Domesticating Jesus (Luke 7:19-23)
Newspapers and magazines write for people who work week to week, and can read something small, concise, tamed about the world, and there is pictures in it. There is a certain class of people who read it, and a smaller class that actually take it seriously. I might read it on the plane. But if I really want to know something, I am not going to read the newspaper, Newsweek, or Time Magazine. To begin with, I am not going to be careless and just read the comic strips at the back, I am going to be curious and interview people. Now, if I am convinced, I might travel to a different country and see the starving children in Africa. But if I am committed, I will commit my life to feeding the children and risk my life to do it, exposing my self to disease and peril.
There is a certain group of people who have heard of Jesus, and a smaller group that actually take Him seriously. Some people are careless, dismissing Jesus altogether as a myth or some comforting fantasy. Some people are curious about what Jesus did and who he was in history. Some are convinced of Jesus’ divine anointing, but are going to doubt or reject Jesus on what he did and didn’t do for them. They are going to be disappointed and unimpressed by Jesus, or parts of Jesus. Others will be committed, they are going to embrace Jesus in his entirety and are not offended by what Jesus offers to them. They will be obedient to him until death, even death by martyrdom.
All of us here today, I assume, want to be committed to Jesus because we know what Jesus said to his disciples in Mathew 16
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24).
So, our eternal life is dependent on our commitment to Jesus.
Some question the Lordship of Jesus. They are curious about it. In fact, some convinced people will question Jesus. It may be out of rebellion or in moments of weakness and despair, but the questions arise. Where is Jesus? Why isn’t he getting with the program? Why did Jesus allow this in my life? I don’t understand Jesus? Why isn’t he answering me or fulfilling be desire? What we need to remember is that honest questions never disappoint God; only rebellion is judged by Him. God will meet and answer any honest question posed by a hurting or needful person. So, the question of the Messiahship of Jesus is worth asking and God finds our question worth answering because our response to God’s response about Jesus shows us where you are in your walk with God. Are you careless, curious, merely convinced, or committed?
John the Baptizer had a moment of wondering or questioning Jesus, and where he stood with Jesus. This morning, we are going to be looking at John’s misconceptions of Jesus and Jesus’ response so we can see if John was committed and therefore if we are committed. Before we dive into our text, this morning, I want to set up the Biblical background for us. To shine some like on what is going on in the background on the text.
This is a dark hour for John. He has been in prison in Machaerus for some ten months now (cf. Mt 4:12; 14:1-12; Lk 3:19-20). The scriptures tells us why. John openly rebuked the adulterous and incestuous marriage of Herod. He-rod-ias, his wife, took offense and urged her husband to shut him up (Mt. 14:3-5). Thus, he was thrown into prison. There’s probably more to the story than that, however. John had a tremendous following. Herod’s popularity polls were way down. That combination was fertile soil for a revolt. So, John was likely imprison to squelch any kind of uprising (cf. Josephus, Ant. 18.5.2). Also, we have our suspicions that the Jewish leaders were involved. They didn’t like John any more than they liked Jesus.
So, here we have a depressed John, he is prison. John’s disciples apparently could visit him in prison. In fact, they bring him word about Jesus’ ministry. Let’s turn to Luke the the 7th chapter, verse 18. Together, Let’s look at what John’s disciples report about Jesus…
Luk 7:18a (NIV)
“John’s disciples told him about all these things…”
John is anxious to hear about Jesus and the Messianic movement, so his disciples relate the whereabouts and teachings of Jesus. What are whereabouts and teachings of Jesus? It doesn’t say in verse 18, but if were to look back to…
Luke 4 -
We find Jesus being rejected by the Jews at Nazareth in the Jewish Synagogue
Luke 5 -
Jesus produces some untraditional or weird thoughts about fasting. He doesn’t fast.
Jesus calls tax collector (their code word sinner) Matthew and eats with sinners.
Jesus choses his disciples from an uneducated, low social class group.
Luke 6 -
Jesus is considered breaking the command of resting on the Sabbath by working. Jesus is a rebel. He is a stern Jesus.
All in the meanwhile, he is healing people spiritually and physically. He is compassionate Jesus.
So, John gets this report about the whereabouts and teachings of Jesus. Let’s go back to verse 18… Look with me to find what John does in response to the report.
Luk 7:18-20 (NIV)
“John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 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?’"
John has a lot of time to reflect in his cell about his ministry and his pending death. “Has my life been a waste?” Is Jesus really the Messiah or was it my imagination running wild?” Such thoughts must have bombarded John’s mind. So, when he receives the report about Jesus, It is the occasion by which John the baptizer sends out his followers to ask wether Jesus was the Messiah or not.
“Are you the one who was to come?” It sounds strange, coming from the mouth of John, to hear this doubt expressed so desperately. After all, John was the one who first announced Jesus. Certainly his mother, Elizabeth, had related all the stories surrounding Christ’s birth. He realized that both he and Jesus were fulfilling prophecy. He even saw the divine approval in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism (Jn 1:3-34) So why doubt now?
We must remember that John has been in prison for the better part of a year. That’s plenty of time for depression and doubt to set in. To make matters worse, Jesus did not fit the contemporary expectation of the Messiah. When John’s disciples told him about all the whereabouts and teachings of Jesus… the report John had heard included NOTHING about Jesus’ mobilizing the people into a great army. The report included NOTHING about Jesus plotting the strategy to free Israel from the corrupted Roman domination and to set up the Kingdom of God. The report included NOTHING about Jesus eliminating the injustices of men nor freeing men from prison. Even further, why had Jesus not set John free? Did not the Scriptures predict that the Messiah would release prisoners (Isa 61:1) and executing judgment upon all and bringing justice? Jesus has only fulfilled half of the predicted ministry of the Messiah? What was Jesus waiting for?
From the reports John gets, Jesus is acting weird. When the people were aroused to exalt Jesus as their King, He withdrew and discouraged their actions (Lk. 5:16). Why was he hobnobbing with prostitutes and tax collectors? Why was he not fasting like the rest? Why did he attend all those parties and feasts? His ministry was so unlike what John’s had been.
John’s questions are probably not so much from doubt as from despair and impatience. Surely he believes that Jesus is the Messiah. John just wants Jesus to get on with the program. Program meaning: John’s expectations.
Due to the darkness of his dungeon or to the long delay of Jesus in fulfilling his cherished hopes, the mind of John the Baptist became clouded with doubt and he sent messengers to Jesus to ask whether or not he was really the Messiah whom John had declared him to be, “Are you the one to come, or should be look elsewhere.”
In the following interview, Jesus affirms who he is… So, we have here before us today the message John sent to Jesus. Now, if we pick back up at verse 21, we have the return message Jesus made to it. Together, let’s find out what Jesus affirms about who he is and what he is about…
Luk 7:21–22 (NIV)
"At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 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.'"
This passage gives Jesus’ answer to John’s question; this is the final proof of Jesus’ messiahship. John’s disciples stay only an hour with him, and what a great deal of work did Jesus do in little time! He even multiplied the cures that there might be no ground left to suspect a fraud. These cures, which they saw him work, were not only confirmations of his commission, but a detailed idea or mission of it.
Jesus is demonstrating how: The Messiah must come to cure a diseased world, to give might and sight to them who sit in darkness, and to restrain and conquer evil spirits. You see that Jesus does this to the bodies of people, and therefore must conclude this is what he should come to do to the souls of people and you are to look for on other. To his miracles in the kingdom of nature he adds this in the kingdom of grace. To the poor the gospel is preached, which they was to be done by the Messiah; for he was anointed to preach the gospel to the meek (Isa. Ixi. 1), and to save the souls of the poor and needy, (Ps. Ixxii, 13). Judge therefore yourselves whether you should look for any other that will more fully answer the characters of the Messiah and the great expectations of his coming.
The answer Jesus sent back to John was totally a non-modern concept of the Messiahship, radically different from man’s idea. It was consistent with scripture, but not consistent with modern religious thoughts or expectations.
John was already familiar with these acts, much like ourselves here today, but the hour long recital must have dispelled his unrealistic expectations. Jesus sympathizes with us also in our hours of darkness, but his relief usually consists in reminding is of the facts we already know concerning his power and love and presence and the truths of his written Word.
Jesus was telling John not only to hear what He claimed (the claims of Messiahship) but also to look at what He was doing and judge Him by what He did for people.
Jesus left it to his own works to praise him in the gates, to tell and prove what He was. The answer Jesus gives, is a performance of God’s expectations of the Messiah. It’s not John’s expectations, or Thomas’ expectations, nor your expectations. It is here that we could easily, and many people do, doubt and even fall into a state of disbelief. Jesus, however, does not praise us for our doubt; he sent to John a gentle and loving rebuke. Let’s find out what rebuke Jesus gives in verse 23…
Luk 7:23 (NIV)
"Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Luk 7:23 (NASB)
“Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
Here Jesus mildly rebukes John as well as the crowd around him. In modern language Jesus says, “Fortunate is the one who doesn’t get tripped up over me.”
The answer to our question about Jesus’ identity is answered by Jesus’ miracles, which prove that he is the Messiah. His miracles are sufficient arguments to confirm the truth of Jesus to those of us that are honest and impartial in searching after it. So there should be also objections, to cloud the truth to those that are careless, worldly, and sensual. Objections such as… Christ’s education at Nazareth, his residence at Galilee, the scandalized family heritage, his poverty, and the despicableness of his followers.
This objections were like stumbling blocks or symbolic legos people stepped on and tripped over on, which all the miracles Jesus brought could not help them overcome.
Jesus’ miracles prove that he is the Messiah. Now we ought to be willing to accept him for who he is and not try to fit him into our mould. Indeed, Jesus is hard to handle. You might say, he’s offensive. He was back then; he still is today. All this talk of turning the other check. Getting logs out of your eye, seeing your possessions, hating family to love Jesus, and carrying the cross. It smacks against the core of our culture. We prefer a more domesticated Jesus, one who’s a bit more conventional and middle-class. But that is simply not an opinion he gives us. We either accept him for who he is or not at all.
This is also why Jesus’ rebuke is also a benediction, or blessing, Jesus pronounces upon all who in spite of darkness, imprisonment, delay, and mystery still confidently put their trust in him.
This is why Jesus sys, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Jesus is saying to us “Congratulations, you are fortunate if you are not offended or disappointed in what I offer.”
Blessed are those who are not overcome by these prejudices, or these expectations. God has blessed you, and by grace has helped you overcome your prejudices and expectations of Jesus.
Many people have expectations and assumptions for a deliver, that God never promised to fulfill and won’t fulfill.
Many people are disappointed in Jesus and reject Jesus, because their expectations and assumptions of him are wrong.
Many people will never have Jesus because they are in love with a different Jesus. Because a lot of people are going to be disappointed when Jesus doesn’t do this or that for them in their darkness hour.
You are favored if you are not disappointed in what Jesus offers.
When we are not disappointed in what Jesus offers we are blessed.
What Jesus offers is not what we expect.
What Jesus offers is not of an earthly nature.
What Jesus offers is deliverance. Deliverance from your expectations.
What Jesus offers is pain.
I hear many people say - “Isn’t the Good life? Isn’t Christianity the good life? And if it is a delusion, it doesn’t really matter we are gone! So who cares if it is a delusion? It is the good life!”
WRONG! It is not the good life! If not, Paul could not have possibility said to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:15:19),
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Oh, How wrong we got it. It is hard to be a Christian in America, really hard.
Paul said to the Corinthians that he was in peril every hour and I died every day (1 Co 15:30–31).
I choose, I make so many choices, to magnify Jesus in hard places, it hurts me everyday. I would not choose this, if it were not TRUE! If I could’t expect, what we should expect, a resurrection from the day, when everything will be paid back to me a thousand time fold, what I have laid down I the service of Jesus… I wouldn’t go this way.
Apostle Paul tells us an interesting way to anticipate this suffering in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,”
It is granted to you, it is gifted to you, with a big bow, that you will suffer.
We should expect pain.
God calls us to be committed. This is his summons: “Will you join the Son in displaying the supreme satisfaction of the glory of grace in joining him on Calvary road of suffering? Because there is no other way that they world is going to see the supreme glory of Christ today expect that we break free, from the Disneyland of America and begin to live lifestyles missionary sacrifice, in a way that it looks to the world that our treasure is heaven and not on this earth! It is the only way.”
The prosperity gospel will not make anybody praise Jesus and his ministry. It will make people praise prosperity, praise their expectations, their desires, their ministries, their domesticated Jesus.
Of course, I will have Jesus that will give me a car! Who wouldn’t want a Jesus who gives me health, a car, a fine marriage. I will take your Jesus, if the pay-off is right!
If you are going to be a Christian, mark it down: Pain. Loss of a child, malaria, a spouse, martial strife, conflict on the team, demonic opposition, martyrdom. This is going to come. And don’t think it is strange when it comes. People thought Jesus was strange when we came.
Suffering is the price He paid. And how are we going to show others how satisfying He is, we we treat him like the latest expectation that really should met our expectations and desires.
I find it incredible that Apostle Paul said…
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you,” (Col 1:24)
I am not summoning you to a miserable life. I am summoning you painful life. But in this pain, all over the Bible, we find Christians rejoicing in trouble. Our perseverance and our hope in Jesus, not in what he does or doesn’t do, but IN JESUS, does not put us to shame.
When you are in pain, accepted it as Jesus’ gift. Accept it as an opportunity to praise him not to doubt him.