Wednesday 20th March – Luke 7:18-23 ‘Are you the one?’

Luke 7:18-23

Back in my old job, I did a fair amount of recruitment.  It was a rewarding experience: whatever role we were recruiting for, we’d sit and interview the prospective candidates, all of whom were eager to please and make a good impression.  Most of the skill was in teasing out what wasn’t in the CV – the bits people were exaggerating or trying to hide!  At its root, though, we were asking the same question John the Baptist’s disciples were asking in today’s passage: ‘Are you the one?’

This is a strange interlude in the story, because it suggests that even John the Baptist had a moment of doubt about who Jesus really was.  Perhaps it was because, to his eyes, Jesus’ CV was starting to look a bit less like the one he thought he was preparing the way for.  Not enough brimstone!  Not enough wrath, perhaps?  (See Luke 3:7 and 3:17 for context.)

We need to remember that John was an ultra-orthodox Jew, quite possibly one of the radical Essene community.  And, for all his greatness, it seems that even John was expecting a Messiah more in the mould of popular thinking.  So, when he hears of Jesus blessing (and healing the servant of) a Roman centurion (7:1-10), and then touching a dead body (v14) – which no devout Jew would ever do – he suddenly starts to think: is this really the One?

And so, with characteristic bluntness, he sends a couple of friends to ask Jesus directly: ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’  Jesus (John’s cousin, remember) has known John all his life, so no doubt is well used to his prickly edges!  He responds with equally characteristic grace and wisdom: in effect, ‘take a look, John, at everything God is doing – the miraculous is commonplace, the prophecies are being fulfilled – who else would be doing this?’

Just to reinforce the point, Jesus deliberately finishes by quoting the passage from Isaiah 61 which announced his ministry: ‘Good news is proclaimed to the poor’ (v22, see 4:18).  What Jesus is doing is exactly what the Messiah is meant to be doing! 

So often we try to make Jesus fit what we want or expect him to be.  It’s always best to let Jesus speak for himself, to be who he really is. May God grant us all grace to see Jesus with pure unfiltered eyes, that we might again – and every day – behold his glory.  Blessed is the one who does not stumble on account of him.