A reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
This is the Word of the Lord.
This passage is among my favorites in the entirety of Scripture, and is one that I talk about often. In fact, I mentioned it in Monday’s post.
John the Baptist is in prison.
Jesus is not. He’s out doing Jesus things.
John is quite confused.
The Messiah that the Jews were in search of was a military leader. He was the One who was going to once-and-for-all liberate the Jewish people from their oppressors. Hittites, Philistines, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and now Romans had all been in control of this tiny nation for the majority of its history. The Messiah was going to change all of that. He was going to raise up an army, plot a military strategy unequaled in history, and make his nation great again.
But, that wasn’t happening.
And, John was in prison.
John. The forerunner of the Messiah.
John. The voice in the wilderness proclaiming that Messiah was here.
But, the One he thought was the Messiah wasn’t acting like he thought Messiah should ask.
Had he missed it?
Isn’t that the question that we all come to time and time again: “Have we missed it?”
Those of you who read our newsletter know that we’re changing cities. Moving a bit further inland, closer to the rail and the airport, and into the city where another John (the Apostle) is buried. We knew that this was going to be happening in the month of December. We were expecting. Hoping. Trusting that by 15 December we would have a lease signed on a new apartment, and would be packing the old one up.
Well, hello 15 December.
We’ve been searching since 1 December. We’ve looked at about 12 different places. Some, we knew as soon as the door opened that it wasn’t the place. Some, we thought we might could make it work, but it would be challenging. One was perfect, but the owner elected not to rent to us.
We will see more places today.
The other day, at the prompting of a friend, we went to a house for sale and inquired with the neighbor about it. “Would they be willing to rent?” We asked. We are waiting for that answer now, and if they do rent it, we would probably take it. It would be a dream come true kind of place.
There’s another place that we’ve been asking to see for a week now. “I must talk to the owner, who is s a farmer and is in the fields.” Still waiting.
More than one time in the past two weeks I have stopped and asked, “Have we missed it?”
John, in prison and in desperation, sends his people to see Jesus.
“Are you the Messiah?”
If not, we need to rethink our strategy. If so, then when is this army going to be built. The Romans are terrible. They’re destroying the country. They’re stealing our gold. They’re terrorizing our neighborhoods.
We need a rescuer. We need the Messiah!
Jesus does what Jesus usually does—He answers without answering.
Look around you and see what’s happening. That’s was Jesus’ answer. Look around and see.
Jesus points out that there are blind people who can now see. Lame people who can now walk. Good News is being preached to the poor. Even the dead are raised.
A moment of honesty here. If I am one of John’s disciples I would be tempted to respond something like, “But, Jesus, my friend’s 5 year old son is dead.”
Or, “But, Jesus, a young man who I really like is in a hospital bed with a heart thing.”
Or, “But, Jesus, a man who loves you a ton is still in prison.”
Or, “But, Jesus, I’m still looking for a place to live.”
We’ve talked about this before on the blog. I struggle with the now but not yet of the Kingdom of Heaven. I really want Jesus to just fix all the problems all at once. I want him to heal all the sick. Raise all the dead. Rescue all the oppressed. Conquer poverty. And, find me a house.
Now would be good. But, that isn’t Jesus’ way. And it frustrates me.
Have we missed it?
“Go tell John,” Jesus says, “what you see.” In other words, stop thinking that I’m about to raise up and army and go kick some Roman butt. That’s not the way this works.
Jesus comes not to restore our Kingdoms. Jesus comes to institute his Kingdom.
And, then, leaves it with us to keep that institution going. He leaves it to us to keep bringing healing to those who need healing. He leaves it to us to keep bringing life in the face of death. He leaves it to us to conquer poverty.
His Kingdom does not lead us to overthrow governments. It leads us to operate within them to make life better for all.
So, yeah, we miss it when we put Jesus in the place of some militarily minded government leader. And, we miss it when we think that Jesus will set all things right—right now. And, we miss it when our response to the crises in the world is “Jesus is coming back soon, so you better get ready.”
Advent is all about waiting. It’s all about longing. It’s all about wondering. It’s all about something that will happen soon—someday.
The other night, I was on the phone with a trusted friend. We were talking about the housing struggle. He told me in a not-really-joking way that our housing search was a bit like Advent. Waiting for the right thing. Waiting for the promised place. The appointed time.
Advent is all about waiting.
In the meantime, we go and tell what Jesus is doing. We proclaim a Messiah that is very different than what we think he should be.
So, no, we haven’t missed it when we keep proclaiming good news to the poor. Or, bring healing to the sick. Or, bread to the hungry. Or, blankets to the cold.