What does Luke 7:24 mean?
ESV: When John 's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
NIV: After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
NASB: When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
CSB: After John’s messengers left, he began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind?
NLT: After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. 'What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?
KJV: And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
NKJV: When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is probably in Galilee. John the Baptist is in Herod Antipas' prison, probably in a fortress in Perea, east of the Dead Sea. John has sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the one they have been waiting for. Jesus responds by pointing out the miracles he has been performing that fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Having received their evidence, John's disciples return to him (Luke 7:18–23).

Jesus now turns to the people and explains to them who John is. It's interesting to note that so many in the audience know about John. Years later, when Paul comes to Ephesus in modern-day Asia Minor, he will meet some who identify with John's message, yet have never heard of salvation through Jesus (Acts 19:1–7).

Scholars debate as to whether the symbolism of this comment extends to the "reed" itself. Many note that Luke 7:25 is clearly literal. When the people went to the wilderness around the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem, they did not go to look at plants. They went because they heard about John and wanted to know more about his message.

Others say Jesus is including a figure of speech. A "reed shaken by the wind" may imply a poor instructor who lacks conviction and is therefore easily influenced by others. Or the imagery of a "reed" may refer to an unreliable person. The Pharaoh is called a "broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it" (Isaiah 36:6). Jesus' implication is that the audience can depend on John. He will not betray them, nor Jesus.

Jesus repeats variations of the question, "What did you go out to see?" three times (Luke 7:24–26). Triple repetition has long been a technique used for emphasis. In ancient writing, such as Hebrew, repeating something three times emphasizes the point and draws the listeners to the third repetition with the intent they arrive at the correct answer.

Some translations use the word "desert" instead of "wilderness." Where John lived wasn't completely devoid of water—he baptized in the Jordan River. But it was fairly deserted in terms of human population.
Verse Context:
Luke 7:24–35 records Jesus making an interesting observation. John lived an ascetic, monk-like lifestyle in the wilderness; Jesus eats and drinks alongside moral and social outcasts. Yet both preach the same message of repentance of sins. The sinners and tax collectors respond to both John and Jesus, drawn to the message without concern for their lifestyles. Stubborn religious leaders, however, claim to judge their lifestyles; what they really can't accept is the message proclaimed by Jesus and John. This section is also depicted in Matthew 11:7–19.
Chapter Summary:
Luke 7 presents a chiasm: a set of themes mirrored around a reflection point. The humble centurion (Luke 7:1–10) contrasts the legalistic Pharisee (Luke 7:39–50). The widow of Nain (Luke 7:11–17) and the sinful women (Luke 7:36–38) have nothing to offer but gratitude for Jesus' blessings. In the center are John the Baptist and his disciples who struggle to trust that Jesus is worth following (Luke 7:18–23), then the sinners who do choose to follow Jesus and the religious leaders who refuse (Luke 7:24–35).
Chapter Context:
Luke 7 continues Jesus' mission primarily to the people of Galilee expressed as a series of pointed events and teachings punctuated by calls to follow Him. He has finished teaching the rigors of discipleship (Luke 6:17–45) and invited the crowd to place their faith in Him (Luke 6:46–49). Here, Luke describes different reactions to Jesus' miracles and message. Next, Jesus will reveal the mechanics of and reactions to His call (Luke 8:4–21) before showing His great authority over nature, demons, sickness, and worldly powers (Luke 8:22—9:17). After a final call to the disciples to deepen their faith (Luke 9:18–50), Jesus will turn toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51—19:27).
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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