2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”7 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? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.10 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.’
11 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. (NRSV)
By: Harriet Pyburn
In this week’s scripture, we meet John the Baptist again. John is now in prison, and he sends a message to Jesus asking, “Are you the one?” Our natural inclination is to wonder, “Why is John asking this?” Just a few chapters ago, John was baptizing Jesus, and it was clear that Jesus was The One. So why the question?
I imagine there are several possibilities. John may be questioning his faith as he sits in prison. If so, he would not be the first or last in the Bible to have moments of uncertainty (Moses, Elijah, Peter…). It would be understandable to crave reassurance. Or perhaps he asks the question for the sake of his own disciples. By sending them to Jesus for this answer he could ensure they continue their ministry after he is gone.
Either scenario reminds us that faith is never static or complete. John is famous for preparing the way for Jesus through his preaching of repentance and baptism. But this is not just a past tense story. In today’s scripture, Jesus’ response to John’s question reminds us that through Him, we are ultimately preparing for the kingdom of heaven.
The preparation continues. During Advent, may we open our hearts to hear and see Jesus in our everyday lives so that we may receive His unconditional mercy and grace and reflect it to the world.
By: Margaret Shaw
Preparation is something I like to think I'm good at. I prepare for meetings, work, travel, and even fun. I check weather, travel times, bring a pen & paper, make checklists, set 2 alarms, and on and on. I LIKE to prepare, and be prepared.
And yet, writing this meditation I feel exasperated because sometimes I don't know how to prepare. And what then? Right now I'm preparing for a journey that has many unknowns, and while I'm doing all I can to be ready I know I will miss something.
Advent is such a journey for all of us—we know generally what to expect, but there are always turns in the road, fellow travelers we didn't anticipate, and both setbacks and advances that will come when we least expect them.
So I reflected: how to prepare, for my own journey and for our shared journey of Advent? And here’s what came to me:
· Prepare to be surprised
· Prepare to be challenged
· Prepare to trust
· Prepare to be loved
· Prepare to love, with an undefended heart
And one more... prepare to meet prophets on the journey. Prophets, like angels, come in many sizes and shapes. They may be as unexpected as a camel-skin dressed, insect-eating John-the-Baptizer. We just don't know when a prophet will appear beside us—but we know that they will. This verse from Matthew assures us: "I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee".
I feel better now. I cannot know everything I will need for this or any journey, but I am reassured that if I prepare my heart, and watch and listen for prophets the journey can be accomplished. Thanks be to God.