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John the Baptist and Jesus and faith

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The Gospel

Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “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.”

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? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 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.’

“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.”

The Sermon

Has anyone in the room ever been in prison. I have been to prison but only as a visitor. Actually, I did spend a couple of years in boarding school and at that time there were a number of us who felt we were serving a prison sentence. I am just guessing but I would speculate that prison is not a place where you could count on reliable information. I believe John the Baptist felt the same way.

John had heard a lot of stories about Jesus and many of them were probably true. He just wanted to be sure. We want to be sure too and all we have to go on is what we read in the New Testament. The good news is that John the Baptist is mentioned in all of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, in each gospel the stories are told a little differently. Stories that are not written down right away sometimes get changed. Sometimes they are altered in small insignificant ways and sometimes in big ways.

The other day I was talking on the phone with a colleague and I told him I had heard that he had had a gall bladder operation and I asked him how he was doing. He said he was fine but it was kidney stones and not his gall bladder and there had been no operation. The story had changed.

John knew stories can change in their telling and he wanted to be sure so, direct person that he was, John asked, “are you the one who is to come?” Jesus could have simply said, “Yes”, but he didn't. He told these messengers sent from John to relate to him that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor hear the good news. Basically, Jesus wanted John to draw his own conclusions. Jesus knew also that stories and hard evidence can only take you so far. Jesus knew that John was aware in his heart and mind that Jesus was the messiah and he wanted John to trust his intuition. He wanted John to trust his gut.

Jesus was a good teacher and that is what good teachers do. They have their students draw their own conclusions based on what they know. In Matthew ch. 16-13 Jesus asks his disciples the same question when he says, “who do people say that I am?” After getting several responses, Peter speaks up and says, “ you are the Son of the living God.” Jesus had never told Peter his was the messiah but Peter just knew.

We all have moments of doubt just as John may have had. Jesus understands that. Some truths cannot be completely validated with evidence, or hearsay, or anything you can point to. That is where faith comes through. I know that God is with us and my belief comes from somewhere deep within me.


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