Trusting God’s Plan.
Matthew 11:2-19; Luke 7:18-35
“But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.” – Luke 7:30 NLT
John sits in a prison cell, on the orders of Herod Antipas. His crime? Speaking out against the leader’s immoral relationship with his own brother’s wife, Herodias. She had been incensed by John’s remarks and arranged to have him imprisoned. From his cell, John sends two of his own disciples to ask Jesus an interesting question. ” Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Luke 7:19 NLT). Was John’s question an indication of a lagging faith or a growing impatience? Was he beginning to doubt whether Jesus truly was the Messiah, based on his own imprisonment? Or was he simply wondering when Jesus was going to begin acting like a Messiah and usher in His kingdom? The passage does not tell us what was going on in John’s mind, but based on the tone of his question, it seems as if John is struggling with both doubt and impatience. After all, he is sitting in a prison cell and Jesus is traveling around the countryside drawing crowds, but also drawing the anger and animosity of the nation’s religious leadership. If John is suffering from a case of doubt, who can blame him? While he had been chosen by God as the one to pave the way for the Messiah, he did not have a in-depth knowledge of just how Jesus’ ministry would unfold. I don’t think John is wrestling with his imprisonment as much as he is with his expectations of just what should be happening outside the walls of his prison cell. Like all Jews, he had an image of what the coming of the Messiah would look like. He had preconceived ideas of what Jesus should be doing and he was probably wondering just what was going on.
When the two disciples arrived and presented John’s question to Jesus, Luke tells us that “at that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind” (Luke 7:21 NLT). Then Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell him what they had seen. But He adds a point of clarification: “the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (Luke 7:22-23 NLT). Jesus seems to be assuring John that His miracles were evidence of His authority and power, and that His message of Good News spoke of His agenda. Then Jesus encourages John to stay faithful in the face of adversity. There were going to be bumps along the road. Not everyone was going to believe in Jesus’ or His message, just as not everyone believed in or took advantage of John’s baptism. In refusing John’s baptism, the Pharisees and experts in religious law were really rejecting God’s plan for them And that seems to be the real message of these two passages. Jesus compares the generation to which He came to children playing a game. They argue and bicker over everything. They can’t agree with one another. The people to whom John had been sent and to whom Jesus was ministering were cynical and skeptical of this new message. They were attracted to Jesus’ miracles, but didn’t know quite what to do with His message. He tended to challenge them and raise the bar of expectation for them. He seemed to be making it harder, not easier. Jesus challenged the status quo and made them uncomfortable in their self-satisfied little worlds.
For John and all those who heard the message of Jesus, it tended to make no sense at times. It was confusing and seemingly contradictory to all that they had come to know about how to have a relationship with God. Jesus’ message was about faith in who He claimed to be – the Son of God, sent directly from the throne of God with a message of repentance and a plan of salvation for restoring man’s marred relationship with God. And the wisdom of what Jesus was saying would be proved true in time – for John and all those who chose to have faith in Him. “But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it” (Luke 7:35 NLT). John would be executed long before Jesus was tried, crucified, buried and raised again. But the disciples of Jesus would see the wisdom of Jesus’ message proved true. They would see their own lives radically changed. They would witness a literal revolution that would spread throughout the known world in a very short period of time, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, powered by the Holy Spirit, exploded onto the scene and into the lives of men at Pentecost. So Jesus encourages patience and faith. Give Him time to do what He came to do, in the manner in which He came to do it. Things would never be the same again.
Father, Your way is right. Your Son’s methodology, while radical and hard to understand at the time, was prove true and right. He knew exactly what He was doing, because He was doing exactly what You sent Him to do. How easy it is for us to question Your ways even today. When things don’t seem to be turning out quite like we expected, we tend to lose faith and begin to doubt. Help us to remember that wisdom, Your wisdom, is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it. If we give You time, Your ways will always work out for our good and Your glory. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men