“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Luke 7:19b).
Why did John the Baptist, the one who baptized Jesus and declared, “I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11b), send two of his students to inquire about the identity of Jesus? Were there murmurs from the Temple’s establishment that Jesus was a threat to their corrupt officials? Were the people gossiping and speculating anecdotal evidence of rumored miracles and teachings? Perhaps the scholars and lawyers of the day debated vigorously about the identity of Jesus. Maybe some thought He was the Messiah while others dismissed the claims, disagreeing with the evidence. Or maybe John’s students were skeptical and needed to see what they heard first hand? Who knows. It could’ve been doubts from John or others or a combination of the above with other considerations. It’s difficult to sort out motives. Questions can come from a variety of places: fear, pain, hope, curiosity, doubt, intrigue, power, love, boredom, etc. When we wonder about Jesus’s identity, we’re fundamentally asking questions about His character and purpose. And it’s the later in which I am intrigued.
“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (v. 22).
Jesus’s answer, at first, may seem perplexing. Why doesn't He directly quote the Old Testament in support of His claim as Messiah? Surely He can remember a few verses and answer with scholarly authority and rigor? Indeed, He can draw parallels with Himself and all that was foretold, beginning in Genesis, in the garden of Eden, and working through the Law, the History, the Wisdom Literature, and finally the Prophets?
Maybe John’s disciples would have disputed Jesus’s interpretation of the Old Testament. OK. At that particular moment the conversation could have derailed into quarreling with neither side satisfied. It could have caused a riff where one need not be.
Going back to verse 22, Jesus does allude to multiple passages in Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6 and 61:1-2. He’s not overly concerned with causing a riff. Dispute Him if you must but He’s telling us to see what’s heard. He answers John’s disciples and the inquiring ear, who has heard for generations that a Chosen One will appear to rescue all of humanity, to see what’s been heard. He answers the skeptic and believer, the confused and assured, the scholar and lawyer and the purveyors of late night theories, the corrupt murmurs of the Temple and Rome, the disenfranchised or the well-established, the artist or factory worker or farmer or taxi driver or cashier or CEO, and even John the Baptist himself to see what’s heard. Jesus’s purpose is Good News amidst pain and death, and it’s for everyone. Now see what’s heard. See for yourself. Jesus is the Messiah - there’s no need to look for someone else.