Thursday, December 8, 2016
After eleven years of marriage, I look back fondly on those moments from early in our relationship when we struggled to choose a place to eat because we cared so much about what the other person wanted. "No, you decide!" was the phrase passed back and forth between us. Now, there's hardly any discussion. "Where can the six of us go and leave the smallest destructive path in our wake?" When I read Jesus' words to John's disciples who come to ask if this messiah is the one upon whom God's people are waiting, I hear him saying, "You decide."
When we read Matthew 11:2-11 on Sunday, John the Baptist will be in jail. During his imprisonment, Jesus has grown in popularity. Even from his cell, John has heard about the exploits of this itinerant preacher and prophet. But John wants to know. Before he dies, John wants to know if, indeed, Jesus is the messiah that he and the rest of Israel have been looking for. So he sends his disciples to go and ask Jesus, but Jesus doesn't give them the straight reply that John (or we) might be looking for.
Jesus said to them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." It's not exactly a "yes," but it gets pretty close. This is Jesus' own messianic understanding. He is the one whom the prophets foretold as bringing sight, healing, liberty, inclusion, and hope to God's people in distress. He's not the military leader. He's not the royal authority. He's not the priestly figure. He's not the Moses-like prophet. (Well, I suppose in some ways he's those things, too, but that's not what he had in mind.) He's the healer--physical, emotional, economic, and social. He never says it quite like this, but Jesus seems to imply, "Is that what you're looking for? If so, I'm your man. If not, that's on you."
We all know what the answer is. Matthew lets us know by using the term "Messiah" in the introduction to this passage (see Monday's post). As Matthew reconstructs the story, the purpose of John's question isn't to let us know that Jesus is the Messiah, it's to show us what sort of messiah he is. Thus, Jesus is saying to us, "I'm the healer. I'm the reconciler. I'm hope for those in distress. Am I your messiah? Am I the one on whom you've been waiting? You decide."
Are we waiting for a king who will wear a crown of gold and sit upon the throne of his ancestor David, or are we waiting for the one who will wear the crown of thorns and be lifted up upon the cross so that those who suffer, those who dwell in the darkness of sin and death, can be healed? Jesus isn't who we want him to be. He is not an idol for us to fashion in our own image--in the image of what we want the world's hopes to be. He is who he is. Go and tell the world what you see: Jesus came to heal the brokenness of the world. Is that what you've been waiting for?