Sunday 12 December 2010

Bible Book:

"When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, '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 ..." (vv. 2-4)

Matthew 11:2-11 Sunday 12 December 2010


In today's passage, Jesus is talking about the strength ofpeople's expectations, both of himself and of John the Baptist, hiscontemporary. 

When we travel through Advent, we tend to get caught up in thenativity story, thinking about baby Jesus and Mary, the magi fromthe East and the shepherds, the stars and the angels. And that'sall well and good. But sometimes it's helpful to think about theman that baby Jesus grew up to be. 

Babies are little bundles of potential, but for Mary there were noscans, no clues what Jesus would be like. And she wasn't justawaiting her own bundle of joy - she was carrying the expectationsof a whole nation - a people crying out for a saviour, desperate tobe rescued from the trials of the Roman occupation. 

No pressure then. 

But when Jesus grew up, he wasn't necessarily the Messiah thatpeople expected. He didn't storm into Jerusalem taking back powerfrom the Romans, leading his people to glorious victory and atrouble-free life. He rode on a donkey, socialised with taxcollectors and prostitutes, and was crucified and shamed as acriminal. 

So when John's disciples came to him to ask if he was the Messiah,Jesus simply told them to judge on their own terms - who did theythink he was, based on his actions and teachings? He wants them toforget the gossip and rumours and rely on their own experiences ofhis ministry. Similarly, when Jesus talks about John's identity, heasks people what they saw when they went out to meet John and heaffirms John's status as a great prophet. But, as far as his ownidentity is at stake, Jesus tells people to make up their ownminds. 

Jesus seems to be saying that faith is about experiences - what wesee and hear and touch and feel. This would have been convenientfor those living in 1st century Palestine during Jesus' lifetime.But how do we relate to that in the times when God can seem sodistant and our faith so disconnected from our lives? For me, thoseare the times when reading about Jesus' life and teachings, andspending time with God in prayer become more important thanever. 

To Ponder

Do you ever question who Jesus is? What do yourexperiences of faith tell you?

This advent, what are your expectations for thecoming Messiah? Where will you find him? Will it be the palace orthe slum? The dinner party or the pub?

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