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The passage in Luke 7:18-35 is not an easy one to understand because John the Baptist, who was so strong in his convictions that Jesus was the Messiah, seemed to be wavering and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the Expected One. Jesus confirmed that he was, and even made mention of raising the dead which was an apocalyptical messianic prophecy well known to the Essenes. He then admonished John to not take offense at him. He then told the crowd that no prophet was greater than John but yet the least in the kingdom of God was greater than he.

Verse 29 records the reaction of the listeners. Those who were baptized by John understood and acknowledged God's justice (ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν Θεόν). What does that mean and what does it mean that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves with respect to not accepting John's baptism?

29When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

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John's baptism was vital to prepare Jewish people to receive the Messiah by faith. John was sent to prepare the way. John the Baptist's father, Zacharias, had his tongue loosened at the birth of his son, and he declared, "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins" (Luke 1:76-77). At the start of his ministry, John the Baptist declared openly that he was the fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 40 (John 1:20-27).

His was a baptism of repentance. Without repenting, nothing the Messiah was seen to do or heard to say would impact unbaptised Jewish people. They would never see the righteousness of God in Christ, as Messiah.

But John did have a time of doubt. Perhaps he remembered his father's prophetic words at his birth, that this Messiah would save them from their enemies, from the hand of all that hated them, to serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of their lives (Luke 1:71-75). Yet it did not seem to be working out like that. He was in prison, and Jesus was not acting like a victorious liberator from the hated Roman yoke. After John's disciples returned to report the miracles Jesus was doing, Jesus gave the reason why the publicans and the harlots were going into the Kingdom of God ahead of the chief priests and Pharisees:

"For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" (Matthew 21:32).

John had been clearly seen to be in the way of righteousness, and he was calling the nation of Israel to repentance, in order to benefit from Messiah's rule, and be evidence of God's righteousness in themselves. God was justified in all his dealings, and those prepared by John testified to that in their baptism. "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him (Luke 7:29-30). They stumbled at Jesus (= took offense at him).

Thus was proven the point that John's baptism was vital to prepare Jewish people to receive their Messiah. Without it, they would never receive Christ as the Messiah. That is why Matthew's account has Jesus saying, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Mat. 21:43). But the Jewish nation had the first opportunity, and all who received John's baptism received Jesus.

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    Hi Anne, thanks for your answer. I am voting it up because of your strong emphasis on the importance of openness to repentance as a means for understanding the will of God. God was declared righteous due to Jesus' response to John's question as noted in my response to Austin. As a minor point, John's baptism was not requisite for people to receive the Messiah since some who followed Jesus never made it out to see John, We also can't say that all of John's disciples received Jesus although I'm sure most would have. Jesus certainly taught that repentance was necessary for salvation. Sep 28 at 21:48
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How did baptism by John help the people and the tax collectors recognize God's justice in Jesus' response to John's doubt about Jesus' identity?

Mark 1:2-4

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
​‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins...

In order to prepare the way for Jesus, the heart of Israel needed to repent. So John preached a baptism of repentance. Those whose hearts recognize truth recognized their need for repentance and thus baptism. The path was paved for them to recognize the truth of Jesus. Those whose hearts recognized not their need for repentance and thus were not baptized recognized not the truth of Jesus Christ, having already rejected God by rejecting John's baptism.

God was declared righteous in Jesus' response to John. How do you interpret that?

Basically, John, in Luke 7:18-19, was challenging Jesus's identity and thus the Gospel message... And perhaps the people themselves judged the question to be penetrating and worthy of an answer. So when Jesus answered effectively and compellingly, leveraging the very evidence the people saw with their own eyes, they were moved.

God was making good on His promises, and because of His commitment to them, the people will receive glory in the kingdom far surpassing the glory of the greatness of John on earth. Understanding this, the people judged God to be exceedingly righteous in light of His favor towards the people and faithfulness to His word.

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  • Correct, but God was declared righteous in Jesus' response to John. How do you interpret that? Sep 26 at 4:32
  • @MartinHemsley, Basically, John was challenging Jesus identity and thus Gospel message. And perhaps the people themselves judged the question penetrating and worth answering. So when Jesus answered effectively and compellingly, the people were moved. God was making good on his promises and based on these the people will receive glory in the kingdom far surpassing the glory of the greatness of John on earth. Understanding this the people judged God to be exceedingly righteous in light of his favor to the people and faithfulness to his word.
    – Austin
    Sep 28 at 2:13
  • Yes. By Jesus' answer and actions, they understood that he and God were doing the right thing even though it had been called into question. Sep 28 at 21:31
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I want to focus on Johns question. Ill leave others to answer in full .
John was asking about the end times . Specifically what advent they were in . He himself had unanswered questions . That is different than doubts.

Reasons as follows :

John The Baptists' mother Elizabeth , and Mary were cousins , making their mothers sisters. Making Jesus and John second cousins . John had grow up being taught who Christ was, recall his mothers statement made follows :

Luke 1:39-56

43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

(They recognized the prophecy given to Abraham about the promised Messiah ) :

54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

( They recognized the Messiah has come . What they may or may not have fully realized is there would be a second advent .

Another thing to consider is the unrecorded years of Christ from age 12 to the beginning of Ministry. While they were only six months apart in age ; Its possible Christ and John were not together during this time ; leaving John with Not doubt ; but unanswered questions.

Again John was actually asking is this the end , or do we look for another advent ? We can know for certain this is what John was asking, because of the reply given .

Jesus's replied that He was fulfilling prophecy of Himself . Specifically He was teaching Isaiah . The First advent had arrived . )

Matthew 11:3-5

3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.


Jesus was handed the book of Isaiah and taught the following :

Luke 4:14-21 kjv

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

( Now if ; you go to Isaiah and continue reading, after the part He closed the book on, it'll lead into the second advent which had not happened during that time .) Because its yet future to even us today . .

Isaiah 61 kjv

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,

( At this part Christ closed Isaiah and said it is fulfilled. The part He did not read : ) .

"and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;" .

A note on The Scribes and pharisees ; I'll mention in passing, these are no ordinary members of the synagogue. John would say of them:

Matthew 3:7

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

There is a running teaching through The Bible ; that can truly only be grasp when understood in its entirety ; that the priesthood became polluted many hundreds of years before Christ . Christ obviously knows who they are, and this was not lost to John how they misrepresent themselves to be something they're not .

These would be of those who Christ would say they claim to be Judah and are not and do lie etc. ; they sit in the seat of Moses, but are of their father The Devil . This group had no intention of listening to Christ, let alone John the baptist .

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  • I believe you should feel free to answer a question any way you wish as long as it is helping to increase your understanding of scripture and it may be of benefit to others as well. Mary and Elizabeth spent a lot of time together before the birth of their special babies. Knowing that and their culture, it is likely that John and Jesus knew each other fairly well. But Jesus' ministry did not develop the way John had anticipated, causing him to question if Jesus really was the One who would cast off Israel's oppressors. He did not understand that that was the 2nd advent role. Sep 26 at 5:40
  • @W_R Hi there and welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read our code of conduct. Thanks! Sep 26 at 6:28
  • @DanielDahlberg I have read them all . Was there a certain rule you wanted me to focus on ? Or is this a normal notice for all new accounts ?
    – W_R
    Sep 26 at 6:32
  • @W_R All New contributor's answers/questions comes to a review queue. The message si to lead you in the right direction, the site tour is general information about how the site works and the code of conduct how we act and not a respons to the message you wrote but because you new here. God bless you!! Sep 27 at 7:35
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How did baptism by John help the people and the tax collectors recognize God's justice?

This question is answered nicely by Austin already.

Here I am looking at the following one:

How did baptism by John help the people and the tax collectors recognize God's justice in Jesus' response to John's doubt about Jesus' identity?

The word "doubt" is not in the passage. Jesus said in Luke 7:

23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

John didn't doubt, Matthew 11:

11a Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;

Moses didn't doubt; Elijah didn't doubt; John didn't doubt. John's faith was stumbling a bit because Jesus wasn't exactly what he expected of the Messiah.

NIV Luke 7:

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

In response to the above statement. Luke continued:

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

NIV shows this as a parenthetical statement. This was added not as Jesus' response to John's doubt about Jesus' identity. It is placed here in the immediate context of marking John as the human prophet preparing the kingdom of God.

Now the question becomes:

How did baptism by John help the people and the tax collectors recognize God's justice in Jesus making John one of the greatest humans?

Answer: John was the precursor to Jesus' kingdom of God.

What does it mean that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves with respect to not accepting John's baptism?

By rejecting John's baptism of repentance, they rejected the kingdom of God.

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  • Hi Tony. “Doubt” may feel a little stronger than “question” but “stumble” is pretty strong too. John’s own disciples may have questioned if Jesus was treating John fairly by leaving him to languish in prison when he had Messianic power. There was something in Jesus’ answer that helped clear up that misconception which goes beyond John being a precursor to Jesus’ ministry. Sep 26 at 18:42
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    We disagree a bit but I'm glad that you did understand my point :)
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 26 at 20:37

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