Luke 7:20-23 (The Message)
The men showed up before Jesus and said, “John the Baptizer sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?'” In the next two or three hours Jesus healed many from diseases, distress, and evil spirits. To many of the blind he gave the gift of sight. Then he gave his answer: “Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves fortunate!”
On April 3rd, we looked at Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah. Making that statement was a turning point in Peter’s life. But in today’s passage it appears that John the Baptist had not yet entirely made that leap of faith. It’s interesting, because John was the first person to proclaim Jesus as “God’s Chosen one” back in the first chapter of John’s gospel. (See the posting from March 5th.) So what has happened between that encounter and this one?
The New Interpreter’s Bible suggests four possibilities: “(1) failure of nerve in which John, in prison, is troubled by uncertainty; (2) surprise that whereas he had expected a fiery reformer and prophet of judgment, Jesus has come bringing grace and healing; (3) hopefulness that Jesus is indeed the one whose coming he had announced; or (4) an effort either to encourage Jesus to make a public announcement of his identity or as a witness to his own disciples” (vol. IX, 160).
Whatever the reason behind John’s question, Jesus’ answer is remarkable. He doesn’t answer the question directly. He tells John’s disciples simply to look at the evidence, to consider all the things that Jesus has done: “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (New Living Translation).
Jesus knows that each of just must weigh the evidence, experience God’s love in our lives, and make the decision for ourselves. No one can — or should — force it on us. And here Jesus gives John’s disciples the opportunity to decide for themselves.
How has the Jesus of your experience been different than you initially thought he would be?