18 The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, 19 and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
20 John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard — the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 23 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
24 After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 25 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. 26 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 27 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!”
29 When they heard this, all the people — even the tax collectors — agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.
31 “To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? 32 They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”
Luke’s account of John the Baptist questioning the messiahship of Jesus follows closely what we have read before in Matthew. Given Luke’s focus on reversal, the questioning seems more natural (imo) here than it did in Matthew. Luke did a good job juxtaposing the prophetic words in chapters 1 and 2 from the expectations of all the people, including John, so that by now it is clear – this is not the messiah they were expecting. No place/time marker separates this passage, which leads the reader to place John’s followers on the scene with the healing of the Gentile’s servant and raising of the poor widow’s son (from yesterday). This both enhances the reversal theme and also gives specific examples for them to carry back to John. “The dead are raised” is not rhetorical, it just happened in scene before. Also notice the way Luke combines physical and spiritual healing in v.21. No distinction is made in these different expressions of the Spirit’s power working through Jesus.
The distinctive part of Luke’s account is his own interjection in vv.29-30. The grammar makes it clear that he is not quoting Jesus at this point, but giving us an aside. Luke defends the people who had been baptized by John, he literally says in doing that “they justified God,” or, “they proved God to be right.” This same wording is used in v. 35, wisdom is proven right by the lives of those who follow it. Yesterday we saw echoes of Elijah and Elisha, here we have an echo of the Sophia passage in Prov. 8.22-31, where the wisdom of God is personified. Both God and God’s wisdom are shown to be true/right/just by the lives of those who choose God’s way. Those who did not repent and accept John’s baptism rejected God’s plan for them. We might be inclined to think God has nothing to prove, and join John in getting offended. But Jesus and Luke are shamelessly eager to prove God is just and right. Those who choose to do so can also live in such a way that justifies God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.