It’s easy to understand why John was confused. When he baptized his cousin Jesus, he had been shown that this was the long-anticipated Messiah. But now John was in prison and Jesus wasn’t doing anything to win his release. Had John been mistaken? Was Jesus really who John thought he was?
John sent two of his followers to ask Jesus bluntly: “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20, NKJV).
Jesus responded by performing mighty deeds in the sight of these men: “And that very hour he cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind he gave sight” (v. 21). It was a demonstration of deeds that no human could produce without divine empowerment.
What’s interesting is what Jesus said to these men after doing the amazing miracles: “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (v. 22). The things you’ve seen, Jesus said, are compelling evidence that I am from God. The response satisfied the messengers, and they returned to tell John.
Christians today look at that episode wistfully. We can’t do things like that. There was a brief time in the earliest history of the church when miracles were commonplace, but no more. How can we show the power of God in our age?
Until recently I had overlooked the last part of Jesus’ statement. After listing various miracles he had performed, Jesus then said that “the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Why did Jesus include that “evidence” in the company of such amazing things?
Perhaps the reason is that preaching the gospel to the poor is truly evidence of the divine. It’s also an act that man continually overlooks. But our Lord didn’t overlook it.
James saw the need to warn Christians on this point. He spoke of two visitors to a worship assembly, one rich and the other poor. He observed the normal tendency to pay great attention to the wealthy while virtually ignoring the poor man. What principle was James trying to stress? “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). We don’t learn neglect of the poor from God!
Miraculous healings and raising the dead are clear evidence of divine pleasure. But so is the simple act of preaching good news to a poor person. And it’s not just the poor who need the gospel; all people do. But among all the peoples of the earth, the poor are most often neglected. Even by Christians.
Would we do the works that Jesus did while he was on earth? Then let us do what we’re able to do and show the world the power of Jesus in our lives.