to see a man clothed in soft garments? There are such people, and they live in luxury, but they have nothing to say to us, because they have everything they need. Instead, they went out to hear him because he was a prophet. He did not speak on his own, and give his own ideas and opinions. Instead, he spoke the word of God with authority, and people listened to it for what it was; the word of God, spoken with power.
But then Jesus surprises us, for he says, “A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’” (vss. 26, 27) John the Baptist was not merely a prophet, he was the messenger prophesied by Malachi. Jesus was declaring that John had prepared the way for the coming of Jesus, as Malachi continues to say in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3, “‘Behold, He is coming,’ Says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?”
And then our Saviour applies it to us, but in an even more amazing way. He says in verse 28, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” As great as John was, anyone who enters the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist. This doesn’t mean that John the Baptist is not in paradise today, but Jesus is declaring that as great as it is to be a prophet, Christ came not to send out prophets, but to save his people from their sins. And those who share in that salvation have a greater gift than the gift of prophecy. They have their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb, and they are forgiven, both now and forever.
Verse 29 tells us that some people received this news with great joy, “And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John.” Even that tax collectors, who had betrayed their people and sold them out to the Romans, confessed the truth of the teachings of Jesus, and declared that God was just doing this, for they understood the significance of the preaching of John the Baptist, and now understood how Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise.
But others did not believe. We read at the end of verse 29, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” I find it very interesting that we are told that they rejected the will of God for themselves, because that was what John had declared—that it was necessary to repent and return to our God, and this will is the will of God that all men should repent, that they should turn from idols to serve the living and true God.
But why not? John had come proclaiming the coming of the Promised One, and Jesus had demonstrated by his actions and his words that he is that Promised One. So why do people not believe? Our Lord says to us in verses 31 and 32, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’” The reason people do no believe in Christ Jesus, despite his words and actions, is not because there is anything defective in those words and actions. It is because they are skeptics. They are like mocking and disobedient children, who think that they can tell even God how to save them. And when he doesn’t, they refuse to come to Christ. There are so many people like that today. God speaks clearly to them, by deed and word. They know that he is speaking. But they refuse to listen, not because they do not really believe, but because of the hardness of their hearts. As Jesus says in verses 33 and 34, “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” John lived as an ascetic, and did not partake of the pleasures of this world, to show the people their spiritual poverty. So, the Pharisees condemned him for not eating and drinking. Then, our Saviour, who was called to live like us, came eating and drinking, and they condemned him as well. The truth is that such people are so determined to do their will instead of the will of God, that nothing—and no one—will convince them.
But our Saviour concludes by saying in verse 35, “But wisdom is justified by all her children.” The children he speaks of are not real children, but rather, the results. The results of the actions and words of Jesus are eternal life. The results of the actions and words of the Pharisees, while they hold stubbornly to them, will result in death. Yes, you can resist, and fight, and refuse to come to him. But the evidence is clear. Christ has demonstrated, not just by his miracles, but also by his death and his resurrection from the dead, that he is the Savior. You can reject him, and mock him, but in the end, the truth of his actions and his words will be revealed at his coming in glory. Are you ready, or will you be a mocking fool? He was the coming One, and he is coming again. Be ready for his coming.