Monday, December 10, 2007

Jesus, are you the one? Matthew 11:2-11

John the Baptist's followers came to Jesus with a question in Matthew 11:3, "Art thou the coming one? or are we to wait for another?" 1890 Darby Bible. It's the question Christians have to ask Jesus. Even John the Baptist had to ask Jesus this question. John's calling was to prepare the way for the one and now in prison John sent out his followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one?" John's ministry faded away. Herod held him captive loving to hear him speak and fearing his words at the same time.

John's ministry was over as fast at it had begun. In Matthew John the Baptist just appeared as a prophet. In Matthew 3:2 John called out "μετανοει̂τε" change/repent. He just appeared in Mark, and John's Gospels too as the forerunner, the prophet of God calling for repentance before the Christ arrives. Luke tells John's biography. His birth was foretold by an angel to his father while he was serving God as priest at the Temple. (Luke 1:5-25) He lept in the womb when his mother met Mary carrying the infant Jesus. (Luke 1:39-45) But in Matthew he just appeared.

The mystery to John in Matthew shouldn't be overlooked as we hear of his imprisonment and his own questioning of Jesus. John's own calling as a prophet amazes us. He had purpose and vision and he stood out boldly. His call for repentance was heard; but not universally heeded. But that was only part of his ministry; he was to prepare the way. Imprisoned he wondered if Jesus was the one. It didn't start this way, he was the wild one outside of civilization and now civilization held him bound.

Luke and Mark say that John preached a baptism of repentance/change for the forgiveness of sins Luke 3:3 κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιω̂ν Black, Greek New Testament. 3rd ed UBS. Mark 1:4 tells it much the same. The crowds came out to be baptized. The Gospel of John begins with a detailed explanation of John's ministry as the one who came before Jesus. And now reading Matthew 11 we see that this it for John, asking from a cell through emissaries, "are you the one?"

John's ministry as, baptizer and forerunner, brought him into the imagination of the people and into the prison of King Herod. Jesus said that he was more than a prophet, he was the one to prepare the way, but now he was the one in a cell sending out his followers to meet Jesus. His words outside of the walls of society had been heard by those in power inside the walls. Herod chose to have John locked away. An old teacher of mine, Jim Nestingen wrote,

John’s fate is linked to his Lord’s. So, having heard him sounding forth in the desert the radical freedom of detachment, we find him now doubly attached—in prison, yet held even more firmly by the One whom he has proclaimed (Matt 11:2-11).
John's fate was real, just one enticing dance by a young woman was all it cost in the end to see the Baptist's head on a silver platter (Matthew 14:1-12). His days in prison were days to question and to hope. John's ministry would end but Jesus' would grow. And with Jesus ministry came a new hope,
"Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor." Matthew 11:4-5 New Living Translation
Hope began with John's call for repentance; hope grew as Jesus healed and forgave the hurting; hope died for 3 days as the cross claimed Jesus life; but the love of God did not end. Hope grew fresh from the stump in the resurrection not only that we could have freedom through repentance but that that through Christ crucified and risen we might die to sin, death and the devil. John's message, repent, will forever be linked to Jesus life, dying and rising. He came to prepare the way for hope...

1 comment:

LawAndGospel said...

Just now catching up on my reading after finals. Enjoyed the post. And do not people still ask today- are you the one or should we wait for another?