What Did You Come Out to See?

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

In Luke 7 Jesus asks an unusual question: “What did you come out to see? A reed shaken in the wind?”  For years this question eluded me.

To understand these questions, we need to look at the context. John the Baptist had just sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one to come or should they look for another. John is in prison, and it appears that he is having some doubts as to whether Jesus is really the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, then John was probably wondering why he wasn’t acting very kingly and why Rome was still in charge. I can imagine John hearing reports about Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. It wouldn’t be too difficult for him to imagine the worst about Jesus.

I think it is fair to say that the last time John saw Jesus was at His baptism when He proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Just a year or two later, John is perplexed and bewildered about who this Jesus really is.

In Luke 7, Jesus never gives John’s disciples an answer as to who He really is. All He does is heal people and then tell them to report to John what they saw. While John’s disciples depart, Jesus tells the crowd that there is none greater than John the Baptist. At this point Jesus then turns to the crowd with this rebuking question: “What did you come out to see? A reed shaken in the wind?”

In ancient Israel they grew reeds similar to sugar cane. These sugar cane reeds bowed nearly to the ground during the heat of the day. At night, with the cool breeze of the Mediterranean, the reeds would rise again. This phenomenon was a crowd-gathering event. Families came out to see the reeds rise in the wind. Then they would return home, no different then when they had arrived.

This is what Jesus was trying to communicate to them. They heard John in the wilderness. It was an event that attracted a tribal gathering. But they were no different after they heard his admonition to repent and be baptized. Now when the people come to see Jesus, the same thing occurs. They go from event to event but are never truly changed.

When you hear God’s Word, what do you go out to see? Hopefully our focus is not on the eloquence of the preacher or on the clothes people wear, but rather a demonstration of the power of God to redeem us and change the way we think and the way we act.

Making ready a people prepared for the Lord,
Mark Hamby

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