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What did you come out to see? (Luke 7:24-26) June 1, 2014

Posted by TJ Friend in Specific Passages.
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I was thinking about a passage recently: Luke 7:24-26. I want to talk a little about this specific section, but I wanted to put the rest of the passage so that you could see it in its context (see below). I have heard a lot of sermons in my life, and there are certain passages that get preached over and over again, while others get skipped altogether. I personally have never heard anything on Luke 7:24-26, although I have at least heard pastors mention some of the Scriptures around it. I’ve heard pastors talk about verses 18-23, usually making the point that Jesus’ proof that he was the Messiah was found in the miraculous things he did.

I’ve also heard a lot about verse 28 – “…the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (speaking of John the Baptist). This is somewhat of a difficult saying, but I think he is talking about the beginning of the new covenant. John the Baptist was the final prophet before Jesus came. He preached repentance and holiness, but it wasn’t until Jesus came and ushered in the Kingdom of God that people had the opportunity to be fully and completely cleansed of their sins. All those after John who believe in Jesus are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6) and don’t have to worry about continually offering animal sacrifices to be cleansed from their sins.
All that is interesting stuff, but I want to talk about this middle passage (vv. 24-26). Jesus asks the people what they came out to see, a reed swayed by the wind, or a man dressed in fine clothes. This is actually a rhetorical question. He knows that the answer is “no”. He is trying to get them to think about why they actually came out.

By looking at the comparisons Jesus makes, we can get an idea of what he is talking about. First, the two images he gives of a reed and a man in fine clothes are most likely parallel to each other, meaning that they are talking about the same topic. The question then is, what do a reed swaying in the wind and a man in fine clothes have in common? But, whatever the answer to that question is, also has to contrast what he says later, that they came out to see a prophet.

The idea of a reed blowing, contrasts its rigidity. It is soft, flexible and flows with the wind. The idea of a man in fine clothes contrasts well with John the Baptist’s clothes, which consisted of camel’s hair and a leather belt. The idea that Jesus is conveying here is the contrast between what they were coming to see. He is contrasting the softness of a reed, or the luxury of a man in fine clothes with the roughness of John the Baptist. They weren’t there, to see something fancy, they were there to hear a prophet. The people obviously weren’t going out to the desert to see John’s clothes or to be entertained. They were there to hear the word of the Lord.

For the people who heard Jesus speak these words, they probably thought about why they came out there. They would agree that they weren’t looking to see something that would entertain them. They were there to hear what God wanted to say to them. Even though the message (check out Luke 3) was pretty harsh, it was truth. It was this message that they were seeking, not the person.

For us today, we don’t have to go out to the desert to hear God. We have His word, the Bible, readily available. We need to ask ourselves a similar question, “what am I coming to the Bible to see?”. Are we just reading the Bible to hear some cool stories? Do we have some preconceived doctrine that we are trying to find support of in the Bible? Or, are we actually coming to the Bible because we believe it is God’s word to us? Are we willing to hear what God would say to us, even if it is uncomfortable, or might make us have to change? Are we even willing to ask God to speak to us through His word, or is it just something we do because we feel we have to?

Luke 7:18-32
18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
20 When the men came to Jesus, 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?’”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “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. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

27 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
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.)
31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Reflection
As you read the Bible, I would encourage you to pray before you start. Ask God to speak what He wants to speak to you as you read. Come with expectancy. God wants to speak to you. When He does, take that message to heart. These are the words of God. If we let them, they will transform our lives.

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