Luke 7.18-23 — Jesus is the Messiah

So, we’ve had this story about faith, and then one about raising a dead kid, so what’s Luke’s point? He moves on to John the Baptist, who, for some odd reason, can’t see to figure out who this guy is. You’d think, duh, if anybody had a skinny on Jesus, it would-a been John, I suspect, by divine revelation. But he sends some messengers to Jesus, asking, “Um, are you the guy we’re waiting for, or is there somebody else?” Wow, weird question given that Jesus was raising dead people, and John had called him the Lamb of God. But they had a whole mindset about “Messiah,” and Jesus didn’t fit their boxes. (Sort-of like end time talks now—everybody has their opinion, and we all have these cute little boxes that things are supposed to fit in to.) Jesus wasn’t judging like they thought he should. He wasn’t dealing with those lousy Romans, and what’s up with these miracles? They are supposed to be part of the messianic picture. What up? Add to that that Jesus had come to be baptized by John. Jesus taught people rather than judge them, he ministered in the back woods rather than in the cultural centers, and he did not attack the reigning political or economic powers. In a word, Jesus is out in the provinces healing sick, insignificant little individuals here and there, but not doing anything to change the basic structural problems in Israel’s life. John was confused. That Jesus guy was insufficiently messianic!

You know what? I think Jesus had a knack for pushing everybody’s buttons, pushing them beyond their understanding, and certainly dropping bombs on their cliches, categories, and religiosities.

And what a weird question: “Who are you, really?”

“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.” (v. 21) Cured. Not just a doctor who helps relieve the symptoms, but cured. Their doctors could hardly cure. Mostly they could treat symptoms with herbs and oils, though with some poultices they could cure. Today it’s no big deal to heal diseased and sickness, but then it was huge. So Jesus sends the messengers back: Tell ’em what you’ve seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is proclaimed to the poor. Characteristically, Jesus neither affirmed nor denied that he was the Messiah. He responded by describing his works in terms of a Scripture passage that speaks of the works of God in the day of the kingdom’s coming.

A couple of great points:
1. Sounds like the scientific method: what you’ve seen and heard. Open minds. Experimental method. Examine, poke, pry, ask, study. “Come and see.” Ask every question you have. Truth can stand up to investigation.
2. Jesus verified his claims. It’s never just blind faith, but belief in the evidence.
3. He quotes Isaiah. God is fulfilling his prophecies in and through Jesus.
4. What Jesus claims is a list of absolute impossibilities: blind seeing, lame walking, leprosy cleansed, dead raised. Even just one would make for a miracle. The whole list is nothing but divine.

Then comes the surprise, the pinnacle—the climax: “And the good news is proclaimed to the poor!” Wow, this is out of character with the rest of the list. Why THIS at the peak? Of all the great works he has done, the last one with the punch is God’s concern for the poor. The little people are being encouraged. giving life to the dead is spectacularly miraculous, but giving the living a way to live is something, too. When you are hungry, as were the Israelites in the desert, a meal after three days of starving is far more impressive than parting the Red Sea. Giving both physical and spiritual nourishment and hope to the poor is more miraculous than a whole case of Cecil B. DeMille movies.

(23): “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” It’s not that the design is to make people stumble. The intent of God is that people accept and receive. But He can’t control people’s expectation or assumption or prejudices. People see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe.

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