Luke 7:18-35


The Compassionate One (2)  -  Compassion not Judgment

Luke 7:18-35  -  The Baptist Queries Jesus

Luke drew this incident from the source that he shared with Matthew:

18 The disciples of John told John about all these things.
John summoned two of his disciples
19 and sent them to the Lord, saying,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or do we wait for someone else?” 

John had looked forward to the coming of one who would be stronger than I. John’s own preaching had been moralistic and threatening. The nature of Jesus’ ministry was not what he had expected.

20 When they reached him, the men said,
“John the Baptiser sent us to you to say,
‘Are you the one who is to come,
or do we wait for someone else?’”
21 Just at that time,
he healed a number of people from diseases and suffering,
and from unclean spirits,
and graciously  gave sight to many blind people.
22 Answering them then, he said,
“Go and tell John what you saw and heard about.
Blind people are seeing again,
lame ones are walking once more,
lepers are cleansed,
deaf people hear,
dead ones are being raised,
and the poor have the Good News preached to them.
23 And blessed is the one to whom I present no obstacle.”

Jesus’ reply drew on themes mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah. Jesus had already adopted one quotation from Isaiah to introduce his mission at Nazareth:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.. (61:1-2)
He also drew on another from Isaiah:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. (35:5-6)

The additional reference, dead ones are being raised, and the further beatitude,blessed is the one to whom I present no obstacle, were drawn from the common source used also by Matthew. They indicated a desire to show Jesus more than fulfilling Isaiah’s vision. 

24 As the messengers from John were going back,
he began to speak to the crowd about John,
“What did you go out into the desert to see?
A reed shaking in the wind?
25 But what did you go out to see?
A man clothed in splendid attire?
Look, people clothed like that and living in luxury
are in royal palaces.

Indeed Herod’s palace was not all that far away - at Tiberias on the banks of the Lake of Gennesaret. Jesus’ contrast between John and Herod was clear.

26 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?
Yes, I assure you, and one greater than a prophet.
27 He is the one about whom it is written,
‘Look, I am sending a messenger before you,
who will prepare the way before you.’
28 I tell you, there is no one from those born of women
who is greater than John.
Yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.”

Though the tradition knew of no healings or exorcisms worked by John, Jesus was clear that John was greater than a prophet, greater even than Elisha, the wonder-working prophet. His role was not to speak of a vague and distant future when God would intervene to reverse the injustices of the world. His role was to prepare the way for Jesus himself, and for God’s definitive intervention in human history. 

Jesus seemed to view John as having stood at the dawn of the Kingdom experience but not having entered it. John never became a disciple of Jesus. Jesus’ comment was a most encouraging one for disciples, even the least.  

29 The people who heard him, and the tax-collectors,
acknowledged God’s righteousness,
since they had been baptised by John;
30 but, by not being baptised by him,
the Pharisees and lawyers disregarded God’s will for them.
31 ““To whom shall I liken the people of this generation?
Who are they like?
32 They are like children sitting in the market place
and calling out to each other saying,
We played the flute for you
and you did not dance;
we lamented
and you would not weep.’ 
33 For John the Baptiser came,
neither eating bread nor drinking wine,
and you respond, ‘He has a demon.’
34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking,
and you respond, ‘Look, a glutton and a drinker,
the friend of tax-collectors and sinners.’ 
35 And Wisdom is justified by all her children."

Luke had already referred to John’s disciples fasting and praying and to Jesus’ disciples eating and drinking (6:33-34). Jesus’ reference to his critics’ comments about himself give some insight into the hostile climate in which he operated. The Hebrew scriptures saw wisdom’s children as those who heard and followed God’s instruction – in this case the people in general and particularly the tax collectors and sinners, who heard and followed the words of Jesus. Sharing meals with people was seen in the culture as sharing attitudes and priorities.

Next >> Luke 7:36-50