20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
The putting of such a question by John has been a great difficulty with many. They think it inconsistent with the knowledge that John had of the true character of Christ. There does not seem any real ground for this thought, when all the facts are held in view.
John was an erring mortal man, and liable to be troubled by what he did not understand. The situation was such as had become unintelligible from his point of view; and it was therefore in the highest degree natural that he should seek to re-assure himself concerning Christ by direct enquiry.
John's messengers came to Jesus and went straight to the subject of their errand:
"John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?" (Luke vii. 20).
Jesus might have met the inquiry with a categorical answer. He might have said: "I am he; no one comes after me." But his answer was more effective than that. John's messengers standing by,
"in the same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues and evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering, said unto them. Go your way and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached" (Luke vii. 21, 22).
There was an argument of irresistible power in these words. It was the argument reflected in the admission of Nicodemus:
"No man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him" (Jno. 3:2). It was the argument of Christ's own statement to the Jews afterwards: "The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me" (Jno. v. 37).
Nazareth Revisited Ch 5
22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
To know Jesus Christ, whom God has sent, clearly involves a knowledge of the things which concern him." The mere verbal confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is very far from this. Men say they believe this and that, but on examination, it turns out that the things said to be believed are not understood. This will never do in Scriptural matters. It is required that we "know God, and that we know Jesus Christ," and nothing short of this will suffice.
...No prophet or doctor in Israel could present such a diploma as this; and to the intelligent in the prophets, the evidence that Jesus was Son of God and king of Israel, was irresistible.
But there were thousands, in whose ears the prophets were read every Sabbath day, who were not intelligent in them, and, therefore, did not recognize Jesus, the humble carpenter, to be their future king. And is it not so now? The Gentiles constantly hear the same prophets, and yet, like the Jews, they will not allow that Jesus is a king destined to reign on earth.
Can any person know Jesus Christ who is ignorant and contradictory as to his king-ship? Can a man know Jesus Christ who affirms that his body was an immaculate body, and who, therefore, denies practically his sufferings and death?
Can a man know Jesus Christ who asserts that he shall never return to this sin-cursed earth, when his reign on David's throne, rebuilt, is in the mouth of Moses, the prophets, the psalmist, the apostles, and Jesus himself, ever and anon?
Can a man know Jesus Christ who declares that believers shall fly away to heaven without their bodies, and dwell there with him eternally, when Jesus has assured his disciples that they with him shall sit on the throne in Palestine, as judges of Israel restored?
Can a man know Jesus Christ who believes in judgment at death, when Jesus says that
"at his coming he shall reward every man according to his works?
Can a man know Jesus Christ who holds with burning up the earth, or blasting it like a bombshell by the sea rushing into the subterranean fires and forming steam, when Daniel testifies that
"all people, nations, and languages shall serve him, and that his kingdom shall be under the whole heaven?"
Can a man know Jesus Christ who contends that men are being judged in this life, when Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ tells us that
"it is appointed unto men once to die, and, after this, the judgment?"-(Heb. 9:27.)
Can a man know Jesus Christ who declares him to be the son of Joseph, when angels and men testify that God was his Father?
And can a man know Jesus Christ who denies the necessity of immersion, when Jesus commanded the disciples to immerse for salvation every believer of the gospel of the kingdom?
We might ask many questions besides these; but let the reader think of them for himself. It is not a pleasant thing to say, but, taking things as they present themselves to the senses, there are very few who do know Jesus Christ; and how serious a matter this is may be judged when we remember that Jesus says
"I am the way, the truth, and the life."
If we do not know Jesus, we cannot know the truth; if ignorant of the truth, what chance is there of the life? "To know him," in other words, to know the truth concerning him
"is life eternal."
Ambassador of the Coming Age, Jan 1869
23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended [stumbled] in me.
...if the disciples had recognised the teaching of the prophets that Christ had first to be a teacher, and then a sacrificial sufferer, and then an absent priest in the Father's presence, during the period of the Father's
"hiding of his face from the house of Jacob,"
they would have felt no difficulty at seeing Jesus, after his baptism, take only the position of a quiet teacher, going about doing good, and avoiding all political aims and connections. But they lacked full knowledge, and were liable to be distressed and stumbled, till the Spirit comforted them with a full understanding of the things that belonged to Christ.
... they could not shut their eyes to plain light, though they did not understand all.
They saw the works and believed, as Jesus commanded, though not able to comprehend the programme.
They endorsed Peter's attitude when asked by Jesus if they also would go away:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
Thus it must be, and often is with ourselves, although in a different situation. We do not understand all; but we earnestly see much that cannot be doubted, and therefore we hold on to the main conclusion, enduring the unfavourable appearances there may be, in the confidence that full knowledge would dissipate all difficulties, and always remembering the words which, if applicable to John the Baptist, are specially applicable to us:
"Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended (or stumbled) in me."
Nazareth Revisited Ch 5
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
The question of what he was and who he was had been a matter of public speculation for a long time. Christ's remarks would therefore touch a chord of interest:
-- that is, an objectless movement: a something arresting attention and exciting curiosity but having no meaning?
An emphatic negative is the implied answer: John was no mere strange phenomenon, but an earnest and essential part of the work of God among men.
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.
-- a show? An effeminate dandy? -- a gaudy personal exhibition such as children would run after? No: men of that stamp are not to be found in the desert where John did his work.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 5
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
"The Majesty of Yahweh has approached."
(A more precise translation than "the kingdom of God is at hand" Mk 1:15)
In his preaching, John made this the reason why those who heard him should "repent."-"Repent ye;" said he,
"because His Divine Majesty is in the midst of you; and about to be revealed through my baptism."
This was a very cogent and intelligible reason why they should prepare themselves by righteousness. The King of Israel, who was then about speedily to appear from the water of the Jordan, was a king who would "fulfil all righteousness;" it was therefore fitting that at his manifestation he should find a people having the knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins, whom he could recognize as his associates.
This people he found in John's disciples, from whom he selected his apostles; because, unlike the Pharisees and Lawyers, they honoured God in yielding obedience to the proclamation of John.-Luke 7:29, 30.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Feb 1856
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
"They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for the Olahm and Beyond" (Dan. xii. 3).
Here is a marked difference, the generality of the saved being as "the brightness of the firmament;" but those who have distinguished themselves in the service of the truth, stand out from the diffused brightness as brilliant particular stars.
But one star differs from another in glory in the celestial arch; so will it be in the New Heavens of the Olahm and Beyond. There are places on the right hand and on the left in the glory "for whom it is prepared;" and there is a place for the Sun of Righteousness; and for the Twelve on the tribal thrones of the kingdom; and many situations in the royal house for the saved in general."They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for the Olahm and Beyond" (Dan. xii. 3).
Here is a marked difference, the generality of the saved being as "the brightness of the firmament;" but those who have distinguished themselves in the service of the truth, stand out from the diffused brightness as brilliant particular stars. But one star differs from another in glory in the celestial arch; so will it be in the New Heavens of the Olahm and Beyond. There are places on the right hand and on the left in the glory "for whom it is prepared;" and there is a place for the Sun of Righteousness; and for the Twelve on the tribal thrones of the kingdom; and many situations in the royal house for the saved in general.
A place for every one, and for every one a place; but each for the place as appointed. The apostles will certainly shine as a bright constellation, which can be constituted of no other stars than themselves -- a constellation of twelve bright orbs, each one upon a throne of Israel -- the thrones of the house of David. Yet is the least in the kingdom of the heavens greater than the greatest of all the prophets unglorified; so that while there is greatness for all, there will exist the least among the great.
"The Reward," in relation to its several elements, is exhibited apocalyptically under a diversity of symbols...To be strengthened with incorruptible life in the time of the dead, is "to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of the Deity" (ii. 7). To be an immortal king, is to receive "the crown of life" (ver. 10).
To be approved, and acquitted of all guile and fault before the throne, and to be physically like Jesus Christ, is to eat of the hidden manna, to receive a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, and known only to the receiver (ver. 17). To operate with the Lamb in the setting up of the promised kingdom, is to receive power over the nations, to rule them with a rod of iron, and to shiver their image to pieces as a potter's vessel (ver. 26,27).
To be endued with a clean and incorruptible nature, and to be divinely honored, is to be clothed in white raiment, and to be confessed before the Father and his angels (iii. 5). To become Deity manifested in glorified nature, and a constituent of the New Jerusalem, is to be made a permanent pillar in the Nave or Most Holy of Deity, with the Name of Deity, and the name of the city of Deity, the new name written upon him (ver. 12).
And to reign with Christ, is to sit with him in his throne (ver. 21). Such is "the reward to be given to the prophets, to the saints, to them that venerate the Name of Deity, small and great;" so that, "even the least in the kingdom of the heavens," though a star of the smallest magnitude and glory, will be greater than the greatest of all the prophets in the mortal state.
Eureka 11.3.The Third Woe 2.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
We are apt, in our fancy, as we read the story of Jesus, to envision a quiet, majestic figure slowly traveling about Judea and Galilee with respectful throngs following him, a person at least of general respect, if not of wholehearted general approval. But this is not the true picture. Multitudes thronged him, truly. But they were not the 'respectable' people.
The respectable people, unless they were of exceptional courage, came secretly at night, like Nicodemus, if they came at all. The respectable people whispered, as they viewed his simple followers-
"Behold a glutton and a winebibber: a friend of publicans and sinners!" (Luke 7:34).
The "respectable" were afraid to be associated with him, for-
"The Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue."
And because the man who was born blind confessed him, they did cast him out. The respectable people could say, with triumphant contempt (John 7:48-49)-
"Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on him? but this people who knoweth not the Law are accursed."
And it is further recorded (John 12:42),
"Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
It is clear that to confess him meant ostracism from respectable society. As Isaiah tells us (55:3), he was not only rejected, but despised-
"A reproach of men, and despised of the people" (Psa. 22:60). "Him whom man despiseth, him whom the nation abhorreth."
He, no less than Paul (1 Cor. 4:12-13), was-
"Reviled, defamed, made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things."
And those that followed him were told to expect the same-
"If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?"
"Blessed are ye when men shall revile you for my sake."
"WOE unto you when all men shall speak well of you!"Bro Growcott - If I may but touch him
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
The bearing of this is best seen in connection with the circumstance calling it forth. Jesus had accepted a Pharisee's invitation to dine. In the house, while reclining Oriental fashion at a table, a woman of blemished character approached Jesus from behind, and began to kiss his feet and wipe them with the hair of her head, and anoint them with precious ointment. The Pharisee, who knew the character of the woman, watched the proceeding with some considerable contemplations. He was undecided in his mind as to the true character of Christ.
He had evidently asked him to dine for the purpose of getting a closer view of him than he could get out of doors or in the synagogue, and this incident of the woman taking such liberties with him unrebuked, exercised him unfavourably. The argument going on in his mind was, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him." The parable was Christ's way of meeting this argument, for he not only knew who and what manner of woman the woman was, but he knew what was passing in the Pharisee's mind, though the Pharisee was not aware of it.
Christ's application of the parable was that the very character of the woman was the explanation of her affectionate attention -- so different from the Pharisee's cold courtesy. Her greater love was the result of the forgiveness of her many sins. "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." On reflection, it will be found that this principle goes beyond the individual case that called forth its enunciation.
It supplies the key to the plan on which God is guiding the earth to its everlasting place in the universe. That plan is the permission and the cure of evil, with reference to the supremacy of His declared will in the minds and actions of men. It is a distressing process while it lasts: as Paul testifies, and we all know from experience:
"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." But enlightened intelligence is enabled to endure it in view of the other testified fact, that the affliction is "working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." But for the evil, the good never could have been appreciated as it requires to be -- in humility and gladness.
The prevalence of sin provides the occasion also for forgiveness of sin; and forgiven sin opens the way for love and joy. The multitude of God's glorified children could never have sung the thrilling strains of the gladsome song heard in vision by John in Patmos, if there had not first been a population requiring to be washed from their sins by the blood of the Lamb. It required the reign of sin, misery and death to prepare the way for that glorious song, and all the unutterable glories it represents in detail:
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wisdom, and riches and honour, and glory and blessing.... Thou hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue and people and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth."