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God’s Word for You

Luke 7:33-35 John has come and Jesus has come

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 27, 2018

33 For John the Baptist has come, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘See, he’s a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Now Jesus explains his parable, and he does it by reversing the points. In the parable, the happy wedding party was the first game, and the somber funeral was the second game. Now as Jesus explains it, he puts the somber funeral first: “John has come, neither eating bread nor drinking wine.”

The Greek perfect tense is used in both phrases: “John has come” and “The Son of Man has come.” The perfect tense is different in Greek from the way it’s used in Hebrew. In Hebrew, the perfect tense shows action that’s completed, especially in the past. In Greek, the perfect tense says a little more: it shows action that took place in the past but with results that continue on into the future. The most famous example is Jesus’ statement on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Here, Jesus is saying that the ministry of John has come, and John’s work of pointing to the Messiah continues on. Also, Jesus himself has come, and his work of proclaiming the Good News continues. But in the parable, it’s the audience, “this generation,” that’s the point. How did they receive John and Jesus?

They thought John was possessed by an evil spirit, even though he came in the spirit of Elijah, prophesied by the prophet Malachi. And what did they expect from the Messiah? Someone grim and foretelling nothing but doom and destruction? They had completely misunderstood the difference between the law and the gospel, which many Christians still do not understand to this day.

Passages of the Bible which either express God’s will for our lives or condemn the sinfulness of man are the Law. They show us our sins and our need for a Savior. To a Christian, they are also a guide for holy living, but they do not show us the path to heaven. “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise” (Romans 4:13). The law crushes and condemns us, but then God sends the promise of the gospel, the good news about rescue through Jesus, and we are lifted up once again. “If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness?” (2 Corinthians 3:9).

What John and Jesus preached was the application of both law and gospel. The law crushed contented sinners, and the gospel sets those broken-hearted sinners free from their guilt and the debt of their sins. The Pharisees weren’t turned to repentance by John, nor did they want to be invited to the banquet of heaven by Jesus. They condemned Jesus for being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners,”  but who needed to hear the law and gospel more than those people that the Pharisees had given up on?

What had the preaching and haughty example of the Pharisees done? It made the righteous content with their righteousness, thinking they no longer needed a Savior. And it made the unrighteous despair of ever having a Savior. What kind of preaching is that, that turns everybody away from Christ? But that’s what they had done. So Jesus came preaching to them all—Pharisees on the one side and sinners on the other, and “wisdom is proved right by all of her children.” His wisdom was to reach out with the law to those who needed the law, and with the gospel to those who needed the gospel. We keep following his example today, because we need the law just as much as anybody else, and gospel, too. In the wisdom of God, this is the message that saves souls and rescues sinners, including us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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