3rd Sunday of Advent - Cycle A
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
Imprisoned by Herod, John the Baptist hears about what Jesus has been doing, so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” This may seem like an odd question, considering all we know about John and his prophetic knowledge of Jesus.
John already recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. So when he sends his disciples to ask Jesus the question of His identity, he is really asking: When does Jesus plan to start His work? In this time, the Jewish people expected the Messiah to come as a conqueror and deliver them from the oppression of their enemies. John, imprisoned by the Romans, could certainly use deliverance.
Jesus gives His answer: “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.” In other words, Jesus has already started doing His work.
I will admit that I am often like John, asking Jesus to be present when He already is. When I pray, it is easy to seek a yes or no answer, focus on my own expectations, and ignore the ways Jesus is already working in my life. In scripture, however, Jesus seldom gives simple answers.
After John’s disciples leave, Jesus turns to his own followers to speak about John, asking them, “What did you go out to see?” He tells them clearly that John is the messenger sent to prepare the way, often recognized as Elijah. By doing this, he verifies that there is a plan to fulfill God’s promise, even if it looks different than people might expect.
The Jewish people expected a Messiah to conquer their enemies, but Jesus conquers far more difficult oppressors: sin and death. In what ways are we expecting Jesus to work in our lives? Often it can feel like the world is pressing in around us, that we need Jesus to come and conquer our foes, deliver us from darkness. But He already has, and the Kingdom of God is already here. All we need to do is look and listen.