Sunday, June 2, 2013

"The New Testament is in the Old, concealed; the Old is in the New, revealed.

A book that is highly Messianic that is recognized by both Jews and Christians is Isaiah. The Old Testament prophets often,  intertwine multiple, related events, such as when Isaiah spoke of  “God coming with vengeance” and “proclaiming liberty to the captives,”opening the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, the lame shall leap like a deer the mute tongue shout for joy (Isaiah 35:3-6)

And in Isaiah 63:4 For the DAY OF VENGEANCE was in my heart, and the year of MY REDEMPTION HAS COME.  The word "redemption" used here is the identical word used in Romans 3:24; 8:23; I Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7,14, speaking of the redemption of salvation. The language used by the prophets Isaiah closely connects the coming of the Lord with both salvation and vengeance (judgment).    Now let see how John the Baptist's believed these events would be  revealed and fulfilled during his lifetime.

Some of John the Baptist's disciples came to Jesus on his behalf to ask the question, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" (Luke 7:18)   Earlier before his imprisonment he made this bold announcement to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Who warned YOU to flee from the (wrath to come) Matthew 3:7?    "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12)

So why would John send some of his disciples asking Jesus, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Lest digs into the setting surrounding John’s question from the beginning.

Matthew 11:1-6 NIV After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 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. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

In other words, Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell John what you have seen and hard I am filling the prophecy of Isaiah 35:3-6 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.

Luke’s account repeats the question. The first time the question is spoken by John to his two disciples. The second time the question is spoken by the disciples. The wording of the two questions is the same. The question which John’s disciples asked Jesus is precisely the question John  instructed them to ask.

We will not appreciate this passage of Scripture unless we begin by understanding the seriousness of his question.   Here we have John the Baptist asking Jesus whether He is the one who was prophesied to come.  Long passed the day when John baptized Jesus.   When he himself saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus.    John here is not openly questioning God, nor does he question himself or his ministry.  John is not questioning the fact that the Messiah will come.  John questions if Jesus is the coming Messiah.  While John the Baptist was a great man, he was not perfect as all of us. This was the worst moment of John’s life. He is imprisoned and he is about to lose his life.

John’s task was to condemn Israel’s sins and to warn them of the impending judgment of God on that generation.  (Matthew 3:7-8)   The very same generation Peter warned his audience to be saved from.   Act 2:39-40 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."  

John fully grasps the prophecies of Isaiah 35:3-6 and Isaiah 63:4 thus the coming of Messiah, but when he heard about all the miracles that Jesus was doing and there was no vengeance of God that led him to begin to doubt, that Jesus might not be the Messiah.    John was already in prison by this time, and fairly soon he would face execution.  John knew his purpose had been fulfilled, and with great eagerness he handed the reins over to the One he had so faithfully proclaimed.  

 John’s ministry was finished, the crowds were gone, and John was left alone in prison with only a few disciples who came to visit him. John was hoping that Christ would reply to his question so affirmed that he would know the sacrifice of his own life would be worth it?  Thus John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another."

 So, in response to the question, Jesus instructs John's disciples to tell their jailed leader what they have seen and heard: healing, dead people raised, good news preached to the poor.   Jesus is saying those who read the Old Testament scriptures, and see what He doing will recognize Him as the One Isaiah promise.

There is another important point about John that must not be overlooked.   John had very little contact with Jesus. From what Luke tells us in his gospel, we would have to conclude that Jesus and John were virtual strangers. There was the contrast between Mary and Elizabeth, at which time John leaped in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41), but early in his life, John began to live a secluded life in the wilderness.  The only way that John recognized Jesus as the Messiah was by means of the Spirit’s descent upon Him (John 1:29-34).

The point here is that John did not have a close relationship with Jesus, which might have assured him of Jesus’ identity and of His ultimate fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, especially those Isaiah  had emphasized.   Jesus’ response to John was very simple.  He simply told John’s emissaries to tell John what they had witnessed: "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" (Luke 7:22).

In effect, Jesus is suggesting to John the solution to his problem.  He is simply telling John to do what every saint must do compare the prophecies of the Old Testament with the deeds Jesus was doing. If Jesus fulfills these prophecies, then they bear witness to the fact that He is indeed the Messiah.

 Jesus assures John that he was Israel’s Messiah to come from the knowledge that the deeds and declarations of Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies which spoke of His healing ministry and of His preaching good news to the poor and the oppressed was being fulfilled.

John was a great prophet, but John was not perfect, as our text makes clear. All humans have a weakness.    However the point is John knows Israel’s prophecy was to be fulfilled in his generation and he was not wrong on that point.   God did not want anyone to perish so he waited another 40 years, then that vengeance/judgment John predicted come upon that generation.