Summary: John questions if Jesus is truly the Messiah. Jesus instructs John’s disciples to tell John what is happening and how the kingdom is evident.
Luke 7:18-35 “Signs of the Kingdom”
Every one of us experience watershed events in our lives. These are times when our way of thinking, our perspective on life and the path that we follow is dramatically altered. For many Christians one of these events was when they began to live in their baptismal covenant, or as some would say, “Received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.” Some have near death experiences that drastically change their lives. A watershed event for others may be when God doesn’t do what they want God to do and they give up on their faith.
In the passage of Scripture before us today, we see John the Baptist at a watershed point in his life. When we read this story of John and Jesus, we are able to learn a great deal about living in a relationship with God and what the kingdom of God is like.
If anyone should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, it should have been John. Luke has John recognizing Jesus and jumping in his mother’s womb, when they first met (Luke 1:44). John baptized Jesus and witnessed the Holy Spirit descend upon him. Still, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
John has been imprisoned by King Herod. Sitting in a cold, dank cell he begins to wonder. Also, Jesus wasn’t quite the Messiah that John thought he would be. John had preached a Messiah that would bring God’s judgment, would overthrow governments and establish God’s kingdom. Jesus was anything but that. John started to think that he had been mistaken. The fact that he was looking for God to act in a specific way blinded him to what God was actually doing.
There have been times when people have seen suffering in the world and have wondered why God hasn’t interceded and ended the suffering. What they perceive as God’s lack of action has caused them to turn away from the faith. For some of us, God hasn’t done what we have wanted God to do. It might have been healing from a sickness, getting a promotion, or any number of things. The fact that God didn’t act in the way we wanted God to act has had us question our faith.
Certainly we have experienced this at Desert Streams. We were very sure that God was moving to enable us to build a worship and community center. When that didn’t happen, we have questioned what God is doing and perhaps wondered if God is doing anything in our world. Our waiting for our land to sell as increased our questioning. Our downward trend in attendance, I think, is in part due to this struggle.
LOOKING FOR POWER
John was looking for a powerful Messiah. John wanted the kingdom of God to move in powerful ways.
The people who came out to hear John wanted to see power. They were people who usually looked to people in soft robes—people who were in authority and exercised power—to be their problem solvers.
We have been seduced by power. We have bought the argument that power will bring peace, even though increasing uses of power have not brought greater peace. Often parents have relied on power and tough love to control their children. Often then discover that they have little control and tough love is not the path toward building a stronger relationship.
Jesus rejects power. Instead of power Jesus loves. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom of power it is a kingdom of love. Lives are changed and worlds are transformed by love.
EVIDENCE OF THE KINGDOM
What John didn’t see was that the kingdom of God was being established. Love was exerting its transforming power. Lives were being made whole.
Jesus asks John’s disciples to look around and see what was happening. The blind received their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them.
God was moving in surprising ways. God was moving in ways that no one expected. Lives were being made whole and changed. The kingdom of God was being experienced on an individual level.
God is surprising us. Land is being sold and new home possibilities are being opened up. God is moving in relationships. Love is healing people and making them whole. The kingdom of God is being established.
Seeing life from a new perspective and being open to God’s surprises, we are able to carry out Jesus’ instructions. They are, “Go and tell what you have seen and heard.” In other words. Be witnesses to what God is doing.