John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’“ - Luke 7:20
Each year, Time magazine identifies a “Person of the Year,” usually to a mixed reaction from their readers. For instance, in the year 2000, Time chose George W. Bush, the winner of the controversial and hotly contended 2000 presidential contest. But at the end of 1999, they picked a “Person of the Century”: Albert Einstein, the great theoretical physicist whose theory of relativity changed the way we think about the world. Here again the choice did not elicit universal approval, because there was no agreement on the criteria used to make the judgment.
One day, Jesus picked his “man of the millennium.” Jesus said, “I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). He was speaking of John the Baptist. His point was not to shower accolades on John, but rather to show that “even the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is” (7:28). Jesus’ point was that, superb as John was, he lacked the basic experience of the most humble person who had discovered the reality of God’s kingdom through faith in Christ.
All this could not, however, detract from the significance of John’s stature as a man of outstanding ability and integrity. It is interesting to note, therefore, that Jesus’ comment came in the context of something in John’s life which indicated that even he had an Achilles’ heel. John had just sent a message to Jesus by way of two disciples, asking, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (7:19). John was the one who had pointed to Jesus and boldly declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). But now he was having doubts. His Achilles’ heel was showing!
Perhaps the reason for John’s doubts was to be found in his personal experience. He knew that one of the evidences of Messiah’s arrival would be that he would “proclaim that captives will be released” (Luke 4:18). But John was languishing in a prison cell—from which he was never released! Jesus’ response was that there was plenty of evidence that he was fulfilling Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy (Luke 7:22; see Isaiah 61:1,2). Jesus had referred to this prophecy at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19). But even though he specifically told John about his miracles—“the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (7:22), in keeping with John’s predicament he made no mention of the captives being released!
Jesus had no easy answers for John’s personal hardship, just enough evidence for John’s faith to be strong. But even though it wasn’t strong at that time, Jesus still thought he was the greatest! Even great men are allowed their weaknesses—including having doubts!
For Further Study: Luke 7:18-35
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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