This week we find our hero John the Baptizer locked up in prison. At this point in Matthew’s story, we don’t have information as to why he’s in prison. The story is told later in Matthew, where we find out that Herod Antipas has ordered his imprisonment and he’s locked up in his fortress near the Dead Sea. (Spoiler alert: it’s a grisly outcome!)
While in his cell, John hears news about the activities of the One whom he told was coming. Apparently, there’s something in the news he receives that is troublesome to him now. He was certain of who Jesus was when he was preaching about his coming while out in the wilderness. He definitely was certain Jesus was the Messiah when he baptized him. But now, he’s not so sure.
John sends some of his followers to ask Jesus if he really is the Messiah. In typical Jesus fashion, he sends them back, telling them to tell John about all that they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Jesus responds, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
I think it’s refreshing to know that those who knew Jesus personally had doubts from time to time about whether he really was the Messiah. Even John the Baptizer, whose entire job and purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus, was not sure about Jesus. We can surmise, but we really don’t know, why he was questioning. We do know he sends his followers to go ask Jesus again.
I think it’s normal if we followers of Jesus occasionally slip back into wondering. In fact, this time of year lends itself to wondering as we consider what Jesus’ birth means for us. Just as John found himself in circumstances that tested his resolve, we all have things in our lives that will test our own resolve.
This is a difficult time of year for many. Many are facing this holiday for the first time without a beloved partner, parent, child, or close friend. Others have been downsized out of a job or who never make enough to pay rent, put food on the table, and pay for utilities. There are those who are struggling with their addictions and losing the battle to their demons. What will our lives be like with a seemingly unstable person about to become president? Then there is the insecurity of terrorism, natural disaster, or a deeper economic recession.
Maybe it’s in uncertain and fearful times like these that we reach deep and push ourselves into those hard and difficult questions. We ask ourselves anew, “Why is it I have trusted this Jesus with my entire life?” What can we say to those whose lives leave them wondering who Jesus is or where is he? What can we provide to assure others he is worthy of our trust and faith? How can we offer his good news to someone, like John the Baptizer, who feels insecure at best and terrified at worst?
It is to us, like the followers of John the Baptizer, that Jesus says, “Go out there and SEE! Go listen for yourselves. Find the good news of God’s saving grace out there in the world. It is there for all to see. The sun rises every morning and sets every evening. The spring returns after the long, cold winter. Even as some are leaving this world for eternal rest, others are being born into it with each new breath. The splendor of the stars, the breathtaking variety of creation and the amazing wonder in each form of life that exists. It’s all a wonder for us to see! Do you see what I see?