Summary: 1) The Question of Blessing (Luke 7:18–20), and 2) The Answer for Blessing (Luke 7:21-23).
The noted eighteenth-century hymn writer Charles Wesley composed more than 7, 000 hymns in his life, including the magnificent Christmas hymn “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” The lyrics express rich theological truth concerning the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Come, thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King. Born to reign in us forever, Now thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to thy Glorious throne”.
Wesley’s identification of Jesus as “the long expected one” reflects John the Baptist’s question in this passage, Are You the One who is to come/Expected One (i.e., the Messiah; Pss. 40:7 [cf. Heb. 10:5–7]; 118:26; Mark 11:9; Luke 3:16; John 1:27)? Jesus repeatedly claimed to be the Expected One promised in the Old Testament. He said that Abraham joyously hoped for Him (John 8:56), Moses wrote of Him (John 5:46), and David called Him Lord (Matt. 22:41–45
There are always a lot of questions in regards to the coming of Jesus. We wonder if we can live up to His expectations. We wonder if we are sharing who He is faithfully and accurately. We wonder if He really cares about our struggles here and now, how He is going to be with us, or if we can even handle all the demands of another Christmas season.
Often doubt brings reflection and growth. Such is the case with John’s inquiries about Jesus. Not only does the Baptist get an answer that calls for his reflection, but Jesus uses the inquiry to help others consider anew the roles John and he have in God’s plan. The psychological adversity of doubt carries the seed of real growth, when the answer is sought from God’s perspective. (Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke (Lk 7:18). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)
Looking for the answers from God’s plan through His word will not take us farther from Him, but closer with all the blessings to follow. In showing this blessing, Luke 17:18-23, shows us 1) The Question of Blessing (Luke 7:18–20), and 2) The Answer for Blessing (Luke 7:21-23).
1) The Question of Blessing (Luke 7:18–20)
Luke 7:18-20 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 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?" 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?'" (ESV)
Even the greatest man who ever lived up to his time (Matt. 11:11), John the Baptist, struggled with doubt. He had believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He had witnessed the testimony to His identity by the Father and the Spirit when he baptized Jesus. John had declared that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), and testified concerning His identity to the Jewish leaders (vv. 26–27). But despite his powerful witness to Jesus as the Messiah, doubts had arisen in John’s mind regarding His identity. Instead of supressing questions about Him, Jesus promises to bless our faithful inquiry of Him.
John fulfilled his mission to prepare the people for the coming of Messiah and to point Him out when He arrived. He then faded from the scene, as he himself had foreseen would happen (John 3:30). Once Jesus was introduced, the inspired gospel writers put the spotlight on Him. As this passage begins, John had been in prison for many months, perhaps as long as a year. Matthew (14:1–12) and Mark (6:14–29) give the story of his imprisonment and eventual execution by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and ruler of Galilee and Perea (Luke 3:1). John had fearlessly rebuked Herod for his illegitimate marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Mark 6:17–18). Enraged, Herodias sought to have John put to death. Herod, however, awed by John’s righteous and holy character (v. 20) and fearful of the crowds who revered him as a prophet (Matt. 14:5). According to Josephus, John was imprisoned and later executed by Herod at the fortress of Machaerus, which was at the southern border of Perea near the Dead Sea. (Josephus: Antiquities 18.5.2 [18.116–19].)
•In experiencing the blessing and joy of Christ’s coming, we must experience it uniquely for ourselves. Avoiding both the distractions and doubts, Christ calls us to see for ourselves exactly who He is. No one can answer this question for us.