John, (known as the baptizer) shows up in the Christmas prequel. And then in the prequel to Jesus’ public ministry. And then he gets locked up for speaking truth to power.
Messengers from John, in prison, come to Jesus.
“Are you the one or should we look for someone else?”
It’s easy for us to fill in what John is saying:
“This feels really hard. I want to be sure that I’ve staked my reputation, that I’ve risked everything, that, knowing my life depends on a completely unreliable ruler, I am following the right messiah.”
It’s what many of us say, I think.
- “God, this is hard. Are you paying attention?”
- “God, this hurts. Are you paying attention?”
- “God, this is not fair at all. Are you paying attention?”
- “God, I’ve done what you called me to do. And now this. Did I miss something?”
Note that John isn’t turning away from God, from his faith, from his calling. He still wants to believe.
Most of us do. Often, our problems with God aren’t intellectual. They are emotional.
“God, it doesn’t feel like you are there. It doesn’t feel like you care.”
And Jesus says, “Tell John what you’ve seen.”
And Jesus connects the dots between his work and the words of Isaiah 35 and 6.
Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And then, as they are walking away, Jesus turns to the crowds and talks about John.
So that the last thing that the messengers from john hear is that the one John is called to believe in, believes in him.
Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And they take the message back to John. And a while later, John is executed by Herod, in a moment of vindictiveness.
I need to be honest.
That’s not the kind of ending to that story that we want. So we’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
From Matthew 11:2-22. And my third Sunday of Advent message at the hospital.