Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ
November 30 2001 by Tom Greene , Matthew 11:2-11

Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

Friday, Nov 30, 2001

Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ

By Tom Greene Matthew 11:2-11 John the Baptist excited the imagination. There was the rugged, ascetic appearance and air of the man. His eyes were ablaze with a strange, intense fire, and his voice roared the judgment of God like peals of thunder. It was fire and brimstone every time. His clothes were also different: exotic, strange, way out, actual camel's hair. The swank residential areas of Jerusalem were astir with the word that he ate the old diet of the desert, locusts and wild honey.

John became the talk of the town. He reminded people of what they imagined the old prophets of Israel had been like. People talked with a mixture of awe, respect and resentment of the things this wilderness preacher was saying.

The kingdom was coming all right, he said, but if you thought it was going to be a cakewalk, you'd better think again. If you don't shape up, God will give you the axe like an elm with the blight or toss you into the incinerator like what's left over when you've threshed wheat.

Then there was that day; many would never forget it, when Jesus showed up among John's hearers. Clearly John recognized Jesus' greatness. Something instantly softened and surrendered in the grim, unflinching spirit of the wilderness preacher. He saw and he believed. He saw in Jesus the very visitation of God. "Behold the Lamb of God," he cried, "who takes away the sins of the world."

It was like the coming of springtime after a long and biting winter. Jesus was the answer. All would be well.

But then John came into conflict and experienced the vengeance of King Herod. Herod threw John into a dismal, unlighted cell. Yet John was not in despair. He had seen Jesus and discovered in Him God's visitation. He may have thought that soon the deliverer would strike the blow that would bring freedom.

John may have imagined that down the unlighted cell block, rushing feet would be heard racing, and the rusty doors would creak as they opened to let him out into the sunlight - a free man. But Jesus didn't come to set him free.

Caged in his prison, it is hard to imagine the questions that began to plague John's mind. Did Jesus know? He must have heard what happened. Why didn't He do something? His plight, the silence of Jesus, long hours to brood, combined to make the question in John's mind too achingly sharp to be stifled. John's heart began to grow sick with doubt.

Times like these are when a person can lose faith if he or she is not careful and prayerful.

When John's grip of confidence in Jesus nearly slipped in the darkness of his cell, as he had second thoughts, John decided to put the matter before Jesus. He sent his friends to Jesus. "John wants to know if you're the One we've been waiting for or whether we should cool our heels a while longer," (Matt. 11:3) they asked.

Frederick Buechner has Jesus responding in the words of our day, "You go tell John what you've seen around here. Tell him there are people who have sold their seeing-eye dogs and taken up bird watching. Tell him there are people who've traded in aluminum walkers for hiking boots. Tell him the down-and-outs have turned into the up-and-coming and a lot of deadbeats are living it up for the first time in their lives. And three cheers for the one who can swallow all this without gagging" (Matt. 11:5-6).

So Jesus sent a word back to the lonely, tormented prisoner that was neither a yes or a no, but a challenge - "make your decision upon the basis of my record."

Jesus then shared his thoughts about John with those who were listening. He said, "They don't come any better, but when the Kingdom gets in full swing even John will look like about two cents by comparison" (Matt. 11:11).

We do not know how John responded after hearing Jesus' response. Maybe after remembering how he felt when Jesus waded into the river and putting it together with the report from his disciples, he decided he must have been right the first time.

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11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Matthew 11:2-11 | with 0 comments
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