December 13, 2020
Matthew 11:2-11 (NIV)
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: 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.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then 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,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
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.”
Questioning assumptions. That’s what John was doing in that dank prison cell.
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Our assumptions about how things should turn out can be blinding. Assumptions easily solidify into expectations. And expectations are the seeds of future bitterness. Divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, death, etc., weren’t supposed to happen. We did everything right, followed Jesus, obeyed God’s will. How can this be happening?
Isn’t this John’s quandary? The child of great promise, forerunner of the Messiah, and prophet of greatest renown sits in a prison cell wondering if he wasted his life. Surely there has to be someone else coming. It looks to us like Jesus was hitting home runs, right? Look how he responded to John’s question:
“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.”
What more could a prophet want? I think John expected a lot more tables overturned, pink slips for high priests, revolting from Rome; more fireworks—less fluff; a little less conversation and a little more action. He expected something or someone else.
We are the same. We want God on our terms, or we don’t want him at all. That’s why so often it takes one of life’s unforeseen train wrecks to open our eyes to the perspective of divine grace. We tend to meet up with God when we find ourselves backed into a corner with nowhere else to turn. These unwanted moments when we cannot change the reality we face offer the most profound possibilities of true life change. It may be precisely because the situation cannot change that everything else can change. Have you ever heard someone say cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them? They don’t mean cancer was in any way good, just that awakening was better.
We find ourselves at about the halfway point in this Advent journey of awakening. We are equidistant from the starting gate and the finish line. We are, as noted earlier, somewhere in the middle of the beginning of the end. Might we question our assumptions about the second Advent of Jesus Christ? How might we examine our assumptions about Christmas and his first coming? Would we dare to ask ourselves an unthinkable question like: What if we are all asleep?
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. I hardly know where to start with this. My assumptions are like water to a fish. I don’t even know how to get at them. I see what I see, which I fear blinds me to what you would like to show me. Maybe that is the place to start—with what I see and hear. Come, Holy Spirit, and give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Break in and break through. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Would you be willing to ask yourself this question: What if I’m asleep?
For the Awakening,