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Weekly Word

Entries in Faithfulness (1)

Tuesday
Apr012014

The True Jesus: Jesus Teaches About John

Today we will look at Luke 7:24-28.  Jesus had sent a message back to John (who was in prison) telling him to not lose faith.  John clearly was struggling with what he believed should be and what was happening.  After John’s disciples leave to give him the message, Jesus teaches about the greatness of John because it was important for people to understand who he was and how integral he was to God’s plan.  Yet, at the end Jesus gives us a strange twist.  Let’s check it out.

Why Were People Drawn To John

In verse 24 Jesus asks the people why they went out into the barren places to listen to John.  He does so by asking a rhetorical question, of which the answer is obvious.  Did they go out to see a “reed shaken by the wind?”  This word picture is of a person who is easily moved by circumstances and the opinions of man (i.e. the winds of the time).  Though the reed may look substantial, it grows in marshy areas or along rivers, lakes and streams.  Thus it can be easily uprooted.  Clearly, this was not a picture of John the Baptist.  People were drawn to John because he was a sincere, steadfast, passionate, God-pleaser.  John stood strong even against Herod Antipas and his sins because he wanted to please God.

Another way in which this picture of the shaken reed can be understood is to read 1 Kings 14.  In that passage the prophet uses a shaken, bruised reed as a picture of how God would come upon Israel.  He would knock Israel down, and scatter it to the winds.  Thus the bruised reed is a picture of Judgment.  John was clearly a righteous man and not under judgment.  In fact you could say John is himself a dried reed in the hand of God to chastise Israel in order to draw some to repentance.  This was very different from the religious leaders of the day and drew people to him.  John seemed to be authentic and he was.  John’s passionate stand against the sins of Israel from the least to the greatest in the land culminated in his imprisonment and eventual beheading.  This gave people hope that the Messiah truly was about to come.

Next Jesus asks if they went out to John in order to see a man dressed in soft clothing.  This question is pretty much a joke.  Anyone who had seen John would laugh at the idea of him in soft clothing.  John was the ultimate picture of self-denial.  This was in stark contrast with the political and religious leaders of the day.  He is pictured as living in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey (i.e. living off the land), wearing camel hair cloak, and a leather belt.  He didn’t just abstain from luxuries.  He abstained from even the normal pleasures of life.  This again increased his authenticity in the eyes of the people.  John was not seeking to “fleece the sheep” for his own benefit.

The next question in verse 26 begins to hone in on the truth.  Did you go to see a prophet?  Definitely the answer is yes.  John was a true prophet of God.  The people went out to John recognized this about him.  But John was more than a prophet of God.  What the people couldn’t see is that John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy in Malachi 3.  God had promised to send a Forerunner to the Messiah whose job would be to herald the Messiah’s coming and help people be prepared for Him. 

Even more, Jesus points to John as the greatest of the prophets up to that point.  Does that mean John was greater than Moses and Elijah?  Yes it does.  However, “greater” likely does not point to greater in faithfulness or love of God.  Rather John is greater in function or position.  John ministers in the presence of the Messiah.  He also successfully turns hearts from sin towards the Messiah.  Lastly he gets to witness the beginning of the promised Kingdom of God.  These are things that Moses and Elijah would have loved to have seen.  In this regard, John’s experience parallels that of Moses.  Just like Moses teaches the people to follow God and leads them to the Promised Land, but doesn’t get to go in, so John the Baptist teaches and leads the people to Jesus and His promised Kingdom.  However, John is to be executed and not allowed to enter the coming Church.  He could have been an excellent Apostle.  However, it was not the calling God had given him.  This of course leads us to the issue of the Kingdom of God.  Wasn’t Israel already a part of the Kingdom of God?  How could it be coming or at hand?

The Kingdom of God

If you study the Scriptures, you will see that Israel is part of God’s Kingdom.  Many places He is called their King.  However, both in experience and through the prophets, the people were promised a greater stage of that Kingdom.  Not a Kingdom ruled by men who variously fell short of God’s righteousness, but by God’s Anointed (Christ) who would perfectly rule the people and expand the Kingdom over the whole earth.  When Jesus came He initiated this Kingdom of God.  Since then Christians have been the citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus and Jesus is the King.  This rule in the hearts of men has gone to the ends of the earth.  However, this is not the completion of all promised.  It is now a natural people ruled by a spiritual kingdom that does not have an earthly headquarters, nor an earthly ruler.  But that is coming.  Thus the Kingdom of God was both present and future.

John was preparing people’s hearts to enter into this new stage of the kingdom of God.  He called them to repentance and spiritual cleansing, and to faith in Jesus.  They would be able to hear and respond to the Messiah’s call, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  The Good News of the Work of Jesus is that everyone is invited to join the Kingdom that had come about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Thus John has a tremendously glorious position within the Kingdom of God.

Yet, Jesus strangely says that those who are the least in the coming kingdom of God will be greater than John.  This amazing point begs the question of how the least in the Church can be greater than John.  Our experience would beg to differ with Christ.  But again this is not about devotion or faithfulness.  It is about position.  Let’s look at the ways those who entered the Kingdom of Christ received something greater.

First, we have a greater knowledge of Christ than John.  John understood better than all up to him who the Messiah was.  But he didn’t know everything.  That is why we see him doubting in prison.  Jesus encouraged John, but He shared His teachings and prophecies with His disciples.  John did not have this.  The Holy Spirit even led the Apostles into further truth than Christ taught them because they weren’t ready for it yet.  See John 16:12.

Second, we have a greater position before God.  John participates in the transition, but never gets to participate in the life and joy of the Church.  Like I said earlier, he is like Moses in this way.  Longing to enter in and yet having to be content with the position and calling God has given you.  John the Baptist still lived under the Tutor of the Law of Moses.  However, we have become the adult sons and daughters of God, no longer under the teacher.  We are able to work alongside the Father in the freedom of love rather than under the restriction of Law.

Lastly, our privileges are greater than John’s.  John did have the Spirit in His life, but he never got to see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all God’s people.  He didn’t get to see that in operation within the Church community.  We have been given spiritual gifts that John did not get to see.  Even the fellowship of believers within a community was foreign to all that John experienced (an outcast living in the desert).  I could go on but I think you can see the point I am making.

Let me close this by saying that God isn’t done yet.  You have been given something in Christ that the prophets of the Old Testament would have longed to have seen and experienced.  You are blessed beyond belief.  What a privilege we have been given by God.  Am I thankful?  Do I treat my Christianity lightly?  Or, do I despise it and think it is worthless?  I am amazed when I see videos of people witnessing on the streets of our cities and they run into people who say they are Christians, but they don’t live any different from the world.  They are enamored with the world over the top of Jesus and His kingdom.  The apostle John warned us not to love the world or the things of the world because they are all passing away.  Do you know that the kingdom of God is on the verge of an even greater stage?  In fact it could be said that in the millennial kingdom the least will be greater than the greatest of the Church today.  God is not done yet.  He will complete all that He said he would.  Why throw all that away for some trinkets that are going to be destroyed tomorrow?  Are you living far below your position and privileges in Christ?  Maybe we need to hear John’s words one more time.  Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Jesus Teaches about John Audio