Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”
John the Baptist had his ministry & Jesus praised his ministry of baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the river Jordan. He had disciples too, and they must have taken part in his ministry, helping with those baptisms. He did his work, because he felt God had led him to do it and he must have known that his opposition to the powerful elite, King Herod & the Romans, and to religious leaders too, Pharisees & Sadducees, would bring trouble. And it did. He was thrown into prison to quiet his work, and he knew he would be executed. And yet, he continues to look to see how God is acting in the world and sends his disciples out. Because maybe, just maybe his cousin Jesus is also following God’s call…
John’s disciples asked Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Jesus answered 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."
Fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, Jesus lays out the signs of the Messiah, a ministry to the least, the forgotten in the society. As one author in 2007 put it:
“Whom did you expect? A King who is easily observed and readily identified by his royal garb and his flock of attendants? One whose image is plastered on political posters and carried by the mass media? Those with eyes to see have missed him. But the blind receive their sight.
Whom did you expect? A Messiah borne on the shoulders of excited crowds? One whose very presence would command respect? Those with able bodies and minds go about their business. But the lame walk.
Whom did you expect? A leader who would deploy legions of angels to carry out the work of the Lord? One who would deal with the anxieties of the elite? But he reaches out to untouchables. And lepers are cleansed.
Whom did you expect? A Christ whose teachings would be so sublime and obvious that all could easily understand? Those with perfect ears do not catch the message. But the deaf hear.
Whom did you expect? A prince who would bring instant happiness? One who would not dirty his hands with the mortuary business? But the dead are raised.
Whom did you expect? A politician who would realize that the world’s power is in the hands of the wealthy? One whose attractiveness would get him invitations to all the right places? But the poor have the Good News preached to them.
Whom did you expect? A baptizer of the status quo? One whose life and message would avoid scandals? But blessed are those who take no offense at Jesus.” (from Synthesis)
Whom did John expect? Whom do we expect?
Literally, Jesus says, Blessed are those who are not scandalized by me… How do we fulfill this?
If we follow him, his scandal is our scandal, but so too are the expectations of ministry and our connection to those in need for we can’t run away from Jesus work, for his ministry has become our own.
As one pastor put it:
Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don't know they are asking,
they are asking.
“Are you the one?”
Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope,
to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
There may be people of color who see a white person
and assume racism, until they see otherwise.
There may be a non-conforming person
who assumes you will judge them
unless you clearly don't.
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?
Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world
dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them
you will be the one.
John while in prison, has sent disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one. Jesus tells them to go & tell John what you see and hear: “the broken people who have been made whole; the crosses that have become the means to new hope and resurrection; the stories of those who refuse to yield to darkness and find forgiveness and peace in the light of God. And those who find no offense in it all.” May we be the one whose lives tell John - and everyone that we encounter - that God is in our midst in every act of love, in every healing of a heart or spirit broken, on every bridge built over the chasm of hatred and violence.” (Jay Cormier)
Today, for those looking, may we be the one. Amen.