Scripture: Luke 7:24-30
24 When the messengers of John had gone, he began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 54:1-10
1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord.2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.
4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5 For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. 6 For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.7 For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Meditation: Why did a vast multitude of people, including many tax collectors, submit to John’s baptism of repentance? They recognized that God has given John a prophetic ministry of reconciliation with God. They received John’s prophetic message as good news of God’s gift of pardon and salvation for them. God was offering new life and restoration to all who would prepare their hearts to receive the promised Messiah and his kingdom of peace and righteousness.
The promise of full restoration and peace with God
Isaiah had prophesied 700 years before the coming of the Messiah that God would not forget his bride, the people of Israel, who endured testing and exile because of their unfaithfulness to his covenant with them (Isaiah 54:5-8). God promised to restore them because of his steadfast love and covenant of peace which he made with them. Now through the ministry of John the Baptist, we see the beginning of this restoration as John announces the coming of the promised Messiah.
John was greater than all the prophets
When Jesus began his public ministry he praised John the Baptist as one who superseded all the prophets of the Old Covenant. John was the voice of the Consoler who is coming (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:1-3). He completed the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14). What the prophets had carefully searched for and angels longed to see, now came to completion as John made the way ready for the coming of the Messiah, God’s Anointed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest person born of woman. What an amazing compliment for a righteous man who had spent most of his life praying in the wilderness before he began to publicly announce the coming of the Messiah. Why did Jesus seem to contradict his compliment of John, with the astounding statement that the least in the kingdom of God would be even greater than John the Baptist (Luke 7:28)? Jesus came to give his people and the whole world something which John the Baptist could not accomplish on his own.
The voice is John – the word is Christ
What John announced – Jesus fulfilled. John preached a baptism for repentance – turning away from sin and obeying God’s word. And he pointed his disciples to Jesus and proclaimed that he was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to set people free from slavery to sin, Satan, and death. Through his atoning death on the cross and his rising in glory on the third day, Jesus won for all who would believe in him – full pardon, reconciliation, and adoption as the beloved sons and daughters of the living God.
John announced that the Lord Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). The Lord Jesus fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit and with his purifying fire so that we may shine brightly with the radiance of his transforming love and holiness. And he gives us the courage and boldness to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to those around us. Ask the Lord Jesus to set you on fire with his transforming love and holiness.
“Lord Jesus, set my heart on fire with burning love for You and for your kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. May I always radiate you love and mercy and point others to the joy and truth of the Gospel.”
1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
12 that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Born of Woman or Born of God?, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“‘What then did you go out to see?’ Perhaps you say, ‘A prophet.’ Yes, I agree. He is a saint and a prophet. He even surpasses the dignity of a prophet. Not only did he announce before that I am coming but pointed me out close at hand, saying, ‘Behold the Lamb of God that bears the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The prophet’s voice testified of him as the one who was sent before my face to prepare the way before me (Malachi 3:1). I witness that there has not arisen among those born of women one greater than he. He that is least, in the life according to the law, in the kingdom of God is greater than he. How and in what manner is he greater? In that the blessed John, together with as many as preceded him, was born of woman, but they who have received the faith are no longer called the sons of women, but as the wise Evangelist said, ‘are born of God'” (John 1:12). (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 18)