John the Baptist asked, Are you God (Messiah), or not? Are you the coming one or not. This is too serious. I’ve got to know not only for me, but for all. Are you him? John the Baptist was doubting big time. Here’s our lesson for today. Have you ever doubted? Sure. Question: Is the presence of doubt the absence of faith? No. Faith is the willingness to believe beyond, and in spite of, all doubts. We all doubt. Faith believes anyway.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE CHAPTER 7
by Delbert Young
Are You God (Messiah), or Not? – Luke 7:18-20
Are You God (Messiah), or Not? – Luke 7:18-20
Scriptures: Luke 1:67-74; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34; John 3:30; Luke 7:18-20; Acts 17:11; Luke 7:18-19; Luke 3:19-20; Luke 3:7; Luke 3:9; Luke 3:17-18; John 6:39; John 6:40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24
We look at a very unique and applicable story today about John the Baptist and his struggle with doubt. Of all people, I would never think John the Baptist would doubt Jesus. We learn we all can and will struggle with doubt. As you recall, John was the son of Zechariah, a priest. John’s birth and ministry was massively important for without John’s coming, Jesus could not come. John’s birth was prophetic and miraculous. The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah telling him he and his barren wife Elizabeth would conceive a son in their old age and to name him John. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, minister in the spirit of Elijah, never drink alcoholic beverages or cut his hair, and would be the awaited forerunner of the Messiah. Elizabeth did conceive and, six months afterwards, Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived. John heard all his childhood what he was to do. Luke 1:63-80 is a most important passage as it shows us not only the Jews teaching about the Messiah, but John’s thinking about the Messiah. At John’s birth, we read…
Luke 1:67-74 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), SALVATION FROM OUR ENEMIES AND FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US — to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to RESCUE US FROM THE HAND OF OUR ENEMIES, and to enable us to serve him without fear
The teaching and belief was the horn of salvation – power, redeemer, Messiah would come to the Jews with “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” Messiah would deliver them from Roman occupation setting them up ruling all Gentiles. Messiah would establish a great socialistic welfare state – his government would take care of the Jews, redistribute the wealth, feed everyone, provide free medical care, etc, of course, without raising taxes. Not only was that Israel’s belief that was John’s belief.
Thirty years later, John began his unique ministry baptizing with a baptism of repentance. John was the most eccentric preacher ever. He lived in the wilderness. He dressed in a camel’s hair garments. He ate bugs and honey. Yet, as weird as he was, multitudes came. John was the ultimate hell fire and brimstone Baptist. Thousands walked his aisle to pray their sinner’s prayer of repentance and be baptized.
When Jesus began his ministry, he came to John to fulfill righteousness. That meaning John must identify the Messiah.
Luke 3:21-22 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDED ON HIM in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
John witnessed the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and heard the voice of God announce who Jesus is.
John 1:29-34 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! THIS IS THE ONE I MEANT when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but THE REASON I CAME BAPTIZING WITH WATER WAS THAT HE MIGHT BE REVEALED TO ISRAEL.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘THE MAN ON WHOM YOU SEE the Spirit come down and remain IS HE who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I HAVE SEEN AND I TESTIFY THAT THIS IS THE SON OF GOD.”
John’s entire preaching/baptism ministry was to reveal – identify -the Messiah. John was absolutely positive Jesus was the Son of God. John was told by God when John saw the Spirit come down and remain, that’s him! John saw it and testified, “This is the Son of God.”
John began to fade out as the camera focused on Jesus. John said…
John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
John was positive about Jesus. However, about a year after John witnessed the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus and John declared Jesus as the Son of God, we read an unexpected event in our Luke text.
Luke 7:18-20 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'”
John asked, “Are you God, or not? Are you the coming one or not. This is too serious. I’ve got to know not only for me, but for all. Are you him?” John the Baptist was doubting big time.
Here’s our lesson for today. Have you ever doubted? Sure. Question: Is the presence of doubt the absence of faith? No. Faith is the willingness to believe beyond, and in spite of, all doubts. We all doubt. Faith believes anyway.
Have you ever had questions about Jesus? Have you ever doubted saying “Is this thing real?” “Am I spending my time, my life, my money, and my giftings, on something that’s not real?” “Is Jesus really the Son of God?” That’s John’s question. Doubt is very valid and must be handled or doubt will handle us. Doubt is not something to be embarrassed about. John wasn’t embarrassed. Doubt is not a refusal to believe. Doubt means you don’t understand, not that you don’t believe.
I believe God brings doubt to develop our faith. Without the existence of doubt we wouldn’t need faith. How many have ever wrestled with doubt? Great! We can be honest. Most of us have wrestled. Today, we come face to face with not only John’s doubts, but our doubts. It’s okay to doubt, even Atheist doubt. We say, “Maybe there isn’t a God.” They say, “Maybe there is a God???”
Doubt’s a good thing. I know that contradicts what we’ve been told and taught, but I’ve learned to doubt. I’ll explain. Doubt will serve you well and protect you from vulnerability and believing just anything. Doubting is not the problem. The problem is allowing doubt to overwhelm us. Doubts are questions of which we haven’t searched out answers. Questions and uncertainties about God are either extremely bad and dangerous, or extremely wise and constructive. It’s according to our seeking accurate answers. John was seeking accurate answers.
Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of MORE NOBLE CHARACTER than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES every day to see if what Paul said was true.
When we are noble with our doubts and questions, we search scriptures to find accurate answers. There’s a healthy doubt that’s served me well concerning my belief. I’m not gullible. I’ve learned to doubt. We don’t trust just everyone with our money, so why trust just anyone with things concerning our salvation? Many things invite doubt. I want to talk about a few of them today.
Luke 7:18-19 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, HE SENT THEM TO THE LORD TO ASK, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
John sent two disciples to question Jesus. Why didn’t John go himself? He couldn’t. John was in prison. We read back in…
Luke 3:19-20 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
Tetrarch means governor over one-fourth. Herod was a powerful political person and a vile man. He seduced his own brother’s wife (Mat 14:3-12; Mar6:18-29), Herodias, from Philip. Making this even more bizarre, Herodias was Philip’s and Herod’s niece. Not only was it adulterous, it was incestuous. John spoke publicly of it and all the other things Herod did. Herod arrested John and placed him in prison to shut John’s mouth. So, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus.
John was in prison. That’s depressing. We have doubt when personal events bring depression. Even the most sincere servant of God has to wonder, “Is this my reward for serving God?” John had to think, “If Jesus is Messiah, couldn’t he get me out of here? I mean, I’m the one who identified him. Seems if Jesus was God the Messiah Deliverer, he would deliver me from prison – at least come visit me. I’ve done everything I was supposed to do and this is what I get – a dungeon?”
We understand when we’ve rebelled against God bad things happen like with Jonah, but when we’ve done everything he asked us to we question and doubt. In bad depressing situations, we doubt. I’ve seen the death of a loved one cause such depression that people doubted God. I’ve seen betrayal, divorce, immorality cause people great depression and they doubt God. Occupation termination will cause people depression and doubt. Unhealed sickness will cause people depression and to doubt God. People find themselves in a prison of depression. We ask, “Is Jesus real, or do I need to take a look at Buddha, or Mohammad, or stop believing in God period.” What’s the solution? Believe in spite of doubt. Get into God’s word. Search the scriptures daily for accurate answers. God’s word will give us those answers. Depression is a #1 cause of doubt and loss of faith.
Another issue that brings doubt is incorrect interpretation of scripture. This was a big problem with John.
Luke 7:18 John’s disciples told him ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS…
About all what things, the things that caused John to question and doubt – negative things. People cause us to doubt unless we know proper interpretation of scriptures. We believe people rather than believing God. John had spies – his disciples – following Jesus around (Mat 9:14; Mar 2:18). The spies told John what Jesus was preaching and doing. What John heard made John look like a fool. Jesus wasn’t doing the Messiah thing the way John interpreted scriptures and preached Messiah would do it! In fact, it was polar opposite. Jesus preached a kingdom established by mercy, love, forgiveness. John preached a kingdom established by God’s anger and wrath.
Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming WRATH?
Luke 3:9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be CUT DOWN AND THROWN INTO THE FIRE.”
Luke 3:17-18 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but HE WILL BURN UP THE CHAFF WITH UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.” And with MANY OTHER WORDS John exhorted the people and preached…
John preached Messiah would come chopping and burning, but Jesus wasn’t preaching or doing that. John thought, “Jesus doesn’t fit my theology. He’s healing people, not judging. He’s forgiving, not burning. He’s teaching compassion and loving people he should be chopping. He healed a Roman Centurion’s servant for goodness sake. I preach Gentiles will be destroyed. He’s healing them. He’s going to banquets with tax collectors (publicans) and sinners eating their nasty food and drinking their wine. I’ve never drank so much as a beer. I’ve never been defiled by their food. He’s forgiving prostitutes and vile people. He made a tax collector his disciple. He’s not being, well, religious enough. He’s telling people to forgive and love their enemies. That’s just not right! I preach ‘hellfire and brimstone’ and he’s saying, ‘Let’s go to lunch.’ That’s not what I believe. That’s not what I’ve been taught. That’s not what daddy said. Where’s the kingdom of God in that? I don’t see any fighting, no lightning bolts from heaven, no hail stones from heaven, no army, no kingdom being established, nothing. Jesus must be the wrong one. This is all wrong. Listen, I’m the Messiah expert. My specialty is the Messiah. God told me to reveal and identify him. This isn’t right. Maybe I need to find someone else who aligns with what I preach, think, believe, and given my life to do. This guy’s making me look like a fool with what he’s done and teaching.”
We’ve all experienced some of those doubt thoughts in some way. It’s the place we go when we don’t agree with the preacher. We say, “I’ll find someone else. Certainly, I’m not wrong.” Incorrect interpretation of God’s word will bring wrong expectations of God causing us to doubt.
John’s problem was he was leaving out a major aspect of the scripture’s teaching about the Messiah. Israel was so into being delivered from this ole sad weary life and killing all the sinners they skipped over the major part. That’s where Messiah would be rejected and suffer (Isa 53 – Lamb to slaughter, pierced, disfigured; Psa 22 – my God why have you forsaken me, mocked, cast lots for garments, etc) shedding his blood for our redemption. I find we do the same today. We skip over major parts of scripture we don’t like to make our doctrine work. For example, what about the “any minute” rapture? Well, aside from the fact the word “rapture” is not in our Bible, what about it? People so want delivered from this ole weary world and “sinners judged” many skip over major parts. Despite all the false, always erroneous, predictions, I agree something catastrophic will happen, but not any minute. What does the scripture say?
John 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but RAISE THEM UP AT THE LAST DAY.
John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY.”
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY.
John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will RAISE HIM UP AT THE LASTDAY.
John 11:24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the RESURRECTION AT THE LAST DAY.”
You tell me. When will the dead in Christ be raised (1Th 4:16)? Last day, right? We’ve skipped a bunch of days and stuff that must happen first, but if I were to preach that, some of you might say, “I might need to look for another preacher? That’s not my interpretation.” I’m just making a point. Don’t go off half cocked saying “Do you know what he believes!” You don’t know what I believe about the coming of the Lord because I’m not totally certain what I believe about the coming of the Lord. A deeper revelation of what I already believe is one thing, but when it’s not what I believe or preach, well, I’ll look someplace else. John was the Messiah expert just as there are “end time” experts today. John was wrong. As we will see next week, he was dead wrong. So, when doubts come to us, the solution is search out the word as did the Bereans.
We will all doubt as some point. Doubting is not the absence of faith. It’s the need for accurate answers. God wants us to become stronger by getting our answers from God’s word. God’s word will stop depression. God’s word gives validity to what we believe no matter what people, or experts say. Faith believes through the doubts because we know what God says.
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