As we go into our third week of lockdown we are beginning to understand a little better the experiences of the heroes of faith who found themselves in isolation and even in prison. Joseph, Jeremiah and Daniel. The apostles Peter and John and Paul and John in exile on Patmos writing the Book of Revelation. We can glimpse their loneliness and even share a temptation to despair. Most of all I am reminded of John the Baptist imprisoned by Herod and the doubts and questions he wrestled with as he was waiting to be executed. We can learn from John how to cope in these very strange and troubled times.
We all have doubts and questions sometimes! But very few people fall as deep into doubt as John the Baptist did! He was God’s messenger, set apart from his miraculous birth to prepare the way for the Messiah. John the Baptist was the very first person to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the one who will baptise with Holy Spirit. John was the one who lived a life of repentance, who drew close to God in fasting and silence and self-denial, who lived by the motto “Christ must become more important, I must become less important.”
But in Luke 7 we find John the Baptist in prison, jailed for denouncing King Herod’s adultery. And in his loneliness facing execution John began to have his doubts. Had he been right? Was Jesus really God born as a human being? Would Jesus really bring forgiveness of sins? Had John’s message been true? Or was it all a big mistake? Had he been wrong all along? John had his doubts! So from his prison cell John sends two of his disciples with a desperate message to Jesus.
Luke 7:19 “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Are YOU the one? ARE you the one????
We may be facing different crises this evening. Some people may even be facing seemingly hopeless problems – just as grim as John the Baptist in his prison cell. We need to hear and receive for ourselves the same answers Jesus gave to John the Baptist.
Luke 7 18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” ’
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, illnesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t directly answer John the Baptist’s questions. Jesus could have simply answered “yes” and that answer would have been true! “Yes, I am the Messiah, the One who is to come.” “Yes I am indeed the Son of God, the Lamb of God as you told everybody I was.” “Yes John, you were right!”
But Jesus knew how desperate John was, how low John was, how discouraged John was. Jesus knew how deep John had fallen into doubt. So a simple “yes” would not be sufficient. Jesus knew what John needed to hear. We say “actions speak louder than words” and it’s true. Jesus knew that His actions would speak louder into John’s discouragement and doubt. So Jesus pointed to his actions.
22 So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Jesus didn’t perform these miracles as some kind of show so that they could be an answer for John. His miracles were NOT just to impress the crowds. Nor were they to help him become popular so he could be recognised as King. Jesus was performing all those kinds of miracles anyway continually as part of His ministry. But the miracles would answer John’s questions! YES I am the one! Yes I am the Messiah! All these miracles are powerful proof that Jesus was much more than a man, he was indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the Lord of all.
Jesus pointed to his miracles and then added, “and the good news is preached to the poor.”
This was Jesus’s mission. This was why God had sent Him: to bring the good news of the Kingdom, the gospel of Salvation, to the world, to the poor and weak and helpless Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, the rule of God as King to all people and especially to the poor and needy, the outcasts and the sinners. This was what Jesus had come to do!
Jesus brought the good news of the Kingdom. He proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favour – that the time had arrived for God to save his people. And that Good News came in WORDS: his teaching, his sermons and his parables. But the Good News also came in ACTIONS: miracles of healing and deliverance. Jesus’s miracles were concrete expressions of the good news he proclaimed in words.
Miracles were expressions of God’s POWER – the power revealed in Creation and later in the resurrection released into lives spoilt by sin and suffering and pain – God’s power released to put the world right again!
And miracles were expressions of God’s LOVE – love bringing forgiveness for sins, life instead of death, healing for broken-ness.
That’s why the miracles answered John’s questions and doubts. Jesus must be the One. Only the One who is to come, only the Messiah, only God’s Son could preach good news to the poor in words AND in actions, in love AND in power. Only God’s Son could bring the Kingly reign of God into the world.
Jesus’s message to us is the same as his answer to John the Baptist. That same power of God is still at work today – for us! That same love of God is still there today – for us! Jesus is the one!!
The blind receive sight, like blind BARTIMAEUS – your faith has made you well
the lame walk, – like the paralysed man lowered through the roof. Your sins are forgiven – take up your bed and walk,
those who have leprosy are cured – we thought about one of those stories a few weeks ago – ten were healed – only one came back to say thank you. It is so important to be thankful for all God’s blessings to us.
the deaf hear,
and the dead are even raised back to life again, like Lazarus. Remember Jesus’s words.
John 11:25 Jesus said to MARY, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
When we see the miracles of Christ, they help us to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and the Son of God.
and the good news is preached to the poor – Jesus brings Good News of God’s salvation to those who are physically materially poor and equally to those who recognise that they are Spiritually poor! Anybody in need.
Jesus’s message to us is the same as his answer to John the Baptist. That same power of God is still at work today – for us! That same love of God is still there today – for us! Jesus is the one!! The one who can help US – we only have to ask!! The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Luke 7:23 “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
“ How happy are those who have no doubts about me!” (GNB)
You might like to listen to Adrian Snell – “Song for John” from his first album Fireflake
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER IN THE SITUATIONS WE FACE