GO AND TELL JOHN WHAT YOU HEAR AND SEE
(A biblical refection on the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 15 December 2019)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:2-11
First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Second Reading: James 5:7-10
The Scripture Text
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You He who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in king’s houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written. ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than he.” (Matthew 11:2-11 RSV)
Some modern Christians wonder why some Jewish people in the first-century Palestine did not recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The answer is that Jesus was not the type of Messiah they were expecting.
Many of the Jewish people were looking for a political/military Messiah who would form an army, lead then in battle against their enemies, and conquer the world. Through the Messiah, God would establish His Kingdom on earth, transforming the world into a new Garden of Eden where there wouldn’t be any sickness or suffering. Scripture calls this period of time when God rules the world “the reign of God” or the “Kingdom of God”.
In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist sends his messenger to ask if Jesus is the one who is to come of if they should expect someone else. Since the Jews sometimes referred to the Messiah as “the one who is to come”, John is asking if that’s who Jesus is.
John, being Jewish also anticipated a Messiah who would form an army and free the Jews from foreign rule, however, Jesus did not fit this stereotype because He chose to preach about forgiveness and love of one’s enemies instead of taking up arms. Thus, John was probably a little confused and must have wondered when Jesus would start acting like the Messiah for whom everyone was waiting.
At first, it appears Jesus not answer John’s question because instead of coming right out and plainly saying yes or no, He points to His ability to the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Jesus began to restore the world to what it was like in the Garden of Eden when there wasn’t any pain and suffering. Because all this is supposed to happen only after the Messiah comes into the world, Jesus is saying that’s who He must be. So, even though Jesus didn’t perfectly fit the messianic stereotype, His answer to John’s question was a definitive “yes”.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 6-7.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless all who hunger and thirst for You. Fill them with joyful hope in the eternal prize that awaits each of us in You. I love You, Lord, and patiently await that glorious day when I will see You face-to-face. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 December 2019
A Christian Pilgrim