November 9, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 7:22-23 (NRSV)
And [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
Jesus claimed to have unique authority. When John the Baptist wondered if he was God’s chosen one or not, Jesus pointed to the amazing things he had done: healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching good news to the poor. Through these works, Jesus fulfilled the prophetic vision of what would happen when God came to redeem his people. Jesus spoke and acted with the very authority of God.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In last Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we examined the unexpected authority of Jesus. Though he had been doing astounding miracles, even raising a young man from the dead, John the Baptist wondered if Jesus really was the promised Messiah. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” John asked, sending some of his disciples to convey this question to Jesus. Because Jesus didn’t fulfill John’s expectations for the Messiah, John was understandably perplexed by Jesus and unsure of how to respond to his authority.
Jesus sent back John’s disciples with this answer: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Luke 7:22-23). As we read what Jesus said, we might interpret this mainly as a claim to supernatural power. It was as if Jesus had said, “Look, I’m doing miracles, the kind of miracles only God can do. So you had better believe that I am the Messiah.”
This understanding of Jesus is close, but doesn’t quite get the nuance of his answer to John. In order to grasp Jesus’s meaning more fully, we need to remember one of the prophecies of Isaiah. In chapter 35, the prophet offers a vision of God coming to save and redeem his people. This vision includes the following scene: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). When you compare this prophecy with Jesus’s answer to John, you can see that Jesus is simply claiming to do amazing miracles. He is also identifying himself and his ministry with Isaiah’s promise of what God would do when God came to save his people.
The fact that Jesus had raised the dead added to his divine credentials, fulfilling the vision of Ezekiel in which God gives life to the “dry bones” of his people (Ezekiel 37). Jesus’s preaching good news to the poor also confirmed his status as God’s anointed representative. In Luke 4, Jesus claimed to be the one about whom Isaiah once prophesied: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (4:18). So in multiple ways, the actions of Jesus demonstrated his divine authority. He was God’s chosen one, even God in human flesh.
When we are confronted by the authority of Jesus in our lives, we can choose how to respond. We can relate to Jesus as we would to an ordinary friend, someone who advice we take seriously but feel free to reject. We can consider Jesus a “good teacher” who had many fine ideas in addition to some that weren’t so great. We can dismiss Jesus as an old-fashioned thinker whose views are outdated. Or we can choose to respond to Jesus as God who has come to heal broken bodies, restore ruined lives, set free the poor and the oppressed, judge human sin, raise the dead, and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom. We can relate to Jesus as one who speaks and acts with the very authority of God. We can receive his offer of new life, turning away from our old life in order to follow him in everything we do and say.
Jesus’s statement to John associates him with God’s own presence on earth. How do you think John might have responded to this claim?
How do you understand Jesus’s claim to preach good news to the poor? What was this good news? Who are the poor?
How do you respond to the authority of Jesus?
Talk with your small group or with a wise friend about how you respond to the authority of Jesus in the various contexts of your life (work, family, friends, church, citizenship, finances, free time, etc.).
Lord Jesus, your response to John confirms your unique identity. You are indeed God’s anointed one, God’s Messiah. Yet, even more, you are the very presence of God. When you acted, God was acting. When you spoke, God was speaking. Your authority was the very authority of God.
Help me, Lord, to respond to your authority with appropriate awe, openness, teachability, and obedience. May I strive to understand how your teaching speaks to me in this day. May I join you in the work of your kingdom, serving you in all that I do. To you be all the glory. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Drinking Living Water
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.