"Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?"—Luke 7:19.
Almost 1900 years ago the Jewish Church was left desolate. Matt. 23:38. Before that time they were God's people as distinguished from all other peoples or nations; for "unto them were committed the oracles of God."
They were the "believers" of that age or day. They believed in the true God, in the Scriptures, and, of course, in the coming of the promised Messiah. As a nation they were God's nominal people, or "household of faith," yet among them were only a few "Israelites indeed." ("For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children," etc. Rom. 9:6,7.)
When Jesus came, only a few became his disciples. Only a few discovered that the events of his birth, life, death, and resurrection were a fulfillment of their own Scriptures. John the Baptist preached his coming, and afterwards received and baptized him, and no doubt saw the Spirit descending upon him, and heard the voice from heaven saying: "Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," yet when in prison John heard of the works of Christ, he sent by his disciples and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or are we to look for another? Jesus answering, said, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."
Thus Jesus called attention to transpiring events, the fulfillment of their own Scriptures, as proof that he was the Messiah. He might have replied: "I am he." An impostor might have made the same claim, and given the same answer; but mark, the answer Jesus gave called their attention to evidence such as would convince them of the truth of his claim, provided they had been sufficiently interested in the Scriptures to make them capable of apprehending them, and of discerning the unfolding of truth then due, i.e., the fulfilling of prophecy, etc.
Notice also the significance of the last part of the answer, "Blessed is he," etc. Many, many were they who were offended (made to stumble) in him, believing not that he was the Messiah, because, perhaps, they looked for him to come in a manner different from that foretold in the Scriptures concerning him.
He came to his own and they received him not. His own people then, were Israel after the flesh, the nominal household of faith; and now he comes to their antitype, the nominal Christian Church or household of faith. But now as then they receive him not. They say, He has not come, "All things continue as they were," etc. Only a few of the Jewish "household" received him at his first coming, and only a few receive him now. They receive him because of the evidence, evidence too, of the same character as that given to John—transpiring events; the fulfillment of the signs of his presence bearing witness to the fact.
Such as desire his appearing, and know the object of his coming, are not only rejoicing in, but heralding his presence, and preaching that the harvest is come, the fields ripe, and the separating work begun; that the Gospel day or age is ending, and the Millennial day is dawning. "Today, if ye will HEAR HIS VOICE, harden not your hearts." Let not prejudice hinder you.
Blessed are they who do not stumble over him, for they shall be made rulers over all his goods. We cannot force others to receive him, neither could John the Baptist, but we can bear witness to the truth as the Scriptures reveal it to us, and "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." "Who hath ears to hear let him hear." Think of the class who rejected Jesus at his first coming. They were members "in good and regular standing" in the Jewish Church; they reverenced the Scriptures as a whole but neglected to search them in particular, giving more earnest heed to the traditions of the elders which made void the Word of God. They were looking for a Messiah to come, yet not according to the Scriptures which declared the manner and object of his coming. Therefore they failed to recognize him when present. And just so their antitype, the nominal [R822 : page 7] Christian Church is to-day stumbling, and failing to discern him at his second advent; and for the same reason. But even this is in fulfillment of prophecy; for it is written, "He shall be for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel." (Isa. 8:14.) Let us take heed, and neither be found "asleep" nor "drunken" with false doctrines and traditions, nor so "overcharged with the cares of life," as not to discern the signs of his presence.
If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not: or behold he is in the desert; go ye not forth: or behold he is in the secret chamber, believe it not; for Christ is a spiritual being and the eye of flesh can no more see him than it can see Satan, the god or ruler of this present evil world, the end of which is so near, "even at the doors."
Brethren, Jesus has come, and found the "household of faith," the Church nominal, as a body, lukewarm, indifferent and proud of their riches and increase in goods, but he knows their works, and says, "I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:15-19.) As a nominal system it shall no longer be God's mouthpiece to expound his word. He is choosing out from her his fit vessels. Because she is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, he counsels her, "Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see," and "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."