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Vicar Christopher Stout

 “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  (Matt. 11:3).  “Shall we long for another one?  Should we expect someone else?  It doesn’t really seem that you’re fitting my description of you,” John’s thinking.  If there was ever one man on this earth that had more confidence in who he was and what his vocation in this world included than anyone else, it was John the Baptist.  John knew what he had to do.  He was to preach repentance, and he did.  He was to confess that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  He was to prepare the way for one mightier than He, the King of Heaven and Earth who comes to reign. John knew who he was.  John began to wonder, however, if Jesus knew who he was – or maybe we should expect another.  “I preached that ‘his winnowing fork is in hand, and he will clear the threshing floor in the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire,’ (Matt. 3:12) so use that winnowing fork, clear out this chaff and burn them, I’m in prison here Jesus.  This doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God, should we look for another?”

 What are you looking for, John?  Who were you expecting?  Here’s what I’m doing. Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  Blessed is the one who is not offended by me (Matt. 11:4-6).  Jesus doesn’t ignore the question.  Jesus doesn’t scold John for doubting.  He answers by pointing to his deeds.  Sin has broken in to this creation with sight problems, hearing problems, skin problems, dying problems.  Jesus restores His creation by healing, raising the dead, preaching good news to poor sinners.  Was he coming the one? Yes, of course He was.  Should doubting John in his lonely torturing prison look for another?  No. Go and tell him that.   

 “Are you the coming one or should we look for another?” was the same question for John, but maybe it’s not the same question for many today.  Are you the one who is to come? Yes, that’s a fact, to all, whether they believe or not.  Should we look for another?  Well, what are you looking for?  If you are always confident in your faith in God, and never feel like you waver, then you should look for another.  If you’re convinced that you always show a self sacrificing love to your spouse – if you always show patience to your brothers and sisters in Christ, even when they seem so ignorant, then you should look for another.  If you can always rely on yourself and those around you -- if you always keep your tongue clean from gossip – if you are never weighed down by the pressures put upon you by this season, by your family, by your job, by your professors, by your congregation, by your friends in need – if you never feel lonely or have an anxious heart – if you’re not dying, then yes, you should look for another.  

 But if you are broken, sick, accused, guilty, and tired of the constant weight placed upon you by what you should do, and the many things that you fail to do – if you feel that you have a teetering faith at times – then you shouldn’t look for another.  This is your King who comes to preach good news to you.  Should you look for another?  Blessed are you if you are not offended by a God who comes to restore your brokenness.  Blessed are you if you are not offended to see your sin and the Messiah who comes to say, “I forgive you.”  Blessed are you because your King comes to you to give you His blessing of peace, forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Blessed are you as He preaches to you today, forgives you, strengthens you, as He reigns in His Kingdom.  Isaiah speaks this blessedness to you by saying, “Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!’  Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.”  (Isaiah 35:3-4).  Should we look for another?  There is no help in any other than God who came to die and comes to you today.

  Why does John ask if they should look for another?  Why are we still tempted to look for another?  Why does Jesus constantly have to point us back to his deeds that He does to answer this question?  John the Baptist points out for us one of the strangest paradoxes in Christianity.  God has broken into human history.  The kingdom of God was reigning in power and glory right before the face of John’s disciples.  The kingdom of God is still reigning right before our face today.     Yet, there is still so much sin in this world.  There is still so much suffering and evil in this world.  The Kingdom of God is here, but God will not overthrow all evil and suffering – yet.  Disciples are not promised luxurious and happy lives, rather they are promised suffering and persecution.  John’s the greatest born of woman and he’s in prison.  How is this the kingdom of God?  Is there any wonder why John might have his doubts?  Is there any wonder why if the greatest of the prophets had his doubts, that other great prophets like Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah had their doubts as to why God works this way?  Is there any wonder why we have doubts when experiencing evil and suffering and don’t have many answers?  Should we look for another?

 Dear Christian, this is why our God who came must come over and over again until He comes again to completely overthrow evil and suffering in this world.  James calls us to be patient as we wait, “You also, be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  You have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionated and merciful. (James 5:7,11).  God’s kingdom, God’s reign comes in the person of Jesus.  Is there power in the reign of God in Jesus?  Yes – but it is power for those who need forgiveness, strength, and recognize their reliance on God.  Is there glory in the reign of Jesus?  Yes – but it is glory that will be shown most importantly in what appears to be shame and defeat, for John the Baptist himself, for us, but most importantly for Jesus on the cross.  Should we look for another?  Nowhere else can those with doubts, those suffering, those burdened – nowhere else can the poor in body and soul find eternal help which the world, with all of its resources, is unable to give.  Should we look for another?  No one else comforts the sorrowing, distressed, and conscience stricken with good news of peace and rest.  Should we look for another?  Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.


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