Sermon: Can We Be Sure of Jesus? (Luke 7:18-35)

Can We Be Sure of Jesus?

Luke 7:18-35

What do you do when your faith is shaken?  As a believer, what do you do when your belief has collided with a situation that has challenges and tries you?  What do you do when the very foundation of your life has been pulled out from under you, like a magician pulling the tablecloth out from under a setting of dishes?

In our passage today we have two types of doubters: The first is John the Baptist.  John has been placed in Herod’s prison because he did what God wanted him to do.  John was sent to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  John preached what God wanted him to preach.  He called everyone who heard him to repentance and faith in the Messiah.  He did everything God asked, he even told King Herod that he was in a sinful lifestyle having a relationship with his brother’s wife.  John is thrown into Herod’s prison for telling the truth and for saying things that needed to be said, things no one else would say.

John was the forerunner.  He introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Through it all, his faith had been shaken.  He was no skeptic, but where he needed help was could he place his life in the hands of God.  After all, look where trusting Christ had gotten him so far.  John stands as a monument that sometimes God’s will for one of His children is not comfort and security in this life but trials and suffering.

The other doubters are the Pharisees and Lawyers.  They are skeptics.  They have no faith at all but are relying on their own righteousness.  They were disbelievers when it came to John the Baptist, they said that he had a demon and they were skeptics of Jesus calling Him a drunkard and a glutton.  They were offended when John and Jesus preached repentance to them.

How does Jesus restore the faith of John?  How does He restore the people’s confidence in him as a prophet?  What steps can we take when we find our faith is tried by life’s struggles?

Then, I want us to see what Jesus says concerning John and his doubts and what does He say to the skeptical Pharisees?

Please hear God’s Word…
Luke 7:18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers [5] are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus [6] began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, [7] having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?
32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
1. Discouraged Believers
(7:18-20)
18 
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
John’s now in prison under one of the wicked tyrants of the ancient world, King Herod.  All this for doing the right thing!  When John’s faith was being tested, he went to the one place we must go if ours is ever tested…Jesus.  Since John couldn’t go himself, he sent messengers to Christ.

John’s personal struggles were beginning to take a toll on his faith.  As he lay in Herod’s castle prison wondering, thinking, and considering is Jesus really the Messiah?  Was He really the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of God’s people?  Was He the One or should we look for another?  Is this really the Kingdom of God?  Is Israel really being restored?  Why is all this happening to me?  If Jesus was the Messiah, why am I here in prison?

Most people today, when they doubt, they don’t go to Jesus.  They would rather build their case on hearsay or set up a straw man.  They don’t go to the source.

Where did John go when doubts began to attack his mind?  When he doubted Jesus, he went to Jesus.  Since He couldn’t go himself, he sent two messengers…

They ask Jesus John’s question word for word… Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

What was John asking?  Are You the Messiah we’ve been waiting for or should we keep looking?

What we must understand here is that John is no skeptic.  Things were not going like he thought and he was confused and couldn’t understand what God was doing.

Have you ever been in that situation?  Have you ever been confused and tried by the will of God?  Like us, John is a man.

Here’s the real issue going in John’s thinking…Do I really believe and do I really trust Christ with my life even when things aren’t going well or when I’m in the midst of a trial?  John was suffering and so was his faith.

2. Jesus Answers (7:21-23)

21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers [5] are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Jesus answers by showing the two messengers what He has been up to and by quoting Scripture to them.

This account is amazing.  Jesus is asked the question by John’s friends and then says, Wait over there and watch… In that hour.—Ligon Duncan on Luke

Don’t take someone else’s word for it, Jesus says, I want you to see for yourselves.  In that hour Luke tells us, He heals those with diseases and plagues, He casts out evil spirits, he restores sight to the blind and many other things not mentioned.

Is God’s timing perfect?  At the very moment John’s friends come to Jesus, He has people already lined up to heal so that John’s friends could be eyewitnesses and go back and share with John this is, in fact, the One.

Not only does Jesus show the disciples of John what’s been going on but then He does something that is astounding.  Jesus knows that John the Baptist is a Bible student.  John knows the OT Scriptures.  Jesus quotes two passages of Scripture to get John’s thinking back in order.  Scripture gets our focus off ourselves and our struggles and sets our minds on the things of God.  Jesus quotes Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1 to John.

During the reign of the Messiah…

Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor; [1]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; [2]

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Jesus shows John’s disciples that He is doing exactly what the Bible says the Messiah will do.  Jesus shows them and then tells them to go back and quote these verses to John.  He knew that in quoting these single verses, John would know the context and all the verses surrounding these and his faith would be strong again.

For John, he knew what Isaiah said about the Messiah.  What’s interesting is that Jesus doesn’t quote the ending of Isaiah 61:1.  This was the problem John was having.  You see, John was in prison and he couldn’t figure out why he would be in prison if the Messiah was here because Scripture prophecies that those in prison, those captives would be set free.  Jesus doesn’t quote that part.  Do you know why?  It wasn’t time yet.  In order to set the captives free, Jesus was going to have to die and the time for His death hadn’t come yet.

For John, he needed to be reminded that some of the promises concerning Messiah were coming to pass but in God’s providence, they all had not come to pass yet.

John would understand as he was in prison now that the day is coming when King Jesus will reign over all the earth.  Even though now His reign was just in certain areas, a day is coming when it would be worldwide.  He took comfort in that day.  We can too.  King Jesus currently reigns in the hearts of believers.  There is a day coming when all the earth will be His footstool and His reign will be universal.

Even in the day of John’s trials, Liberty was proclaimed to the captive and the prison was opened for John and his heart was set free as he began to see that King Jesus could be trusted.  John could place his trust in Jesus.  We too can place our lives in the hands of Christ.

3. Jesus Speaks About John (7:24-27)
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus [6] began to speak to the crowds concerning John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

John’s greatness came because he was the one given the task of introducing Jesus Christ to the world.  All of the prophets before John longed to see the day when their prophecies came to pass.  Only John prophesied and then lived to see it unfold.  His greatness came because of his role as the forerunner.

Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

The newest, weakest Christian is greater than John the Baptist.  This is because we have experienced the finish work of Christ.  We know first hand things that John only dreamed of.  We know of sins forgiven and repentance.  We know about the cross and the tomb.  We know that the grave could not hold our Lord.  We know about the universal call to repent and believe.  We know that He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for the saints.  These are things John didn’t know.  John saw only the beginning.  We have seen the complete story of redemption.

 4. Two Responses (7:29-35)
29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, [7] having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?
32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
The two responses are:
Response #1– The people heard the message of John and Jesus and declared that God was just and correct in His verdict.  They were guilty of sin and needed to repent.
29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, [7] having been baptized with the baptism of John  

Response #2– The others heard the verdict and disagreed and tried to justify themselves.

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus very clearly says these are the Pharisees and the Lawyers who were doing what they always did.  When John preached repentance and faith they said, he has a demon because John was unsocial and too harsh.  When Jesus came with the same message of repentance, they said He was a glutton and a drunkard, too social and too inclusive.  They were never going to agree with God.

By running down Jesus and John they were trying to show their superiority and they disagreed with God’s verdict and in the end suffered the consequences.

So in the end, Jesus shows that there are two types of people, those who agree with God concerning their sin and those who are offended when they are told that they’re sinners.

We’re also shown that even the greatest prophet can have doubts when faced with serious trials.  Jesus lovingly restores His faithful doubters but severely judges the skeptical unbelievers.

Jesus was the Savior they needed all along.  He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but because they didn’t think they were sinners, Jesus was no friend of theirs.—Wilcock on Luke

He was John’s friend, the tax collector’s friend, prostitute’s friend, drunkard’s friend, and a friend to gluttons.  He was not their friend.

Is Jesus your friend?  Do you see yourself as a sinner in need of forgiveness?  Do you see yourself as righteous on your own?

John is the example that teaches us, we can be sure of Jesus.  He is the One and we should not look for another but trust Him alone.

The Lord’s Supper is a testimony to the fact that we are not righteous on our own.  We are not saved apart from Christ…

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