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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
What does it feel like to have every square inch of your body tell you that you have been mislead? That what you thought to be true… isn’t; that who you thought was such a way… is not? Try these emotions on for size - do any of these describe what it feels like when you have been mislead? What might you add?
Betrayed… Angry… Hopeless… Empty… Used… Embarrassed… Stupid… Sad…
The Text - Luke 7:18-28
Read the text and get a feel for the story. Who are the main characters?
This is a very interesting text. It is interesting because of where John is, Machaerus. I described this place on Sunday, but for now all you need to know is that it is the last place John wants to be, prison. It is also interesting because of the question John asks - “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John was in prison because he had insulted Herod. (Read Mark 6:17-20) However, John probably believed (like the other disciples) that Jesus was going to usher in a political kingdom. Yes, he was the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world as John declared. Yes, He was, as John said, the Son of God, but Jesus was no political leader. He was not ushering in a political kingdom. So there John sits, not understanding how his context is consistent with who he understands Jesus to be. There is incongruity in who he believes Jesus to be and where John is currently residing, thus his question - “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
“All these things” Note this phrase in v18.
His disciples come to him and tell him “all these things”- all that Jesus was doing - perhaps including the story of Jesus raising a widow’s son, perhaps the story of Jesus confronting the demoniacs, healing the leper, doing a “double dip” on the paralytic- healed and forgiven (that guy had a great day), the healing of the centurion’s servant… “All these things.” Was John thinking “Why doesn’t Jesus just save one of these miracles for me and get me out of here? Why should the paralytic get two miracles when I don’t even get one?”
Ever felt like God is working all around you but not in you? How come others can feel him and sense him but you can’t? How come you hear stories of God working but you don’t feel like you are in that story?
Check out John 10:41, an interesting verse describing John.
My big idea on Sunday was: God takes us to places where all we can do is trust Him because we don’t understand Him.
Is where you are these days a place that you understand what He is doing, or a place where you really need to trust him? Which one are you leaning on more these days?
Check out what Jesus says to John’s disciples, v.21-23.
It was understood in those days that the true Messiah would not proclaim himself, but would first do appropriate messianic works that would lead to public acknowledgment of his identity.
He essentially tells John - “you are not crazy!”
v23. “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me”
The Greek word translated “offended” gives us our English word “scandalize”, and it referred originally to the “bait stick” in a trap. Imagine how an animal takes the bait - gets consumed - hooked, gets caught - confined, separated from its herd. The animal cannot carry on because now it is entangled in the trap. Jesus is saying this can happen to people, instead of carrying on with Jesus they get caught by the bait stick. Notice in this text who the offender is - it is Jesus. “John was in danger of being trapped because of his concern about what Jesus was not doing.” The bait was John’s incorrect understanding of Jesus in terms of what kind of kingdom He would usher in. The challenge is for John to let it go and stay faithful to Jesus. I think Jesus is essentially saying “let go and trust me, I know what I am doing.”
Discuss the following quote by Elton Trueblood - “The deepest conviction of the Christian is that Christ was not wrong.” (in John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt)
Use some of your sanctified imagination and discuss what that small group meeting must have been like when the disciples went back to John and reported what Jesus said.
How does John’s story end? Read Matt 14:6-12.
Does this bother you that Jesus didn’t come riding in on a white horse and rescue John?
Can Jesus possibly be right while allowing John to lose his head?
This story doesn’t end with a nice little bow on the box. Instead there is a bloody head on a platter!
Final note - Read v24-28
Room will only allow me to say (this is why you need to hear the message on Sunday) that while John is questioning, Jesus is validating and affirming John’s ministry. Jesus is John’s biggest fan and does not berate him for asking the question. He does not disown him but applauds John for his ministry. It might be good for some of us reading this to know that while we may be at times going through a season of trusting but not understanding and maybe even complaining, that God in Heaven sees us as His sons and daughters. Loved, cherished, valued, affirmed and in the hands of a God who knows what He is doing and what is unfolding all around us.
Here is the prayer I think we pray
“Lord speak into my heart your truth as you did with John. And bring into my life, godly men and women who can help me process your truth. God help me to trust you when I can’t understand you. Help me to follow when the way seems uncertain.”
Here is the commitment of Jesus we must never forget, seen in Jesus words about John (v24-28). Reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 8:37-38:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here is the place we will all find ourselves at different times in our lives, a place where trust leads us not understanding.
God takes us to places where all we can do is trust Him because we don’t understand Him. Is that your story these days?
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