A fellow loudly affirmed trust in Jesus. But his situation soured, and he sunk. He asked of Jesus, “Are you the one or should we expect someone else?”
I’m talking about John the Baptist in Matthew chapter 11. There's a hint of a secret message to John in what Jesus said in reply, and in what Jesus did not say.
John the Baptist was in prison, but he heard about what the Christ was doing. So John sent some of his followers to Jesus. They asked him, ‘Are you the One who is to come, or should we wait for someone else?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Go tell John what you hear and see: The blind can see, the crippled can walk, and people with skin diseases are healed. The deaf can hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. Those who do not stumble in their faith because of me are blessed.’
I don’t object to claims, to creeds and confessions. They distill decades of careful thought and passionate debate to arrive at compact summaries about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. True, they tend to create as many questions as they answer. So do sermons, books, and the words you are reading. There was a crowd convinced of the truth of such statements that still had to implore, “What then shall we do?”
“We believe in God,” begins the Apostles' Creed. How does this apply? Does this mean that every day we aim to respect and help people, who are made in God’s image? Or does this mean we behead those who don't believe in God? Or does believing in God, like believing Mars has two moons, make no earthly difference in our behavior?
Consequently, many Christian groups now post not only “what we believe” but also “what we value,” “mission statements,” and “vision statements.” Here are some engaging church mission statements. Notice how they identify actions.
- We exist to prove that love works.
- Our vision: To reach our community and expand the Kingdom of God.
- To see people saved, healed, set free, discipled, equipped, empowered and serving.
I have super high hopes when God is involved. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." At the end of the day, I would like to have accomplished something that was clearly beyond my ability, perhaps beyond human ability. That would show that God was in it! But I must beware of treating God as a subcontractor. "Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins."
I am not made right with God by what I do; but to other people, what I do speaks louder than what I think. Or as someone said, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
So how did John come to ask falteringly, “Are you the one?”
Jesus quotes the unusual phrase, “good news to the poor.” The poor don't often get good news. However, Jesus' list stops before “to tell the captives they are free, and to tell the prisoners they are released.” This could have been Jesus' way of telling John: I am fulfilling Isaiah’s visions. I am the promised one. In the big picture, God's plan is going forward. But not everything you want will happen when you want it.
In visiting people seized by sickness or other calamities, just coming can encourage. Sometimes a comforter can paint a bigger perspective involving people and events outside the sufferer's little space, perhaps leading them up and out from their dungeon of despair. Sometimes. Elijah, Peter, and Paul had such dark nights of the soul. These and others were not comforted by "it's all for the best" or "don't worry, be happy," They were however helped by God's promise, "my grace is sufficient for you."
Hey people, I trust Jesus.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.
I aim to do what Jesus said to do, starting with loving God completely and loving people as I love myself, with my passion, my sweat, my cogitation, and my stuff. I want to equip people to love and do the same or even better.
But I’m a jerk, so I may fail.
When I do succeed in those goals, pay attention, because that will be Jesus.