A Confused John the Baptist
The text for this week is Matthew 11: 2-11. This opens with John the Baptist in prison and sending his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the one who is to come. It is not unreasonable that John is confused. After all he is the one in jail and the Messiah that is supposed to burn off the chaff is first calling humanity to repentance. Clearly for John this is not the Messiah that he expected. This will not be the last time that Jesus acts in unexpected ways and blows up people’s vision of what a Messiah is supposed to do. In short, Jesus is upending and inverting our all too human patterns of thought.
The Outlines of a Ministry
Jesus answers John’s questions by outlining the focus of His earthly ministry. He tells John’s disciples to relay what they see Jesus doing: giving sight to the blind, getting the lame to walk, cleansing lepers, allowing the deaf to hear and raising the dead. Jesus is doing nothing less than offering salvation to all who believe in Him. All of this is most unexpected. Jesus is not a new military leader ala David. He is focused on the least among us, those whom society has forgotten. This indicates a hard road ahead. A hard road indeed.
In the End a Grace Filled Blessing
In the end, even though John has his expectations about Jesus changed, Jesus offers John a grace filled blessing. He points out to the crowds that John was not some king like figure dressed in soft robes. He was not some mere reed shaken in the wind in the wilderness. He is reminding everyone (and us) that the John in the wilderness was wearing camels hair and eating locusts, living a hard life in service to God. He reminds the crowd that what they found in John was a prophet, who was indeed proclaiming the coming of Jesus. He is claiming this Messiahship for Himself, and at the same time proclaiming that John was right. He reaffirms John’s place as the one whom Isaiah was talking about in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, at the same time Jesus lifts those least among us highest in the Kingdom. This is as it should be. The way of Christ is radical, often hard, yet full of grace upon grace. As we prepare for the Feast of the Incarnation, we remember to simply believe and obey.
Praise Be to God