Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Dazed and Confused - Alive or Dead?
Most people who hear about Jesus Christ for the first time experience a sense of confusion. I know I did. Facts began to materialize: I am a sinner accountable to God for my thoughts, words, and actions; yet Jesus voluntarily died in my place and took the due penalty for my sin on Himself and now wants to upend my life with His goodness. Yet for that to happen I must yield control over my life to Him. Understanding my current state and letting someone else begin to shape my values. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Jesus is either everything or just another kook with a feel-good philosophy. It forces a choice. It forces us into one camp or another. We all feel the confusion; what we do next determines our eternal destiny and the character of our lives from here on out. We begin this morning in Luke’s gospel as Jesus leaves no doubt whatsoever what He’s capable of and the character by which He exerts that power.
11 – 17
Nain is about 6 miles south of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. No coincidence, as Jesus was approaching the city gate, a funeral procession was coming out. A widow had lost her only son and her only means of support. What we’re seeing here is Jesus demonstrating further evidence that He is the Messiah—and like, but greater than all the prophets.
Though it would make a Jew ceremonially unclean to come in contact with something dead (Numbers 19:11) Jesus makes the unclean clean. Demonstrating that He controls even life and death, He speaks to the young man in the coffin and he obeys the Master, sits up and starts talking.
This fulfills a specific Scripture about the Messiah in Isaiah 61:1-3. This, by the way, is again the mission statement of Jesus as He proclaimed in Luke 3. But let’s turn to Isaiah and look at it more closely:
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me,
because the LORD has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the LORD
to glorify Him.
Notice that he heals the broken heart of the mother, releases the man from the prison of death, and provides comfort and joy (festive oil) to those who mourned the loss.
It’s a picture of course—this man was resuscitated, not resurrected. He would die a physical death again. But Jesus is pointing out that He will provide the ultimate answer to death by dying on the cross and coming back to give eternal life to all those who would trust in Him.
When I read this passage I couldn’t help but notice something else. Back on Chapter 4, Jesus was in the same neighborhood – in Nazareth. Right after He gave His mission statement He was chastised for not doing a bunch of miracles in his hometown. He then mentioned two prophets who had been sent to two specific people—those who received the prophet’s words saw healing and provision. One of those stories, from 1 Kings 17, was of the prophet Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (in Gentile territory). Elijah told her to trust for provision during the drought and she and her only son would be provided for.
What is interesting to me is what takes place later in that chapter. The widow’s only son dies and Elijah pleads to God and actually lays down on the boy three times. Yahweh heard Elijah’s voice and the boy came back alive—so Elijah then comes down stairs and presents the boy to his mother.
I find this interesting because it stands to reason that the people who saw Jesus raise this widow’s son to life would have thought of this story out of Kings. There’s a lot going on with this—Elijah was sent to Israel to proclaim a drought because of the nation’s apostasy under Ahab—a horrible king who instituted lots of idol worship. In Jesus’ day the religious leaders were leading the people away from Yahweh into legalism and there was a drought of God speaking or moving in the nation—until Jesus. By trusting in God’s messenger the people can find the sustenance that comes with eternal life.
So this incident caused people to fear, give credit to God, and proclaim that a prophet was among them—no doubt making the connection to Elijah, whom the Scriptures say had to come (Mal 4:5) before the Messiah. In Matthew 17:10 Jesus makes reference to the fact that Elijah had come in the form of John the Baptist. So John’s disciples take all this information—all they’ve seen and heard, and go to John who was in prison—put there by Herod.
18 – 23
It’s most likely that John is confused, not doubting. He’s confused because although Jesus was the One John was supposed to baptize—the One that John called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36), He wasn’t acting like the Messiah everyone had anticipated—One who would overthrow Rome. John was confused, not about the person of Jesus, but about His methods.
So Jesus says: “look at the things I’ve done and then look at the Scriptures that prophecy the Messiah and you’ll see they line up.” So instead of being offended, or disappointed by the way Jesus has done His ministry—be encouraged. Jesus doesn’t do things in the way we expect, but it is the best way—always.
This was done publically, by the way, so Jesus uses it as an opportunity to teach about John and his ministry in preparation for the Messiah.
24 – 28
Just as Jesus didn’t do things in the expected way, neither did John. He did not bow to current trends, and he didn’t identify with the rich and famous—but he was a prophet: God’s “truth teller”. And more than that, he prepared hearts for the Messiah. John told people to repent and get your heart ready.
Then He makes this astounding statement that up until that point—no one born of a human father and mother was greater than John. But all that John had was nothing in comparison to what the least person in the kingdom of the Messiah has: eternal life in purity. I’m not sure that Jesus is saying John was more righteous than anyone else, though this is possible. I think it’s more likely He’s referring to John’s mission being greater than anything any human has ever had the privilege of doing: announcing the coming of the King of Kings.
In this next part, then, we see the result of John’s ministry—the great separation.
29 – 30
To be baptized by John meant you were ready to hear the gospel. To refuse meant your heart was closed. Luke contrasts two groups of people by naming them: tax collectors vs Pharisees. Talk about not going according to what people expect! The tax collectors would have been the very last to be considered “great” in God’s kingdom. And the Pharisees would have been first on the list. But in God’s kingdom it is those that realize their lack and come to God to forgive and heal—that actually become a part of that kingdom.
Jesus is setting the crowd up for a parable which we’ll get to next time.
First: for Christians:
- The things Jesus says can be confusing. How do you find the truth?
- Search the Scriptures and look for the three or four legged stool: prophesied in the OT, preached by Jesus, supported by the Apostles in Acts, and written about in the letters. If you’ve got three of those four you can be pretty sure.
- Everything fits into the central truth that Jesus is Lord. Ephesians 1:10 says: “…to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.” We need to see things in the OT looking forward to Christ and in the NT looking back on what He’s done. What Jesus said and did either demonstrates or illustrates His person, work or kingdom.
So if you are not a Christian, you may be confused about who Jesus is and what He means to you. We get a lot of messages from our culture about Jesus. I’d like to suggest to you that there is a way to cut through that buzzing in your brain that makes it difficult to even think about Jesus.
Luke portrays three types of people in this part of Chapter 7: dazed, confused, or dead.
The widow who’d lost her son was dazed with loss and mourning. She’d lost her only son. She likely thought life wasn’t worth living anymore. She had no hope. But in one act of compassion, the Messiah changed all that. He returned her son to her. He had the power to touch death and defeat it singlehandedly. If you mourn your own condition. If you have no hope. Just realize there is One who has the power and the will to change all that for you. He may not bring back what was lost—a loved one, a relationship, a job, heath. But He gives something much better than that—eternal life.
John was confused. He’d baptized Jesus but then the man didn’t operate like everyone expected—to make social and political change. Instead He kept talking about character and values, sin and separation from God. Maybe you’re in that space too. You’ve heard the gospel but it’s not what you expected. Here’s my advice—it’s the same Jesus gave to John’s disciples. Look at what Jesus said and did. Take it at face value. We make the gospel much too complicated. Jesus came to do one thing and that thing only: to save us eternally by dying for us. You get that salvation by putting the trust of your life into Him.
The third category is dead. And I’m not talking about the man in the coffin. I’m talking about the religious leaders. They were as dead spiritually as the widow’s son but they refused to believe it. Luke says they were not prepared to hear about the Messiah because they’ve refused to be baptized into John’s baptism, which was one of realizing your lack, repenting of your sin, and removing barriers to the gospel in your heart. Instead, they “rejected the plan of God for themselves.” The Scriptures tell us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV). God desires that all should repent and believe (2 Peter 3:9).
It was never too late for the Pharisees and it’s never too late for you. Stop letting the culture tell you about Jesus and start letting Jesus tell you about Himself. Stop talking about God and start talking to Him. Stop rejecting God’s plan for you and start trusting Him. Just as surely as that man was dead in his coffin we are dead in our sins. But just as surely as Jesus touched that dead man and brought him back to life He can touch your death, forgive, and bring you back to life that will never end.