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19. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
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?
21. And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.
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.
23. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
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?
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.
26. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
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.
29. And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
30. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
31. And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
32. They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
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.
I want us to look at this story of a great man, a great prophet of God who found himself a prisoner and undergoing tremendous hardships as a prisoner. Not having liberty any longer to be out in the open places and preaching as he had done, he hears the news of the growing and expanding ministry of Jesus. He is troubled in his own heart and he is struggling. As we look at his story, I think there are some important lessons we can learn about people who have questions about God or about Christ or about the church. People who may criticize the work of the Lord or criticize the church and we can look at some special answers to those kinds of people from this story tonight. That’s what I want us to see as we focus our attention on this great man, John the Baptist.
We have already talked about some the great miracles that Jesus did on a personal, particular basis. So John sends two of his disciples and he said “I want you to go and talk to him and ask ‘Are you the coming one? The one who is predicted from the Holy Scriptures-the Old Testament? Are you the one that I was sent to proclaim and show the way, or should we look for another?’” We don’t know exactly what all is wrapped up in John’s question because it reveals a troubled heart and a troubled prophet. He may be a little bit concerned about the methods that Jesus is using. He may be a little concerned the fact that perhaps Jesus is not casting away the Roman government and establishing a kingdom on the earth like many of the other disciples felt about Jesus and his ministry. But out of this perplexed state of mind and troubled heart, it seems that he needs some reassurance.
Well, I want you to notice this first lesson that we ought to learn and that is this: when there are perplexing questions that reveal a troubled heart and mind about Christ or his work or his methods or whatever, Jesus has a definite answer to give. It is not in words. It is in action. It is not in speeches of explanation. It is in ministry. The Bible says in verse 21 “And in that same hour he cured many [look at the word ‘many’ how it is used so many times] of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight”. He didn’t answer a word to these men. He just turned and began to do ministry, perform miracles, bring healing, bring God’s love and grace in marvelous, miraculous works of glorious grace and power. That is the answer to anybody who would inquire about God. Or inquire about the church or have a troubled mind or troubled heart about it. The answer is not speeches and explanations. The answer is ‘do the work of God.’ Hallelujah! Allow the anointing of the Holy Spirit to come down in a marvelous way and work through us to perform the healing ministry, delivering ministry and the power of God brings upon the lives of people. Amen!
Because you can silence a troubled heart or a troubled mind, or you can silence a critic, the quickest by letting them see the power of God in demonstration. There is nothing in the world that can so explain gifts of the Spirit like the moving of the Holy Ghost. You know, I’m a teacher and I’ve taught on the gifts of the Spirit for times and times and times again, but there’s no teacher that can really teach the word just like the Holy Spirit Himself at work. You want to know how gifts of healing work? Let somebody get healed! You want to know how the gift of faith works? Let somebody stand out in faith and see the work of God done for the glory of Jesus Christ! And on it goes. The best way to understand is for the Holy Spirit Himself to begin to work and become the teacher and make known his presence and have the liberty to operate in his glorious power. Would you say Amen! What an answer!
And then, he turned to the men. And he said, “Now, look. You go back to John and you tell him what you have seen and what you have heard.” Oh, hallelujah! There is nothing in this world that will soothe a troubled soul like hearing the good news that God is at work. There’s nothing that will take away doubts and worries and perplexities like knowing that God is in the midst of his people and that he is blessing and pouring out his spirit and he has the freedom to work and do his blessed will. There are people who are discouraged all over this county. Some are disillusioned about church in general. They’ve been sickened by failures here and there, television people and whatever. But there is nothing in this world that would be more beneficial and more healing and more assuring than for the word to go out that God is in his church and the Holy Spirit is working and the anointing of God is working in the lives of his people.
I believe that people go where they can get in touch with God. I believe they go where they can hear from God. That’s our prayer that if there are questions or critics or troubled hearts, they will hear the word that Christ is here performing his work according to his word and his promises. So Jesus sent them on their way and said to tell him what they’ve seen and heard. Now this is my method. This is the way I am working, Jesus is saying. You tell them that the blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised and to the poor the gospel is preached. Oh my Lord! Those things right there will answer any critic or anybody who questions about methods or about anything in the Lord’s work when they see the results.
Later on in verse 35, Jesus will say “But wisdom is justified of all her children,” meaning the results that you get from your labor and from your ministry vindicates whatever method and whatever approach you take. Because when you see things happen and God backs it up, the vindication comes. Like one man told me during our recent revival, he said, “You know, I didn’t know what to think about that song and them jumping and twisting and all. I didn’t jump,” he said, and then tears came down his face and he said, “but my son received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” Wisdom is justified of her children. Jesus is saying to John, “You look at the results and you won’t have any more questions. You won’t have any more anxiety about my ministry and whether I am the coming One or not or whether you should look for another or not.” Amen.
So he sent the messengers on their way and we don’t have the account of how they went back and reported and how John felt and all that. We don’t have that story exactly. But then, after the messengers had gone, Jesus turned to the people – a mixed crowd, a crowd of people that were filled with all kinds of attitudes and things. And he said, “Now look, [I’m paraphrasing here and injecting a few things./FJM] He said, “If you think John the Baptist, because he sent those men, was about to lose his faith, if you think there wasn’t much to him, if you think he was unstable, if you think that he was weak, you’ve got another thought coming. Because let me tell you a little about that man!” Oh, that’s another lesson I think we need to learn tonight and that is, the Lord Jesus Christ protects, takes the part of people who are troubled in their heart. He knows how to read the heart and he does not judge from the outside. He understands that inside John’s heart there is a pure heart of faith and that heart is pumping strong and every time his heart beats it is coming forth with faith in his own mission and faith in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He said, “What did you go out there and see? Did you go out there to see some reed shaking in the wind?” Somebody unstable that could just be moved with every little wind that blew any direction? Ah, no, he said. “Did you go out there to see a real dandy kind of man dressed in soft and gorgeous apparel? No, he said. You didn’t go out to see that. You saw that old roughhewn prophet who came up out of the wilderness with his face looking like the judgment morning. And there was something about him that caused you to go and hear him and see what was taking place. He said besides folks like that that live so delicately, they occupy kings’ courts. They don’t know anything about down-to-earth kind of life like you know. And then he said, ‘What did you go out there to see? A prophet?” Yes, a prophet, but much more than a prophet. I felt like just preaching on that by itself; much more than a prophet, because that’s what John was.
He said, “This man was more than a prophet. This man and his ministry is recorded in prophecy from the Scriptures.” Now that’s a pretty good recommendation if you can tell about a person and say that person’s life and that person’s ministry and that person’s reputation has already been foretold from the sacred writings of the prophets and the Holy Scriptures. That’s not bad, is it? And then he said, “This is the one. Behold I send my messenger before thy face which shall prepare thy way before thee.” He said he’s the one.
Then he went further and he said, “I say unto you among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” I think by the time he got through telling of John, the same kind of thing happened to some of the people that used to happen when John preached and told about Christ who was to come. They got ready to get baptized. You know John came. He didn’t witness for himself. It was a kind of negative witness to himself, but it was a great positive witness to the coming One, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he said, “I’m not the Messiah. I’m not some great coming One. I’m just a voice. I’m not THE person, THE man. I’m only a voice crying in the wilderness saying ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.’” And as he preached about the coming One, people came and repented of their sins to get into the kingdom of God and they were baptized in water.
Now the tables have turned. As Jesus preaches and teaches about his fore-runner, well the response and the result was tremendously great because the Bible says in verse 29 “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, [and his method and what He was doing and the work that was being done and the message that was being preached] being baptized with the baptism of John.” It’s kind of a strange thing here. I was quite amused when I looked at this because here when John preached about Jesus, people repented and got baptized, confessing their sins. And when Christ is telling about John, people turn to God and get justified and they are baptized with the baptism of John. That’s marvelous, isn’t it?
Now, I’ve never preached about a person and got anybody converted I don’t think. We’ve preached about Jesus and people came and repented, but this is a marvelous tribute to this great prophet of God. This is part of the congregation who has seen what has happened. They have witnessed the miracles. They hear what Jesus has to say and it falls with great weight upon their hearts and their minds. But there are others who sort of outsmart themselves, Pharisees in particular, who think they know it all. They have the last word on theology wrapped up in a bag and nobody better not try to open it or change it or move it. They rejected the counsel of God and Luke says even against themselves. Being not baptized of him, not believing, not accepting, not moving in with the others who have seen the miracles and heard Jesus and what he has said and they are still untouched and they are still unmoved. That’s hard to understand, how a person can sit right next to a miracle and see the mighty hand of God at work and hear the voice of Jesus and the explanations he give and the great good news that he brings with the gospel and still be unmoved and have their hearts and minds closed to the gospel and reject it.
And then Jesus used a tremendous illustration of them. He said “…Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. He said that’s the way this generation is that’s rejecting the word of God. They are like children. We called out to you. John came with severity. John came like a funeral, probably never smiled and you wouldn’t play funeral with John. And here I have come and I’m saying that as long as the bridegroom is here well, the disciples don’t necessarily need to fast. I am come creating a whole new atmosphere of wedding. The bridegroom is here and you haven’t danced. What do you want? You want a religion that is like a funeral? You want a religion that’s like a wedding? And they are saying neither. You said John had a devil and you said of me that he comes eating and drinking and he’s a glutton and a winebibber. They are never satisfied. You cannot fix it right for some people. Not even the Lord Jesus Christ can fix it right for some folks in this world. They’ve got their mind made up. They’ve got their heart sewn up. They don’t even care to open up and let God get through to their lives. And so Jesus looks at them and says that they are playing games. They’re playing games with your life, your soul, your faith, just like children. You’re playing games.
Well, let me say to you in closing that the answers to questions and troubled hearts and critics is for the work of God to go on unhindered because the people of God pray and exercise faith and just simply do God’s work. The way to respond to those that would criticize people like John, it is alright to go to their rescue and uphold them and say ‘This is someone that God has sent.’ Because the works of God and the message of God brings people who believe and who are baptized and who are united with the church. And then those who are just playing games, we just have to deliver the message and let it rest with them and their God. Because Jesus said ‘The results of what you do vindicates and proves the way you go about it.’
I’m saying to this church tonight through this message that our greatest possible attraction can be if the works of God are done in our midst through the power of the love of Jesus Christ!
There may be somebody here tonight that has a troubled heart like John. There’s no shame in that. But oh, there is good news! Jesus’ answer will be, ‘Just let me do my work in your life.’ And then you will be satisfied.
Let us lift our heart together in prayer in closing.
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