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.
John the Baptist asks a haunting question: “Are you the one who is coming, or are we to wait for another?” John’s been reading Isaiah 35 (the Old Testament text for this Sunday) which promises a transformation of everything. But he looks at what’s going with Jesus and doesn’t see that happening. John’s still in jail, and Rome is still in charge, and the righteous are still suffering, etc. So is Jesus the messiah, the one who is coming, the real deal, or not? This is a haunting question for many people today as well.
Jesus’ answer is curious. He doesn’t say “yes” or anything straightforward. Instead, he says the transformation is happening—the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, etc—but it’s happening in small ways, in slow ways, in subtle ways. The messiah doesn’t come and wave his magic wand and everything is set right. It starts small. And ultimately the transformation continues through faithful communities of people who are caught up with the spirit and continue the work.
Maybe this is an important reminder as we’re so near to Christmas. We may be waiting for the divine wave of the magic wand, but that’s not how God works. God works slowly, quietly, subtlety—and through God’s faithful people, like us! (RAF)