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Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another? (Luke 7:18-23)

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The above question has been asked over hundreds of years concerning the Messiah. Put another way one might ask, how could someone recognise the Messiah, or how will I know when Messiah comes? Intriguingly this question was asked by John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for Messiah. Jesus had performed astonishing miracles whilst John was in prison so he sent two of his disciples to ask Him “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” We must keep in mind, the two comings of Messiah. The sheer volume and precision of messianic prophecy fulfilled the first time round provides assurance of the remaining prophecies being fulfilled at the second coming.

Prophecy identifying the Coming One

The Coming One was a messianic title (Psalm 40:7; 118:26; Isaiah 59:20)[i] and messianic prophecy foretold the One who was to come in Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9 and Malachi 3:1.

Micah 5:2 pinpoints the birthplace and tribe of the coming Ruler of Israel.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”

Zechariah 9:9 foretells the coming King who would enter Jerusalem riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Malachi 3:1 speaks of the Lord whom you seek suddenly coming to His temple.

“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.”

Yeshua was born in Bethlehem and was from the tribe of Judah (Matthew 2:1; 1-17)and appeared in Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey and multitudes cried out saying,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is He who comes

In the name of the Lord!’

Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 17:9)”

He was preceded by John the Baptist but will come to the temple when He returns.

John is reassured

Yet John also knew that the Messiah would proclaim liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61:1). In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2a, but not the rest of that verse, since He will fulfil the remainder of that prophecy at His second coming. Like many Jewish people, John would have expected the Messianic kingdom to be established speedily and the Roman oppressors to be removed and he was seemingly languishing in prison. It would have been especially difficult for John accustomed to wilderness life to remain confined in prison.[ii]

How did Yeshua reassure John that He was the Coming One and he had no need to look for another? At that very hour he cured many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits and gave sight to the blind which John’s disciples saw for themselves. Hence Jesus response in Luke 7:22 was a reference to Isaiah 35:5 and Isaiah 61:1-3 in part. These were especially impressive miracles and also evidenced the fulfilment of prophecy.

“Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them (Luke 7:22).”

Stern astutely notes that His answer avoids the mention of “proclaiming liberty to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1) since He appeared to be gently saying that even though He was Messiah, John would not be set free,[iii]hence His following remark, “Blessed is anyone who is not offended by Me”.[iv]Believers are not promised that all their immediate troubles will disappear, but they can find rest for their soul, have peace with God and certainly of everlasting life.

Interestingly Josephus wrote about both John the Baptist and Jesus. He writes of John as “a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue both as righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God,”[v]He writes of Yeshua, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men who receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles.”[vi]

Doubt and unbelief

Some consider this passage regarding doubt and also unbelief and question how John, who was the forerunner (Mark 1:1-7) and so certain of Messiah’s identity and mandate and who proclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” , could have doubts himself? Nonetheless, not a few faithful characters in the Bible at times experienced doubt, yet that is not the same as unbelief. Wiersbe helpfully and reassuringly advises that, unbelief is a matter of the will whilst in contrast doubt is a matter of the mind.

Also, the believer is encouraged by the final verse of the old hymn ‘Thine be the glory’ that though life is not easy we can have assurance of where we are going.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of Life;
life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors through thy deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above:

Messiah has come and is coming again

We have seen that Jesus the Messiah fulfilled specific prophecy and performed the miracles that He was supposed to demonstrate and authenticate who He is. There is no need to look for another since He fulfils the criteria for the Coming One. The Messiah many are still waiting for has come and He is coming again. Again, we can be certain He will come because of His fulfilled prophecy and miraculous works at His first coming. But He is coming again to judge the world in righteousness which means the questions that now remain are, will you be ready when He returns? Has your sin been atoned for and have you asked the sinless Messiah to forgive your sin? Are you trusting in Him and are you one of His disciples?

[i] Dr Constable Expository Notes on Matthew’s Gospel citing R.C.H. Lenski The Interpretation of St Matthew’s Gospel (Augsburg, 1964), p425

[ii] Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary The Complete New Testament in one Volume (David C. Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs), p159

[iii] David H. Stern Jewish New Testament Commentary (Jewish New Testament Publications Inc., 1992; USA), p42

[iv] Ibid, p42

[v] The New Complete Works of Flavius Josephus Translated by William Whiston Commentary by Paul L. Maier (Kregel, 1999; Grand Rapids), Jewish Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 5:2, p595

[vi] Ibid, Jewish Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3:3, p590