By Donnie V. Rader
In Luke 7:18-35 and the parallel account, Matthew 11:2-19, we read of the disciples of John coming to Jesus asking him if he was the coming one. Jesus worked miracles in their presence and told them to go tell John what they had seen. When the two disciples left, Jesus spoke to the multitudes about John. He asked them what they were expecting in John. Were they looking for a reed shaken in the wind, a man dressed in a king’s garment or a prophet? The Lord rebukes the multitude for not accepting the teaching of John and shows that this forerunner accomplished what God wanted from him.
Let’s look at some practical lessons that we learn from this text.
God Supplies Evidence For Our Conclusions
When the disciples of John asked Jesus if he was the Coming One or if they should look for another, he did not just say “yes.” Rather, he gave them evidence to draw their own conclusion. At that “very hour” he worked miracles and told the messengers to go tell John what they had seen and heard (vv. 21- 22).
Jesus did this on other occasions. When the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” he gave the reasons for it being unlawful rather than saying “No” (Matt. 19:3-6).
I can think of at least three things that are accomplished when God gives us the evidence instead of just telling us the fact. (1) It encourages study and thought rather than just memorizing a list of dos and don’ts. (2) It test the honesty and faith of man. (3) It helps us see why certain things are true or wrong, etc. as well as the fact.
There are a number of questions or topics about which we may wonder why God didn’t just say “Thou shall not…” or “. . . is a sin.” We may wonder why God didn’t just say “Dancing is a sin,” “Gambling is wrong,” “Thou shall not have instrumental music in worship” or “The Lord’s supper must be observed every first day of the week.” While God did not make these points in these words, he said the same and more. He gave us the evidence to draw the correct conclusions.
Man Can Stumble Over The Truth
As Jesus sent John’s disciples back to him he said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (v. 23). The word “offended” means “caused to stumble” (NKJV footnote). Like a rock in a path, the thing one ought to watch for and be aware of is what he falls over.
The statement of Jesus (v. 23) is in the context of Jesus giving evidence that he is the promised one of the Old Testament. He warns that men can stumble over the evidence he gives. Likewise men could and did stumble over John and his work (vv. 24- 35).
The point is that those who rejected John and Jesus not only did not get the message, but it becomes an occasion for their stumbling (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23; I Pet. 2:8).
Men today stumble over the truth in different ways: (1) Through ignorance (Rom. 10:3). It is possible to have a surface knowledge of the basics but fail to dig into and apply the depths of the word. Thus, it is easy to stumble over what we do not know. (2) Because the word doesn’t fit our own ideas. John didn’t seem to fit the concept that the multitudes had of what he ought to be (v. 25). Neither did Jesus fit in the concept of what people thought he should be (cf. John 12:34). In both cases the people stumbled. (3) Through disobedience (1 Pet. 2:8-9).
The Greatness of the Least in the Kingdom
John the Baptist was great (vv. 26-28). He was a prophet. But, more than that, he was a prophesied one (Isa. 40:3). He was the forerunner for Christ. Jesus said, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (v. 28).
As great as John was, “he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” Jesus said (v. 28). These are in the kingdom. John never was. They have access to greater blessings. They are viewed as important by the Lord.
A Failure To Obey God Is A Rejection of God
Some of John’s hearers accepted his message and responded by being baptized (v. 29). Others rejected John and his message and were not baptized (v. 30). The text says they “rejected the counsel of God … not having been baptized by him” (v. 30).
To reject and refuse to obey the message that John preached was to reject God himself. Jesus told his apostles that a rejection of them was a rejection of him (Lk. 10:16).
Men today reject the counsel of God by not doing what God says. When men are not baptized, do not worship regularly, are not forgiving, do not practice self-control, or are not humble, they reject God himself.
Some Men Can’t Be Pleased
Neither John nor Jesus pleased the Jews. Jesus compared them to children playing in the marketplace who couldn’t please one another (vv. 31-32). Some of the children would play a flute and others would respond by dancing if they wanted to play. Some would mourn and others would respond by weeping. Jesus said these Jews were like the children who would not respond. The flute was played and you did not dance. We mourned and you did not weep. You can’t be pleased!
John did not come eating and drinking and they said he had a demon. Jesus came eating and drinking and they said he was a winebibber and a glutton (vv. 33-34). What did they want? Many of them rejected the testimony of John. So, when Jesus came he worked miracles. But, that wasn’t good enough, they wanted more (Matt. 12:38). Jesus could heal the sick. But, for them, it was on the wrong day (John 5).
Men and women are a lot like that today. We grumble and murmur because we can’t be pleased. If there is a problem in the local church and it is not dealt with, someone will complain that nothing is being done. The same one is apt to gripe when it is dealt with saying that it was handled the wrong way. There are those who look for faults in every move. If one misses services and no one calls, they fuss about how no one cares. If someone does call, they are just being nosey.
Why can’t people be pleased? For the Jews it was prejudice. That sometimes enters the picture today. It is easy to determine that whatever is said or done we are going to find some fault with it.
The Vindication Of God’s Wisdom
The way God worked through John and Jesus did not fit the thinking of the Jews. To their thinking how could a man dressed in camel’s hair be the forerunner for the Messiah? Furthermore, how could one born in a manger be the savior of the world?
Yet, God’s way worked. Even the publicans were baptized with the baptism of John (v. 29). The evidence that God’s way worked is the fruit that is born (v. 35). Thus, “wisdom is justified by all her children” (v. 35). God’s wisdom is vindicated.
We must realize that God’s thinking is different than ours. God’s way are higher than ours (Isa. 55:9-10). Thus, there will be some things in God’s plan that we may not see the wisdom in. Yet, God’s wisdom will be vindicated. We may not see the wisdom in church discipline (1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3), spanking children (Prov. 23:13; 22:15), adulterers separating (Col. 3:5-7; Acts 2:38) or how the simple preaching of the truth can change the worst sinner (1 Tim. 1:15). But, we must recognize that there is wisdom in God’s way. In time, we will see that wisdom vindicated.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 21, p. 18-19
November 3, 1994