Luke 7:18-28 :
The disciples of John told him about all these things. John, calling to himself two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for another?” When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptizer has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?’”
In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and to many who were blind he gave sight. Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Blessed is he who finds no occasion for stumbling in me.”
When John’s messengers had departed, he began to tell the multitudes about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously dressed, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much 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.’
“For I tell you, among those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptizer, yet he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.”
John was in Herod’s prison and for a man who grew up in the wild open spaces, it must have felt like the closest thing to Hell that he had ever felt. I have noticed that many people are tempted to believe lies when times are good and things are going well. We can also be tempted when things fall apart. This is so much like a true believer. We stumble into doubt and then ask God if we really are His. Isn’t it strange that we ask God to tell us if what He said is true? Why ask God if what He says might not be true? John asked Jesus if we should believe what He says. It doesn’t actually make sense does it? It shows that John really did believe, He just needed to be reminded of the truth and to be encouraged.
I think that this was a bit of a rebuke of John’s disciples in that Jesus tells them “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard”. We need to encourage each other when we go through hard times. John didn’t need criticism because John wasn’t a bad guy at all. He needed encouragement to stand strong in what was really happening and not find any occasion for stumbling. We need this kind of strength right now and I want you to be encouraged by these words today.
What always amazes me about this story is how Jesus reacted. He turned to the people and told them that there had never been a better prophet and that John was more than just prophet as well. Jesus didn’t talk badly about John because of his stumbling but instead praised him in public! Could there be anything farther from gossip or slander? We should know that Jesus also defends us when we are down and in need of encouragement. We have no bigger advocate than the one who died for us and still loves and fights for us right now.
Notice that Jesus adds “yet he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” How could a simple member of God’s kingdom be greater than the greatest prophet that ever lived? I believe that one thing that Jesus may be pointing to here is the fact that anyone like you and I who believe by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is made into a completely new being, holy and set apart to God. No one up to that moment in time had ever had their sins washed away by the blood of the true Lamb of God yet. Also, no one had ever had the Holy Spirit live in them other than Jesus Himself and you and I who believe during this age of the church have the Holy Spirit permanently living inside of our bodies according to the Bible. We have more reason to stand strong during trial than John and we have the power and encouragement of God Himself inside our bodies! So let’s not worry but look forward to an increasingly close relationship with God no matter what happens in this world.