15 December 2013

Matthew 11:2-11

"Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" (v. 3)


John the Baptist (now in prison) sent a deputation of his own followers to question Jesus. Perhaps we can understand John's concern. When he had baptized Jesus in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17) what ideas did he have in mind about the way this man would take? What was John expecting? What would Jesus, his cousin, do? Now shackled in Herod's dungeon John has time to think, and time to ask.

Jesus had no difficulty in giving an answer to the question "Are the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?". He replied that the blind, the lame, the deaf and the leper are healed, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them (verse 5).

Jesus then called upon the crowd to acknowledge John's true greatness (verses 7-9), by first asking the crowd to remember the time when they had flocked to hear John preach and to receive his baptism of repentance. What did they think they were looking for? Nature in its awesome bleak magnificence? A stunning display of wealth? No, for that you look in palaces. A prophet, perhaps? Ah yes, but not just another prophet; the greatest of all that eminent line!

Could we describe John as 'faithfully waiting'? His little deputation suggests that he too may have found it a hard discipline. We don't usually think of waiting as a long-term prospect; it rather loses its point if what we are waiting for never happens.

Sitting in a doctor's (or dentist's) waiting room - or in the A & E department of your local hospital - can be a trying experience. You are expected just to sit and wait, unable to do anything to speed things up.

To Ponder

  • John needed to ask questions of his cousin Jesus. Can we be certain about anybody? Even about ourselves?
  • What is the good of waiting if you could make things happen immediately? What if there's nothing at all you can do?
  • Why is patience held in such high regard? Does waiting make you a better person? If so, how?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.