Luke 7:18
And the disciples of John showed him of all these things.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18-23) And the disciples of John shewed him.—See Notes on Matthew 11:2-6. The fact, mentioned by St. Luke only, that the “disciples of John” reported these things, suggests some interesting coincidences: (1) It implies that they had been present at our Lord’s miracles, and had heard His teaching, and we have seen them as present in Matthew 9:14, Mark 2:18. (2) It shows that though John was in prison, his disciples were allowed free access to him. (3) The fulness of St. Luke’s narrative in Luke 7:21 suggests the thought that St. Luke may have heard what he records from one of those disciples, possibly from Manaen (see Introduction, and Note on Luke 6:1) the foster-brother of the Tetrarch.

Luke

JOHN’S DOUBTS AND CHRIST’S PRAISE

Luke 7:18 - Luke 7:28
.

We take three stages in this passage-the pathetic message from the prisoner, Christ’s double answer to it, and His grand eulogium on John.

I. The message from the prisoner.

Had mists of doubt crept over John’s clear conviction that Jesus was the Messiah? Some have thought it incredible that the man who had seen the descending dove, and heard the voice proclaiming ‘This is My beloved Son,’ should ever have wavered. But surely our own experience of the effect of circumstances and moods on our firmest beliefs gives us parallels to John’s doubts. A prison would be especially depressing to the desert-loving Baptist; compelled inaction would fret his spirit; he would be tempted to think that, if Jesus were indeed the Bridegroom, he might have spared a thought for the friend of the Bridegroom languishing in Machaerus. Above all, the kind of works that Jesus was doing did not fill the rôle of the Messiah as he had conceived it. Where were the winnowing fan, the axe laid to the roots of the trees, the consuming fire? This gentle friend of publicans and sinners was not what he had expected the One mightier than himself to be.

Probably his disciples went farther in doubting than he did, but his message was the expression of his own hesitations, as is suggested by the answer being directed to him, not to the disciples. It may have also been meant to stir Jesus, if He were indeed Messiah, to ‘take to Himself His great power.’ But the most natural explanation of it is that John’s faith was wavering. The tempest made the good ship stagger. But reeling faith stretched out a hand to Jesus, and sought to steady itself thereby. We shall not come to much harm if we carry our doubts as to Him to be cleared by Himself. John’s gloomy prison thoughts may teach us how much our faith may be affected by externals and by changing tempers of mind, and how lenient, therefore, should be our judgments of many whose trust may falter when a strain comes. It may also teach us not to write bitter things against ourselves because of the ups and downs of our religious experience, but yet to seek to resist the impression that circumstances make on it, and to aim at keeping up an equable temperature, both in the summer of prosperity and the winter of sorrow.

II. The twofold answer.

Its first part was a repetition of the same kind of miracles, the news of which had evoked John’s message; and its second part was simply the command to report these, with one additional fact-that good tidings were preached to the poor. That seemed an unsatisfactory reply, but it meant just this-to send John back to think over these deeds of gracious pity and love as well as of power, and to ask himself whether they were not the fit signs of the Messiah. It is to be noted that the words which Christ bids the disciples speak to their master would recall the prophecies in Isaiah 35:5 and Isaiah 61:1, and so would set John to revise his ideas of what prophecy had painted Messiah as being. The deepest meaning of the answer is that love, pity, healing, are the true signs, not judicial, retributive, destructive energy. John wanted the lightning; Christ told him that the silent sunshine exerts energy, to which the fiercest flash is weak. We need the lesson, for we are tempted to exalt force above love, if not in our thoughts of God, yet in looking at and dealing with men; and we are slow to apprehend the teaching of Bethlehem and Calvary, that the divinest thing in God, and the strongest power among men, is gentle, pitying, self-sacrificing love. Rebuke could not be softer than that which was sent to John in the form of a benediction. To take offence at Jesus, either because He is not what we expect Him to be, or for any other reason, is to shut oneself out from the sum of blessings which to accept Him brings with it.

III. Christ’s eulogium on John.

How lovingly it was timed! The people had heard John’s message and its answer, and might expect some disparaging remarks about his vacillation. But Jesus chooses that very time to lavish unstinted praise on him. That is praise indeed. The remembrance of the Jordan banks, where John had baptized, shapes the first question. The streams of people would not have poured out there to look at the tall reeds swaying in the breeze, nor to listen to a man who was like them. He who would rouse and guide others must have a firm will, and not be moved by any blast that blows. Men will rally round one who has a mind of his own and bravely speaks it, and who has a will of his own, and will not be warped out of his path. The undaunted boldness of John, of whom, as of John Knox, it might be said that ‘he never feared the face of man,’ was part of the secret of his power. His imprisonment witnessed to it. He was no reed shaken by the wind, but like another prophet, was made ‘an iron pillar, and brazen walls’ to the whole house of Israel. But he had more than strength of character, he had noble disregard for worldly ease. Not silken robes, like courtiers’, but a girdle of camels’ hair, not delicate food, but locusts and wild honey, were his. And that was another part of his power, as it must be, in one shape or other, of all who rouse men’s consciences, and wake up generations rotting away in self-indulgence. John’s fiery words would have had no effect if they had not poured hot from a life that despised luxury and soft ease. If a man is once suspected of having his heart set on material good, his usefulness as a Christian teacher is weakened, if not destroyed. But even these are not all, for Jesus goes on to attest that John was a prophet, and something even more; namely, the forerunner of the Messiah. As, in a royal progress, the nearer the king’s chariot the higher the rank, and they who ride just in front of him are the chiefest, so John’s proximity in order of time to Jesus distinguished him above those who had heralded him long ages ago. It is always true that, the closer we are to Him, the more truly great we are. The highest dignity is to be His messenger. We must not lose sight of the exalted place which Jesus by implication claims for Himself by such a thought, as well as by the quotation from Malachi, and by the alteration in it of the original ‘My’ and ‘Me’ to ‘Thy’ and ‘Thee.’ He does not mean that John was the greatest man that ever lived, as the world counts greatness, but that in the one respect of relation to Him, and consequent nearness to the kingdom, he surpassed all.

The scale employed to determine greatness in this saying is position in regard to the kingdom, and while John is highest of those who {historically} were without it, because {historically} he was nearest to it, the least in it is greater than the greatest without. The spiritual standing of John and the devout men before him is not in question; it is their position towards the manifestation of the kingdom in time that is in view. We rejoice to believe that John and many a saint from early days were subjects of the King, and have been ‘saved into His everlasting kingdom.’ But Jesus would have us think greatly of the privilege of living in the light of His coming, and of being permitted by faith to enter His kingdom. The lowliest believer knows more, and possesses a fuller life born of the Spirit, than the greatest born of woman, who has not received that new birth from above.Luke 7:18. And the disciples of John showed him these things — All this while John the Baptist was in prison; Herod having confined him for the freedom which he took in reproving his adulterous commerce with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. But his confinement was not of the closest kind, for his disciples had access to him frequently. In one of those visits they gave him an account of the election of the twelve apostles to preach the gospel, and of Christ’s miracles, particularly that he had lately raised from the dead Jairus’s daughter and the widow of Nain’s son; as is plain from what Luke says in the following verses, who brings in the history of John’s message immediately after these miracles.7:11-18 When the Lord saw the poor widow following her son to the grave, he had compassion on her. See Christ's power over death itself. The gospel call to all people, to young people particularly, is, Arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light and life. When Christ put life into him, it appeared by the youth's sitting up. Have we grace from Christ? Let us show it. He began to speak: whenever Christ gives us spiritual life, he opens the lips in prayer and praise. When dead souls are raised to spiritual life, by Divine power going with the gospel, we must glorify God, and look upon it as a gracious visit to his people. Let us seek for such an interest in our compassionate Saviour, that we may look forward with joy to the time when the Redeemer's voice shall call forth all that are in their graves. May we be called to the resurrection of life, not to that of damnation.Came a fear on all - An "awe" or solemnity at the presence of one who had power to raise the dead, and at the miracle which had been performed.

Glorified God - Praised or honored God that he had sent such a prophet.

And, That God hath visited his people - Some said one thing and some another, but all expressing their belief that God had showed special favor to the people.

Hath visited - See Luke 1:68.

The raising of this young man was one of the most decisive and instructive of our Lord's miracles. There was no doubt that he was dead. There could be no delusion, and no agreement to impose on the people. He came near to the city with no reference to this young man; he met the funeral procession, as it were, by accident, and by a word he restored him to life. All those who had the best opportunity of judging - the mother, the friends - believed him to be dead, and were about to bury him. The evidence that he came to life was decisive. He sat up, he spoke, and "all" were impressed with the full assurance that God had raised him to life. Many witnesses were present, and none doubted that Jesus "by a word" had restored him to his weeping mother.

The whole scene was affecting. Here was a widowed mother who was following her only son, her stay and hope, to the grave. He was carried along - one in the prime of life and the only comfort of his parent - impressive proof that the young, the useful, the vigorous, and the lovely may die. Jesus met them, apparently a stranger. He approached the procession as if he had something important to say; he touched the bier and the procession stood still. He was full of compassion for the weeping parent, and by a word restored the youth, stretched upon the bier, to life. He sat up, and spoke. Jesus therefore had power over the dead. He also has power to raise sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to life. He can speak the word, and, though in their death of sin they are borne along toward ruin, he can open their eyes, and raise them up, and restore them revived to real life or to their friends. Often he raises up children in this manner, and gives them, converted to God, to their friends, imparting as real joy as he gave to the widow of Nain by raising her son from the dead, And every child should remember, if he has pious parents, that there is "no way" in which he can give so much joy to them as by embracing Him who is the resurrection and the life, and resolving to live to his glory.

Lu 7:18-35. The Baptist's Message the Reply, and Consequent Discourse.

(See on [1592]Mt 11:2-14.)

Ver. 18-23. See Poole on "Matthew 11:2", and following verses to Matthew 11:6. And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. The miracles that were wrought by Christ; particularly the healing of the centurion's servant, and the raising from the dead the widow of Naim's son, and what fame and reputation Christ got every where by his doctrine, and mighty works. John was now in prison, when these his disciples came and related these things to him; see Matthew 11:2 and they spoke of them, not as commending Christ for them; but as envying, grieving, and complaining, that he carried away all the honour and glory from John their master, for whom they had the greatest regard. {3} And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

(3) John sends from the prison his unbelieving disciples to be confirmed by Christ himself.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 7:18-35. See on Matthew 11:2-19. Matthew has for reasons of his own given this history a different and less accurate position, but he has related it more fully, not omitting just at the beginning, as Luke does, the mention of the Baptist’s imprisonment. Luke follows another source.

περὶ πάντων τούτων] such as the healing of the servant and the raising of the young man.[107]

Luke 7:21. Luke also, the physician, here and elsewhere (comp. Luke 6:17 f., Luke 5:39) distinguishes between the naturally sick people and demoniacs. Besides, the whole narrative passage, Luke 7:20-21, is an addition by Luke in his character of historian.

καὶ τυφλ.] and especially, etc.

ἐχαρίσατο] “magnificum verbum,” Bengel. Luke 7:25. τρυφή] not to be referred to clothing, but to be taken generally, luxury.

Luke 7:27. Malachi 3:1 is here, as in Matt. and in Mark 1:2, quoted in a similarly peculiar form, which differs from the LXX. The citation in this form had already become sanctioned by usage.

Luke 7:28. προφήτης] The reflectiveness of a later period is manifest in the insertion of this word. Matthew is original.

Luke 7:29-30 do not contain an historical notice introduced by Luke by way of comment (Paulus, Bornemann, Schleiermacher, Lachmann, Köstlin, Hilgenfeld, Bleek, following older commentators), for his manner elsewhere is opposed to this view, and the spuriousness of εἶπε δὲ ὁ κύριος, Luke 7:31 (in Elz.), is decisive; but the words are spoken by Jesus, who alleges the differing! result which the advent of this greatest of the prophets had produced among the people and among the hierarchs. In respect of this, it is to be conceded that the words in their relation to the power, freshness, and rhetorical vividness of what has gone before bear a more historical stamp, and hence might reasonably be regarded as a later interpolation of tradition (Weisse, II. p. 109, makes them an echo of Matthew 21:31 f.; comp. de Wette, Holtzmann, and Weiss); Ewald derives them from the Logia, where, however, their original place was, according to him, after Luke 7:27.

ἐδικαίωσαν τ. Θεόν] they justified God, i.e. they declared by their act that His will to adopt the baptism of John was right.

βαπτισθ. is contemporaneous.

τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ] namely, to become prepared by the baptism of repentance for the approaching kingdom of Messiah. This counsel of God’s will (βουλή, comp. on Ephesians 1:11) they annulled (ἠθέτ.), they abolished, since they frustrated its realization through their disobedience. Beza says pertinently: “Abrogarunt, nempe quod ad ipsius rei exitum attinet, quo evasit ipsis exitii instrumentum id, quod eos ad resipiscentiam et salutem vocabat.”

εἰς ἑαυτούς] with respect to themselves, a closer limitation of the reference of ἠθέτησαν.[108] Bornemann (comp. Castalio): “quantum ab ipsis pendebat” (“alios enim passi sunt,” etc.). This would be τὸ εἰς ἑαυτούς (Soph. Oed. R. 706; Eur. Iph. T. 697, and elsewhere).

Luke 7:31. τοὺς ἀνθρ. τ. γεν. τ.] is related not remotely to Luke 7:29 (Holtzmann), but Jesus means to have the general designation applied (see also Luke 7:34) to the hierarchs, Luke 7:30, not to πᾶς ὁ λαός. Comp. Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4.

εἰσὶν ὁμ.] εἰσίν has the emphasis.

Luke 7:33. As to the form ἔσθων, as we must write with Tischendorf [Tisch. 8 has ἐσθίων], comp. on Mark 1:6. The limitations ἄρτον and οἶνον, which are not found in Matthew, betray themselves to be additions of a later tradition, the former being an echo of Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.

Luke 7:35. See on Matthew 11:19, and observe the appropriate reference of the expression ἐδικαιώθη κ.τ.λ. to ἐδικαιώσαν τ. Θεόν, Luke 7:29. Even Theophylact, who is mistaken in his interpretation of Matt. l.c., expresses in this place the substantially correct view that the divine wisdom which revealed itself in Jesus and the Baptist received its practical justification in the conduct of their followers.[109] Bornemann considers these words as a continuation of the antagonistic saying ἰδούἁμαρτωλῶν, and, indeed, as bitterly ironical: “Et (dicitis): probari, spectari solet sapientia, quae Johannis et Christi propria est, in filiis ejus omnibus, i.e. in fructibus ejus omnibus.” It is against this view that, apart from the taking of the aorist in the sense of habitual action (see on Matt. l.c.), τέκνα τῆς σοφίας can denote only persons; that, according to the parallelism with Luke 7:33, the antagonistic judgment does not go further than ἁμαρτωλῶν; and that Jesus would scarcely break off his discourse with the quotation of an antagonistic sarcasm instead of delivering with His own judgment a final decision in reference to the contradictory phenomena in question.

ΠΆΝΤΩΝ] added at the end for emphasis, not by mistake (Holtzmann, Weiss), serves to confirm what is consolatory in the experience declared by ἘΔΙΚΑΙΏΘΗ Κ.Τ.Λ.

[107]
Luke also thus makes the sending of John’s disciples to be occasioned by the works, the doings of Jesus, as Matthew (ἔργα). This in opposition to Wieseler (in the Gött. Vierteljahrsschr. 1845, p. 197 ff.).

[108] Bengel justly observes: “nam ipsum Dei consilium non potuere tollere.”

[109] Comp. Pressel, Philolog. Miscellen üb. d. Evang. Matth. (Schulprogramm), Ulm 1865, p. 3 f., who nevertheless takes ἀπό in the sense of in (Matthew 7:16 and elsewhere), without essential difference of meaning.Luke 7:18-35. The Baptist’s message (Matthew 11:2-19).[18. Καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν, and the disciples of John announced) viz. when the works of Christ, then raising the dead, had reached their climax. Comp. John 5:21.—V. g.]Verses 18-35. - John the Baptist sends messengers to ask a question of Jesus. The reply of the Master. Verse 18. - And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. St. Luke, unlike St. Matthew, in the corresponding passage in his Gospel, does not specially mention that John was in prison; he evidently took it for granted that this would be known to his readers from the account of the Baptist's arrest and imprisonment by Herod Antipas given in ch. 3:19, 20. In the course of John's imprisonment, it is probable that very many of his disciples became hearers of Jesus. During the early period, at all events, of the Baptist's captivity it is clear that his friends and disciples had free access to his prison. There is no doubt but that, in reply to the anxious inquiries of John, his disciples told him of all the miracles they had witnessed, and the words they had heard, especially, no doubt, recounting to him much of the sermon on the mount which Jesus had lately delivered as the exposition of his doctrine. We can well imagine these faithful but impatient disciples, after detailing these marvels which they had seen, and the strange new words of winning power which they had heard, saying to their imprisoned master, "We have seen and heard these wondrous things, but the great Teacher gets no further; we hear nothing of the standard of King Messiah being raised, nothing of the high hope of the people being encouraged; he seems to pay no attention to the imperious rule of the foreigner, or the degrading tyranny of men like Antipas, the Herod who has wrongfully shut you up. He rather withdraws himself, and when the people, fired by his winning words and mighty acts, begin to grow enthusiastic, then this strange Man hides himself away. Can he be Messiah, as you once said?"
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