If You Are the One
Luke 7:18 – 35
If You Are the One
If you are the one ...
Some here perhaps are fans of the TV show “If You Are The One”, on SBS on weekday evenings.
You might not be a fan of it, which is understandable, it is broadcast in Mandarin, after all! But it’s a Chinese reality slash game show, where one single bloke tries to impress a panel of 24 women, also single, and everyone is there in the hope that they will end up with a date at the end of the episode.
Even more reasons why perhaps you haven’t watched it!
But plenty of people do watch it! It has a weekly viewing audience as high as 50 million people, and it’s described by those who observe these things as a cultural phenomenon.
So maybe, if you’re looking for a cultural experience, flick over to SBS, 5 evenings a week and have a look!
But there’s a huge amount of interest in the show on the part of academics and sociologists, and of course, the Chinese Communist Party want to know what’s going on, but it’s seen to give significant insight into modern day Chinese culture, especially family and relationships.
The women are brutal in their assessment of the men, sprouting such gems as, “I haven’t said hello to you because I don’t think you deserve it”,
“I don’t think you’re very photogenic”,
“I don’t think you should get married because of the genes you’d pass on to your children”, etc etc etc!
But what is so important for each of the contestants, is to find out about the other person on stage, “If You Are the One.”
Are you what I’m looking for?, or should I look for someone else?
Well, that’s exactly the question that’s raised in this second part of Luke chapter 7 isn’t it?
Not, are you the one I want to go on a date with, but infinitely more significant! Are you the one who is to come?
We know from the other gospel accounts, that by this stage John the Baptist had been imprisoned by King Herod, and he’s the John who’s on view here in verse 18.
And so news all the things we’ve heard Jesus do and teach in the last couple of chapters have made their way to John. His disciples have been visiting him in prison, and, they sit down at that table opposite him, pick up the phone, and talk to him through the glass, or whatever the first century equivalent of that was.
And so it’s all got John wondering, “Is Jesus the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
See John knew, that someone else was coming after him. Back in chapter 3 he had announced to the crowds who came out to see him in the wilderness, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
And John knew that in the Old Testament, this was exactly what God had promised.
It’s spoken of in different terms;, God was going to come and be with his people,
The Messiah, or the Christ, God’s king was going come, and establish God’s kingdom, and reign over it as king.
But before God turned up, before the king came, the advance man would come.
So right at the end of the Old Testament God made this promise, Malachi 3 verse 1, it’s on your outline, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple;
God is coming! But first he’s going to send a messenger.
If you went out and watched any of the Tour Down Under in January, you’ll have seen that the cyclists don’t just ride down the road amongst all the traffic.
A few minutes before the bikes come, a whole stack of police bikes come down the road, clearing everyone out the way and getting everybody ready.
No one is going to get caught off guard when the cyclists arrive.
John the Baptist knew that he was that “getting people ready” guy. He was the messenger God was sending.
I don’t know what happened when you were born, maybe your parents put a birth announcement in the newspaper, or put a cute photo of you on Facebook, depending on what decade you were born in, but in in chapter one Luke tells us that John’s father was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in a song, which perhaps makes you pretty happy with the birth announcement in the newspaper!
But Zechariah, speaking, singing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew that John was going to have this unique role, this enormous privilege, of going before God in his arrival among his people, Luke 1:76, And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him. Luke 1:76,
So John knows that God is coming.
And he knows what, his role is. I was talking to Jon Allon at the Prayer Gathering on Wednesday. And every time I introduce Jon to someone, I tell them that he has the best job title in the world. Jon works at Monarto, and his job title is “Head of Carnivores.” It sounds like he’s the apex predator, doesn’t it?!
King of the Jungle!
Well actually someone does have a better job title than Jon, this John, John the Baptist.
His job title is “The get people ready for God, guy.”
John knows what his role is,
The question now is, “who is the one to come?”
It sounds like Jesus is the likely candidate,
Are you the one?
And so having heard what Jesus is doing, John calls two of his disciples, and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Two disciples are sent – a clue about significance
Notice we’re told that John sent 2 disciples to Jesus.
Luke doesn’t include every detail of the story, but he includes this one, so it’s probably significant.
In the Old Testament law, the testimony of one witness wasn’t enough to establish fact, you needed two.
I think the reason Luke includes this detail when he doesn’t include other details;, he doesn’t tell us where Jesus was at the time,
He doesn’t even remind us that John’s in prison, but he puts in this detail, so we already have a sense of the significance of what’s going to be discovered and discussed.
Luke’s saying to us, this is something you want to be sure about, and something that you can be sure about.
You know on the breakfast TV shows, the weather guy, or the weather girl, is always a little bit unusual?
They’ll do the weather while parachuting, or from inside a V8 Supercar at the Clipsal,
Or they’ll report on the Mount Compass Cup, the cow race in Mount Compass every January.
When there’s a serious news story, do they send that weather guy to report on it? No!
They send a serious reporter out from the studio to find out what’s going on and report on it.
Luke’s telling us, they haven’t send the weather man.
This is significant news,
You want to be sure of it,
You can be sure of it.
Is Jesus the one? (v 18 – 22)
So 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
When the men came to Jesus, verse 20, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”
It’s word for word, isn’t it? They ask the question in exactly the same words as it was said to them.
What do they say?
Repetition for emphasis!
Let me say that again! Repetition for emphasis!
Do you think Luke wants us, to grapple with this question?! ‘Are you the one who is to come
Luke is doing everything he can, using all the tools in his literary toolkit, to make sure we ask ourselves the question, “So who is Jesus?
Is he the long-promised king? Or is he someone else?”
Well, I wonder if somebody asked you, “What’s so special about Jesus?”, what you would say?
Is Jesus the one? Look at what was promised
And the answer Luke gives us, is to look at what Jesus does, and to compare that to what God had promised his people would see when his king arrived.
Luke tells us, At that very time, Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind
He’s right in the middle of it! It’s almost like he looks up from healing someone to answer the question from John.
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
It was a simple yes or no question, wasn’t it?!
But education theory tells us that if someone figures something out for themselves, they’ll know it a lot better, and they’ll understand it more deeply, than if you simply give them the answer. Is that right? One of our teachers give me a nod!
But “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard:, it’s not really saying, “give John some information, and then he can weigh it all up, And arrive at some kind of best guess,
Based on the balance of probabilities!”
No, Jesus thinks, what’s happening now, leaves only one possible answer, because of what God had promised his people previously.
These miraculous things Jesus has been doing, were exactly what God promised, would be the signs that would accompany the arrival of his king.
So 800 years or so earlier, God spoke through his prophet Isaiah, and said that when he came to be with his people, Isaiah 35 verse 5, the eyes of the blind will be opened
The very next verse, the lame will be healed,
In Isaiah 61, which Jesus reads from in Luke chapter 4
So when John the Baptist is wondering, “if you are the one”, Jesus says, look at what’s happening, and compare that to what’s been promised.
The blind receive sight,
the lame walk,
those who have leprosy are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Everything that God said would happen when his king arrived, is happening.
There’s your answer.
Are you the one, or should we expect someone else
Well, the evidence speaks for itself.
When someone asks me how do we know that Jesus is worth investigating, I tend to answer by talking about the amazing things that Jesus did, and then saying, we have really good reasons to believe the eye witness evidence about those things”;
But the fact that Jesus did these things is only part of the story, and here Luke directs us to the other part.
Why is Jesus significant?
Why should we care who he is?
How can John and his disciples know that he is the one they’ve been waiting for?
Because not only did he do amazing things, but those things were exactly what had been promised hundreds of years beforehand.
I was trying to work out if there’s any kind of example today, where we’re waiting for someone, and that if we saw particular signs, we’d know that that person had arrived.
And you know, I wondered if there might be something tied up with the great hope South Australians have for a reliable power network, and how Elon Musk might be the saviour we’ve been waiting for and all that!
But actually, there’s something that I’m sure we’re even more familiar with, because most of us, I’m sure, have been to a surprise birthday party.
Now I hate surprise parties, just so you know! Please don’t ever throw me one! But generally at a surprise party, all the guests are there first, and they have to wait really quietly, sometimes even with the lights off, until the guest of honour arrives. And then when that person arrives, the lights go on, everyone shouts “surprise”, and the party starts.
There’s never any doubt, is there, at a surprise party, “is the guest of honour here?” If you arrived late, you’d be able to tell pretty quickly, wouldn’t you, whether they’re here or not.
Just look for the signs,
Are the lights on?
Is there music?
Are people eating and drinking?
It doesn’t leave any room for doubt.
Well, that’s Jesus’ message for the disciples of John.
Make your decision about Jesus based on what you see (v 23)
And so then Jesus adds, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Perhaps Jesus didn’t really look like the kind of Messiah John expected.
Certainly there were lots of people who were anticipating a very different kind of Messiah.
And of course God’s king was supposed to be on about freedom for the captives, that was Isaiah 61, and here’s John languishing in King Herod’s prison.
You can see why John might wonder, “are you the one?” You aren’t exactly what I thought was coming
And so that little bit on the end of Jesus’ reply, is to John, and to us, “make your decision about Jesus, based on what you see, not on whatever pre-conceived ideas you have.”
Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
The idea of stumbling here is the word for setting off a trap. You know, if you touch that bit of the mouse trap where the cheese goes, you know what happens to your finger!
Well, Jesus says that can happen not just to your finger, but to all of you! Your whole being can be entrapped, you’ll find yourself tripped up, if you come to Jesus already with a picture firmly in your mind of what he should be like, and what he should be doing.
These words are warning to those of us who would say, “Well, I can’t believe in a God who’s not like this,
I’m not going to listen to Jesus, because he disagrees with me on this, that, and the other,
Jesus tells me it’s not OK to conduct my relationships like this,
Or to operate at work like that,
Or to think of myself like this,
So I’m just going to ignore him.
Jesus offers forgiveness to that person who I refuse to forgive, therefore I have no time for Jesus.
Stumble, snare, tripped up.
Don’t come to Jesus armed with your pre-conceived ideas of what he should be like.
But come to him with open eyes, and open ears.
See him, listen to him, pour out the blessings of God on people, and so find yourself among those who receive those blessings.
Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
But if you’re going to lay out conditions for your obedience to Jesus, or even conditions for faith in Jesus, “I can only believe if he looks like this,
I can only trust him if he tells me what I’ve already decided I want to hear,
I will only obey, if Jesus’ path lines up with the path I’ve already chosen for myself,
That is to miss out on this blessing.
Think of John. Think of everything we’ve seen about him in Luke, and even just in chapter 7 today.
He knew his Old Testament,
He knew God’s promises,
He knew that God was coming to his people,
He even knew that it was his job to get people ready for God when he turned up.
And look down at verse 28, among those born of women there is no one greater than John,
And yet, all of that will count for nothing, if John isn’t willing to follow Jesus as he finds him.
John would miss out on the blessings of knowing God, if he clings to “Well, I like to think of Jesus as, dot, dot, dot.”
And if it could happen to John, what reason could we possibly have, for thinking it could never happen to us.
Whatever picture of Jesus you have in your head,
Whatever you think should be his concerns,
Whatever you wish Jesus offered you, that perhaps he doesn’t, don’t let that cause you to stumble, by stopping you responding to Jesus as he really is.
Do you think Jesus should be different?
Do you think he should have done something different for you?
Do you think he should have saved you from making some mistake?,
Should he have led you into a different relationship?,
Should he have offered you healing, or healed someone you love?
At whatever point the “ideal” picture of Jesus you’ve constructed in your mind differs from the picture of Jesus presented here, then what’s in your mind is at risk of being a stumbling block that might put your outside of God’s blessings.
Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.
Notice though, that Jesus doesn’t rebuke John for asking the question.
He doesn’t send the messengers back, “tell John to figure it out for himself, with his lack of faith!”
No, it’s quite OK to wonder, “Well, who is Jesus, and why does it matter?”
If Jesus is who he says he is, then what does it mean for me?
It’s OK to feel that you don’t have all the answers to that.
And in fact Jesus uses John’s questioning, to positively endorse John’s ministry.
What makes John great? (v 24 – 27)
He asks the people “What makes John so great?
Why did you flock out in your thousands to see him?”
And Jesus runs through a bunch of things that John was not, in an attempt to distil out what John was.
Which, when you think about it, is a very Australian way of talking, isn’t it?! We answer questions not by saying what something is, but what it’s not!
How are you going?
What are you up do?
Jesus is being very Australian!
What’s so special about John? Not that he’s A reed swayed by the wind?, that is, spine-less, flip-flopping, follow the crowd!
He was imprisoned for telling the King that he shouldn’t have taken his brother’s wife!
That’s not spineless!
That’s not why you went out to see John,
Actually there is a chance that Jesus isn’t being metaphorical here at all. He might actually be asking about the reeds.
Did you go out into the wilderness to look at the plants?
And of course, the answer is no.
Well, did you go out to see A man dressed in fine clothes?
“No, you didn’t,” says Jesus.
It wasn’t his great fashion sense that made John so significant.
Verse 26, 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
What makes John significant, what makes him great as we see there in verse 28, is his message.
He was a prophet who spoke God’s word to his people,
But in fact he was unlike any other prophet who had gone before him.
He didn’t just speak God’s word, he announced God’s arrival.
Why is John more than a prophet?
Why is there, verse 28, no one greater than John?
Because John is the one who announces the arrival of God.
Flick back with me to Luke chapter 3, it’s just 3 pages back on page 1028 if you have one of those blue church Bibles, Luke 3 verse 4, here’s the prophecy from Isaiah,
A voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord;
In Isaiah’s original, the word Lord there, was God’s personal name, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, the creator of the universe. That’s who was going to turn up.
John is great, not because of anything particular about him, but because of where he stands in God’s plan of salvation; as the one who announces God’s coming.
I remember watching on the news, American soldiers at the Baghdad Airport celebrating Thanksgiving. They’d all gathered to hear the US Civilian Administrator Paul Bremer read a thanksgiving message from President Bush.
But as he starts reading this message from the president, the sort of thing he’s done numerous times before, Bremer turns around, and asks, "Let's see if we've got anybody more senior here who can read the president's Thanksgiving speech”, and out comes the President himself, to the rapturous applause of the troops!
Why is Paul Bremer going to remember that day as special amongst all the other days when he also brought messages from the president, and spoke on behalf of the president?
On thanksgiving 2003, he didn’t just bring the president’s message, he introduced the president himself.
That’s John, and that’s the reason for the quote from Malachi chapter 3 in verse 27,
‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Which makes you think, if John were here today, what would he say to us?
I’d think he’d say, “Are you listening to me?!”
“I told you God was going to come,
I told you you had to get ready?
I even asked the question that maybe you were too scared to ask; “tell me Jesus, are you the one?”
Wouldn’t John grab us by the shoulders and ask, “What possible reason could we have for not listening to Jesus?,
For not turning to God when he arrived?”
John could rightly say, “What more could I possibly have done to make it clear?”
It’s better to be the least in God’s kingdom than a world famous prophet (v 28)
Because as great as John is,
As significant as his ministry was, there is one greater, and I don’t mean Jesus.
Jesus speaks of someone greater than John. In fact Jesus speaks of anyone being greater than John.
Verse 28, the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.
But Jesus says it’s better to be the most lowly person in the kingdom of God, than a world famous prophet.
And isn’t that us? We tend not to imagine we’re God’s gift to the world!
We think that we’re either pretty ordinary Christians, or that if we became a Christian, we’d be an ordinary one, not a spectacular one.
It’s better to be a Christian no one’s ever heard of, than the guy who got to announce the arrival of God among his people!?
It doesn’t kind of compute for us,
But of course, even the least in the kingdom of God, gets to receive all the benefits of the kingdom.
Even the lowliest, least impressive follower of Jesus, born in Totness, we picked on them last week, didn’t we?! The most ordinary every day follower of Jesus, receives all the blessings of the Kingdom of God;
Forgiveness, through Jesus’ death in our place,
Relationship with God,
God’s own Spirit dwelling within us always.
All the blessings of the kingdom, if only you respond as we find him here.
That game show, “If you are the one” has generated a number of culturally significant moments, generally that the Chinese government frown upon, but that a hundred million Chinese people talk about, and share online, and repeat!
On one occasion, the male suitor, told one of the female contestants who he was trying to impress, that he didn’t own a car, but that he had a bicycle, and he asked if she would be willing to go out with him on his bicycle.
And this young woman replied, “I would rather cry in a BMW, than laugh on a bicycle.”
I think that’s what’s referred to as a “burn”! Well, her words entered Chinese popular culture, and that phrase even has its own Wikipedia article.
“I would rather cry in a BMW, than laugh on a bicycle.”
It’s just a picture of how much better she thinks one is than the other, isn’t it?
It’s the same as what Jesus is saying. Almost!
It’s better to be in the kingdom of God, and seemingly have nothing else going for you, than to be the greatest person alive.
It’s better to be in relationship with Jesus, even if that costs you all your other relationships, than to be the centre of everyone’s attention.
It’s better to be sure that your sins are forgiven, than to live the kind of life where you never worry about whether you’ve ever hurt anybody else.
It’s better to know that you can stand before God with a clear conscience, than to spend your life trying to be good enough,
It’s better to have the blessings of God’s kingdom, than anything this world can offer you.
Do you think that’s true?
Are you convinced, that being a citizen of God’s kingdom,
That living under the rule of God’s king, is better than anything else?
And if you are convinced of it, would someone else realise that you’re convinced of it, by looking at how you live?
Don’t reject God’s purposes (v 29 – 35)
Do you hear what Jesus is saying to you today?
Being his follower is the greatest thing you could possibly be.
Don’t miss out on that.
And the way to not miss out on that, is by listening to John’s message of the kingdom.
We might stand in a wonderfully more privileged position in salvation history than John did, living as we do after the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, but we get into that position, through listening to and believing what John says;, His claim that he is just the messenger, and that after him comes God’s chosen king.
See it is possible, to hear John’s message, but for it not to translate,
For it to not lead to the benefits of being in the Kingdom of God.
Do you see verse 29, 29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
These Pharisees, these experts in the law, people who had more opportunity that most, they missed out on what God was doing, they missed out on the blessings of God’s kingdom, why, because they had not been baptized by John.
Now, of course we know that it wasn’t like John’s baptism was the religious work you needed to do in order to get into heaven, like Buddhism’s 8-fold path, or the 5 pillars of Islam or something,
The point is, these religious leader rejected John’s baptism, because the rejected John’s message. And so they missed out on the blessings of God.
They rejected God’s purpose for themselves
Would we ever be in danger, of rejecting God’s purposes, because he doesn’t act how we want him to?
I think the answer might be yes!
God doesn’t give us what we think is best for us, and so we start to doubt his goodness, or at least whether his purposes are any good for us.
Any time a prayer isn’t answered the way we hoped it would be, is a time we need to be on guard against this.
So caught up in how we think God ought to working, that maybe we’re blind to how God is working.
The danger is we become like those religious leaders, parodied in that little parable about the dance and the dirge, “if you don’t do what I want, I’m going to complain,
If you don’t play by my rules, I’ll take my bat and ball and go home!
A New Testament scholar named George Tyrell at the turn of last century, used to say that often people looking at Jesus, were like someone looking down a deep well, and the only thing they see at the bottom is a reflection of their own face!
Are you the one?
What does the evidence say?
How do we respond, to the coming of God’s king?