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Thursday, December 6, 2018

“Waiting for Another”

Matthew 11:2-6

How can this be?  John the Baptist now is in prison.  He has heard what Christ is doing.  In fact these are the very things John himself predicted.  John had proclaimed Jesus as this powerful figure who will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.  John himself saw this when he baptized Jesus.  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and the voice of God was heard saying “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).

What more could anyone ask for?  The evidence would be beyond dispute.  John saw this.  He heard the voice.  Even now in prison he is hearing what Jesus is doing.  What had Jesus been doing?  Jesus has raised the dead (Matt. 9:18-26).  He has healed the blind (Matt. 9:27-31) and the mute (Matt. 9:32-34).  These are all clearly miracles.

But here we have John asking a fundamental question, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?”  How can he ask such a question?  Given all that he has seen and heard doesn’t he know the obvious answer?

Yet is it really so obvious?  For all that was said about Jesus baptizing with fire and the Holy Spirit, for all about his judgment “at the root of the trees, Herod is still the present king of the Jews.  Rome still rules over Israel.  John, like others, may have expected a drastic overthrow of the present system.

We don’t know what it was like for John to be in prison.  It is fine to say with Paul that we walk by faith and not by sight (II Cor. 5:7).  Yet when our sight is darkened by the trauma of this world it may inevitably be the case that doubt seems to overwhelm our faith.  Actually the fact that someone of the character of John the Baptist seems to doubt should encourage us in our doubts.  Even the message of Christmas is hope mingled with despair.  The birth of Christ brings joy and salvation.  However it also leads to the murder of the infants of Bethlehem.

Advent and Christmas are designed to build up our faith.  This is necessary in a world where Herod is on the throne and John the Baptist is in prison.  That world continues to this day.  We need to affirm that Jesus is the One.  We don’t wait for another.  We live in the promise of a second Christmas when Christ will return to make all things new.  We need to be reminded of that fact again and again.