Sunday, December 11, 2016
Third Sunday of Advent
“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 our raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matt. 11:4)
In the first 10 chapters of Matthew, a lot happened. Jesus was born; John wore his camelhair shirt and ate bugs in the wilderness while he summoned people to repentance; John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Then Jesus was tempted in the desert, called his disciples, preached beatitudes, taught about salt and light and law and treasures and asking and seeking and knocking, and healed a whole bunch of people, and calmed down a storm, and brought a little girl back to life.
After all that, John, from his prison cell, sent a message to Jesus: Are you the one we’ve been waiting for?
It seems impossible that John, who’d foretold the Messiah’s arrival, who’d poured the Jordan’s water over Jesus’ head, still had questions about Jesus’ identity, still needed to be certain.
Maybe if they’d had smartphones back then, Jesus would’ve replied with a quick “thumbs up” emoji, or if he were in a snarky mood, a “Duh” meme (#eyeroll).
This is one of several times in the scriptures when the people who were closest to Jesus, who knew him, walked around with him, asked him questions, observed his miracles (and even sometimes participated in them) still weren’t entirely certain who they were dealing with.
I find great comfort in these stories. If Jesus patiently entertained their questions (he was never snarky!), then perhaps he’ll be just as patient with mine. I also find great challenge in these stories. If Jesus accepted the questions of his dearest friends and family, how much more gentle should we be when the people around us are incredulous, even suspicious, of this One they’ve never seen or heard or walked alongside? How are we to answer them? And how do we answer our own uncertainties, our own lingering doubts?
We do what disciples of Jesus have always done: we watch and we listen, then we go and we tell. We go to the places of questioning (even our own), and we go to the people who are looking for answers (even ourselves), and we tell them what we have witnessed, we tell them what we have seen and heard. Not Sunday-School answers or complex PhD-worthy doctrines, but joyful proclamations of the miraculous, everyday, holy, hands-on work of Christ. No flannelgraph figures or intricate theologies can identify the Messiah better than his own words and works in our lives. So we proclaim the wholeness we have witnessed: blindness turned to vision and stillness turned to dancing. We proclaim the healing we have witnessed: sores made well and silence made song. We proclaim the redemption we have witnessed: new life for the grief-stricken and good news for the poverty-stricken.
As disciples of Jesus have always done, we proclaim the Advent: the ever-coming of the One we’ve been waiting for; the One who was, the One who is, the One who is still on the way.