Messengers from John the Baptist
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
The Church is a strange organisation. Every one of its members have, to some degree, accepted that they are called into its membership. That membership of the Christian community we call ‘The Church’ is open to all and, whilst there is no membership fee, its members are expected to lead a life of self-sacrificial love and service, as modelled by its founder, Jesus Christ. The concepts of ‘belonging’ and ‘community’ are generally accepted, but then come the problems. It is when we get down to ‘self-sacrificial love and service’ that issues of doubt and inconsistency rear their ugly heads.
In today’s reading we can see a question of doubt being raised by John the Baptist and Jesus’ response to that question. John’s ministry as the forerunner of the Messiah was foretold in the ancient prophecies. Similarly, Jesus’ coming amongst us revealed the truth of those prophecies. The time of John and Jesus had been prepared for and, two thousand years ago, it became a reality. But, John still felt the need to send two of his disciples to ask: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? As Jesus’ ministry grew, so John’s diminished. Perhaps we should not be surprised that John experienced this very human moment of uncertainty, just us most of us experience similar feelings of doubt from time to time.
Jesus’ response to John’s question is one we should all heed. Jesus reminds John, and us, of all that he is doing, and he is reminding us in the language of the ancient prophecies. Jesus says: Go and tell … what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. Then Jesus says: … blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.
It is a natural human response to the extent of God’s call in our lives that we should ask sceptical questions, that we should have moments of uncertainty. But, when we feel overwhelmed by such uncertainty we should take all that negativity to Jesus. Then, we should listen to his words and re-dedicate ourselves to living that self-sacrificial life of love and service that will only ever be a pale imitation of the model he gave us.