Preacher: The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft, Assistant Curate

Luke 7:18-28

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I’ve heard it said that there are no dumb questions. But imagine how thousands of Britains felt after they had voted to leave the European Union and THEN jumped on their computers to Google “What is the European Union?” or “What is Brexit?”

Whether leaving the EU was a good idea or not, a dumb question must surely be, one that we needed to know the answer to but weren’t brave enough or bothered enough to ask, until it is too late.

We actually don’t need to be very brave about asking questions these days. The internet is amazing for answering all manner of questions, safe in the privacy of our desk space, except that Mr Google is actually keeping score. In 2016, the most asked question of Google in the WORLD after “What is Brexit?”, was, “What is Pokemon Go? If you don’t know, just ask a young person.

In one of my early theology classes my lecturer Bp Tim Harris was talking so much about disciples and apostles, that I just had to ask what I thought was a really DUMB question: “What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?” I asked. I was so surprised when no-one laughed.

Bp Tim took about 15 minutes to answer the question. Afterwards some of my class mates thanked me because they didn’t like to admit that they didn’t fully understand that either.

Basically, a disciple is a student, or a follower, of a teacher. When Jesus’ disciples were sent forth to proclaim the Gospel, they became apostles.

BUT John the Baptist had disciples of his own. The Gospels are clear to differentiate between Jesus and John the Baptist. At the bottom of the central panel of the William Pope stained glass windows here between the flags, we have a depiction of John the Baptist with his bare feet, wearing his clothes of hair, carrying a lamb which represents the fact that John the Baptist recognised Jesus as the Lamb of God before he baptised him.

We’ve heard many readings about John the Baptist this Advent. The Gospel for last Sunday’s Evensong was Luke 1:5-25. We heard that John was the son of the priest Zechariah and that his elderly mother Elizabeth was a descendent of Aaron. Verses 15-18 say that John was to be

great in the sight of the Lord…
Filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born
[To]  go on before the Lord,
In the spirit and power of Elijah…
To make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

In Luke 3 we hear that some people thought John was the Messiah. But John is clear to say in Luke 3:16-17:

‘I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming;
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fork is in his hand
To clear his threshing floor and to gather
The wheat into his barn
But he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

In tonight’s Gospel we find John the Baptist already in prison before Jesus’ ministry has begun. John is confused because Jesus isn’t wielding his winnowing fork and there isn’t any news of an unquenchable fire. John’s disciples have been telling him all about Jesus’ acts of healing. Therefore, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus what must have seemed a really dumb question:

‘Are you the one to come, or should we expect someone else’? John is checking that he had baptised the right person.

Jesus doesn’t rebuke the one, who before his birth, was destined to prepare his way. In Luke 5:22 Jesus responds in a way that John would understand. Using the words of the prophet Isaiah he says:

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
The blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
The lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
The dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.

Jesus reminds John that he was acting as the prophet Isaiah had predicted.

The lesson for us all, is that God can handle our doubts, and he welcomes our questions. “Do you have questions about Jesus? Questions about who he is or what he expects of you? Admit them to yourself and to God and begin looking for answers. Only as we face our doubts honestly can [we] begin to resolve them. The proofs ..[in tonight’s Gospel] for Jesus being the Messiah are significant. They consist of observable deeds, not theories – actions that Jesus’ contemporaries saw and reported for us to read today…. These physical proofs helped John – and will help all of us – to recognise who Jesus is.”[1]

The danger of not asking questions of the Bible and of scholars, is that we may draw our own conclusions. The cherry-pick type religion of today has become common place. Many people simply decide for themselves what God is like. They therefore limit God by their own imagination. They can’t comprehend what God in Jesus has done for them. They can’t fathom how loved they are, or that to find new life with Jesus is as simple as confessing our sins and admitting that Jesus Christ is Lord.

If we read the rest of Luke 7 after tonight’s Gospel we learn that Jesus considered that:

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.

This is a great reminder that not only, are there no dumb questions, the more we know, the more we discover what we do not know. Where John had prepared the way for our Lord, he then had to learn to become a disciple in his own right.

He became a disciple and a student of Jesus.

My personal experience is that the more I learn about my faith, the more my faith grows and the more questions I discover. Rev’d Jenny in her sermon at Rev’d Dr Matthew Anstey’s farewell on Friday night, reminded me that not all our questions have answers and certainly some answers take some time to come or to be made clear.

I highly recommend that we are each involved with some form of study group or home group where we can easily raise our questions. Simply reading the readings set for each service before we come will help us to raise questions and seek answers.

If you are not aware, Dean Frank and Christine are currently taking enrolments for the EFM course next year plus there will be new Pilgrim Courses. Rev’d Jenny runs a Monday morning group to look at the coming Sunday readings. The St Barnabas library, right across the road, will soon be open for borrowing but in the meantime we are all welcome to visit and photocopy relevant pages.

The librarian Ros Devenish loves helping anyone to find the answers they seek.

If the one greater than us all, John the Baptist, could be brave enough to ask a seemingly dumb question, why not us? Let’s seek to understand our faith, and all aspects of our worship.

If you would like to know more about Jesus, please pray this prayer with me now:

O Lord Jesus Christ
Teach me to be your disciple
Help me to understand how much you love me
and how much you have achieved for me.
Help me to find the people and resources to help me.
May I be brave like John the Baptist and keep asking questions
BEFORE it becomes too late to ask.



 Barton, Bruce et al, ed. Life Application Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

[1] Bruce et al Barton, ed. Life Application Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 2191.