The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples,and he sent them to the Lord to ask Him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind.Then he told John’s disciples,“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about Him to the crowds.“What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces.Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet.John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of You, and he will prepare your way before You.’ I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” (Luke 7:18-28 NLT)
This isn’t how John envisioned his life turning out. He thought the Kingdom of God would be here by now. It’s been two years. He should be out of prison and serving the King by now: instead he’s about to be beheaded. So he asked Jesus, “Are you the One, or should I expect someone else?” After two years of sitting in prison, now he wonders, he questions…“Where are You when I need you? Are You unaware of my situation? Or are You just indifferent to it? Or was I wrong and you’re simply not Who I thought you were?
Doubt. Wonder. A Crisis of faith. It happens when life takes a twist and things don’t turn out as we expected. That’s true…but there’s another layer Jesus is pointing out through John the Baptist’s story He warns us, enlightens us, (knowledge empowers) pleads with us,” do not to fall away from Me because I allow bad things to happen to you but not to her; to you but not your sister in Christ. When he saves her child but not yours. When he saves their marriage but not your marriage. When He saves them from financial ruin but not you. When He brings her a mate but not you. Jesus knows when we see Him help others but not us we become vulnerable, we become disheartened and start to think, “Why bother?” It’s then we are apt to walk away from Him. Not renounce him but stop living for him.
So Jesus pleads with us, “Don’t turn away, you will be rewarded, don’t give up.” In Luke 7: 23 he says it this way, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me.”
He said this to John right after he told him, “… the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” John already knew all that stuff and Jesus knew that John knew. Jesus said it to remind John, the thing you gave your life to, preparing the way for the King and His Kingdom, it’s happening. It will be done. Your life was not for naught. And John … I’m not coming for you. I’m not getting you out of prison. I’ve helped others but the path I choose for you is different from theirs. You will be blessed if you don’t fall away.
This is hard stuff to hear. I want “happily ever after” don’t you? But as much as I don’t like it I can deal with the honesty of it. At least I know what Jesus really said about life, my life. And knowledge is empowerment.
Author and pastor, Irwin McManus explains in his book, The Barbarian Way, Jesus is “… not calling you to the same path that every follower of Christ will walk. Your life is unique before God and your path is yours and yours alone. Where God will choose to lead you and how God chooses to use your life cannot be predicted by how God has worked in the lives of others before you.” (McManus, 37)
This is hard to hear: hard to live with, isn’t it? I think that ran through Peter’s mind the day Jesus came to see him at the Sea of Galilee. Peter had denied Christ three times. Jesus was crucified and three days later arose and went to restore Peter. I love that about Jesus. He’s a restorer. And three times he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter said “yes.” Each time Jesus reminded Peter of his calling, what his life was to be about: feed my people, care for my people. It’s the same calling we have. It may look different in how it’s expressed in our individual lives but it’s what we are called to. And right after that he tells Peter this is what his life is to be about, he tells him, “Oh yeah and Peter you’re going to be killed.” And I love it because Peter did what we do…he turned around and saw John, not John the Baptist but John, the disciple Jesus loved, and said, “Well what about him?”
Can you hear him? Ah what about John’s life because maybe I want his instead. We do this don’t we?
This past week I was supposed to join Steve in Ireland to celebrate our 25th anniversary. But I ended up in NY instead. On Wednesday my younger sister called, she was at her routine pregnancy checkup when they discovered her blood pressure was at stoke level and her placenta had ruptured. She was taken in for an emergency c-section. Cohen, although coming four weeks early, was fine but my sister was not. She almost died on the operating table. I wish I could say that was the end of her trouble. But it continues to get worse. She’s been reopened and stitched three times now. And she’s still not “out of the woods.”
During my time with her at the hospital she would have these emotional fatigue break- downs and cry saying, “Why couldn’t this be normal like everyone else? Why does it always have to go this way for me?” We ask this don’t we? This is when we are vulnerable, apt to loose heart and call it quits. I’ve been there it’s where my sister is, it’s where some of you are, it’s where John the Baptist and Peter were. And Jesus said to Peter, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me!” (John 21: 21-22)
In this text Jesus doesn’t answer the question, “Why do hard things happen?” All He tells us is “…some barbarians survive the night in the lions” den; others experience their darkest night and wake in eternity.” (McManus) Luke 7:18-28 doesn’t answer the why. It simply reminds us that bad things happen and then Jesus warns, enlightens, and pleads with us, “Don’t fall away on account of my allowing a difficult faith path for you but not her.” He reminds us his Kingdom is coming and it will be done and our life counts even if we can’t see how. And if we remain faithful, hold onto Him in all our frailty, we will be blessed.
After Jesus spoke to John’s disciples he turned to those with him and he gushed on about John the Baptist.
Publicly He acknowledged what a great man John was and how he had done a great work for God…(verse 28) Have you ever had someone affirm you like that? You think what you’re doing doesn’t really count or isn’t noticed and suddenly someone of influence, such as a father, a boss, a newspaper etc, gushes over you and what you have contributed. That’s what’s happening to John by God Himself, God in the flesh. And a few days later, when John was beheaded, he joined the Trinity in heaven where he received an inheritance and rewards. I don’t fully understand all that that means but I know it’s good and I want it. And when John joined God in heaven there was more awaiting him. I know Scripture says if we faithfully endure trials and trust Jesus through them, (even if it means holding on with our nails) we too will have an inheritance. We too will receive rewards and we too will be publicly honored and praised by JESUS himself.
I know it sounds heretical but the Scriptures say it’s so. 1Peter 1:6 reads, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Jesus doesn’t tell us the why but he does warn, enlighten and plead with us, “Don’t lose heart. Don’t fall away. Remain faithful. I will bless you.”