Oct 22, 2010

Blessed Are the Ones Who Don't Quit on Account of Jesus

John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"


When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'"


At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 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 cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
Luke 7:18-23

This is one of the strangest passages in the Gospel according to Luke.

The passage begins with the phrase, "John's disciples told him about all these things..."

So the question begs to be asked, "What things were John's disciples telling him?

  • Luke just got done telling us of how Jesus raised the widow's only son from the dead in the town of Nain. 
  • And right before that, Jesus heals the Roman centurion's son from a distance. Jesus just says the word that the centurion's servant be healed from a distance and it was so.

Here's another thing that is puzzling about this passage - After hearing about all the stuff that Jesus is doing, John sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

Why would John ask Jesus this question?
  • Of all people, John the baptist should have known who Jesus was. 
  • After all, even before John was born, when he was in his momma's tummy, the mere presence of Jesus in the belly of Mary, caused him to leap with joy. 
  • John was there when the heavens opened up as he baptized Jesus in the Jordan river. He heard God's voice affirm, "This is my Son whom I'm well pleased."
So why would John ask Jesus, his cousin, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

The final puzzling aspect of this account is the final phrase of Jesus. After telling John's disciples to report back to John all that they have seen - Jesus healing the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, and raising the dead - Jesus says, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

What is that about? Why would Jesus say that?

Why would anyone fall away on account of Jesus doing all these good and awesome things? Have you ever met anyone who said, "That's it!!! If Jesus heals another person, I'm out of here!!!" or "Jesus is just doing too many miracles!!!"

Why would anyone fall away on account of all that Jesus is doing?

It is imperative that we remember that Luke tells his readers in Luke 3:19-20, "But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison."

When John is being told all these stories of how Jesus was able to heal from a distance, how Jesus was raising the dead, of how Jesus was performing one miracle after another, John has been rotting away in jail.

For John the Baptist, this was absolutely personal. You see, what Jesus was saying to John was, "John. I am your cousin. I am the Son of God. I am the one who heals the blind. I am the one who heals the lame. I am the one who raises the dead. I am the one who can heal a man from a distance with an utterance of my word. And John, I am the one who is going to leave you in jail. And I am the one who is going to do nothing while Herod beheads you."

And remember John, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me!"

WHAT???!!!

You see, the thing that is so difficult for we American Christians who have such a hyper valuation of our individual lives to see is that God's salvific plan is bigger than individual lives. We matter to God, but not in the sense most of think. We may just be a Bonhoeffer, John the Baptist, Paul, or any one of the disciples of Jesus. None of these people ever saw the fruition of their sacrifice. 

God's will is certainly accomplished. But it just may not be in one's life time. For some, they die in prison. They are beheaded. They never see the end.

But God's will is certainly accomplished.

Our lives absolutely count. Our lives absolutely matter to God. But God never promised that all of us would see the fruition of God's salvific plan in our lifetimes. God never promised that we would not suffer harm and difficulties in this existence. What God does promise is that we all get to do our part in God's awesome plan for his created world. 

Christian...Are you okay with that?

Jesus declares, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me..."

3 comments:

Viola Larson said...

Thank you-that was extremely helpful. And we have something more than John we have the living Lord constantly with us. So we have such a blessing.

James Kim said...

Viloa, we are indeed blessed. Jesus is more than enough. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Out of all the articles/blogs commenting on this passage this one was the most helpful. If John the Baptist could question then it must be ok if there are times when I too question. "Blesses is the man/woman who does not fall away because they have heard of all My miracles, but feel like nothing is done for them in their life." We do get awfully puffed up when serving the Lord thinking we are "owed." When actually we are "paid" with eternal life.
Susan