The forerunner for the Messiah was in prison, punished for presuming to speak truth to power. Though John had pointed others to Jesus, he still had followers. These disciples reported to John all that Jesus had been doing (Luke 7:18), most notably raising a widow’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17).
When John hears of these wondrous miracles, he is dismayed. He sends two disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19). Perhaps John is discouraged because Jesus is doing these wonderful things and John is confined. Perhaps John was anticipating the Messiah’s work to be quickly accomplished.
Remember, this is the one who announced with such conviction, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). It is he who received confirmation from the Father that Jesus is “the Son of God” (John 1:34). John is no stranger to the nature of the one called Jesus. But prison and possible death likely has a way of causing a person to need reassurance.
The Lord answers the disciples gently, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard” (Luke 7:22). Then Jesus draws upon prophecy from various places in Isaiah. The coming of the Messiah would bring with it the healing of the deaf and blind (Isaiah 35:5), the raising of the dead (Isaiah 25:8, 9), and the proclamation of the good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1).
The coming of the Messiah also heralded a new age when the Way of Holiness shall be opened, whereupon the redeemed walk and the ransomed of the LORD come to Zion (Isaiah 35:8-10). The year of the LORD’s favor was announced by these miracles, but it included so much more.
Yet those blessings are only for those who are not offended by Jesus (Luke 7:24). Jesus is both the cornerstone and the rock of stumbling. His appearing brings about the ultimate in choice. John needed to be reassured that Jesus was everything the prophet declared him to be. Jesus wanted John to see that the blessings were more than temporal.
John was no Caspar Milquetoast, he came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17)! He had the task of smoothing roads and turning hearts. He lived off the land (Matthew 3:4), and was not swayed by power or position (Matthew 3:7).
John was a prophet, but he was also the subject of prophesy. In Malachi 3:1, John is the first “messenger,” whose purpose was to “prepare the way” for God in the flesh. In Malachi 4:5, John is “Elijah the prophet” who heralded the great and awesome day of the LORD. His groundwork included turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:6).
By virtue of the greatness of John’s prophesied position, his faithfulness to his function, and his humility as a herald, Jesus declared, “among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Consider how lofty a tribute this is. This is the Creator of all flesh, the One who knows the hearts of all men (John 2:24; Acts 1:24).
Yet, even the least in the kingdom is greater than John. We have greater knowledge (Luke 10:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), greater blessings (Ephesians 1:3-14), greater access (Hebrews 4:14-16), greater hope (Hebrews 6:19, 20), and a greater covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13).
One can certainly be shaken in their faith. John’s need for reassurance did not cause the Redeemer to rebuke him. Rather, after a reminder to John’s disciples, Jesus praised the great man.
Considering that we live in the culmination of all things, with greater knowledge, blessings, access, and hope in our greater covenant, how much stronger should our faith be?
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
If we are in the kingdom, we are greater than John. Always remember, our greatness is not due to the quality of our lives, but the quality of him who died and lives forevermore.