Monday, December 9, 2013

Am I Missing Something?

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Jesus loves to give cryptic replies. He is asked a direct question and He gives and answer that seems non-responsive at first. The question is an important one. Are you the one? Are you the messiah? Are the one God has promised. John the Baptist should know, should he not? I mean he was the one who called Jesus, "The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." If that is what you say about Jesus then why would you look for anyone else? Yet he somehow gets confused. Jesus does not seem anything like what John or most Jews imagined the Messiah would be. He is walking around Galilee and collecting a few disciples and doing a few miracles and it is nice but it is disappointingly small. The Romans remain firmly in power. John knows this well because he is in King Herod's prison and will soon be executed. So he starts to wonder. Is is really Him? Am I missing something?

If John the Baptist, God's chosen messenger, got confused then maybe it is not surprising that we do to. Things don't go as we expect. We are ready to take the world by storm. We live moral lives or at least we try to. We work hard. We have great faith. Expectations are high. Yet we end up disappointed at the results. Are we missing something? Is there some kind of super-powerful prayer we need to use? Is there an amazing argument we can come up with? Is there a magic program that will make everything work?

Jesus is non-responsive on one level but does respond to the deeper issue. He quotes Isaiah. He sends John back to the scriptures. He is really saying, don't think too highly of your own image of how God should work. Everything you have in your own mind can be wrong. Go back to what God actually said. The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. God is failing to meet your expectations but He is not failing to do what He promised and what He promised is pretty amazing. In fact, this grace being poured out on the poor is not a precursor of the real political kingdom. It is the real kingdom.

Advent is about waiting. We don't like to wait but it is also the root word of adventure. There is no adventure in life if problems are solved in an instant. Yet we lose faith so quickly when things take time. So many questions we ask of God answer themselves if we are just patient. Jesus does get rid of the Romans. It just takes 3 centuries.
As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Then Jesus keeps going with His questions. He asks about John the Baptist again. Why was he so impressive? This is interesting. People often have a spiritual sense of things. They know more about faith and morals then they think they do. Questions can often help them solidify what they already know. What was so impressive about this guy? You felt something. You made the trip all the way into the dessert to hear him. What made you go? Do you dare say he is a prophet? Do you dare say he is THE prophet? The prophet that is supposed to announce the messiah. Was that not the message he preached? Someone is coming. Prepare the way.

Modern people tend to distrust their spiritual sense.Even when we believe what it tells us we are a bit embarrassed. It is not logical. It is not scientific. We like to think of ourselves as being skeptical. People say skepticism is the chastity of the intellect. But if something is very spiritually moving then maybe your intellect can do a little kissing. Nothing rash but don't slam the door on everything in the name of chastity. Skepticism can lead to spiritual sterility.

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