Today’s reading focuses on John the Baptist again, not this time in his role preparing the way for the Messiah, but rather as a witness to Jesus’ Messianic ministry.
John the Baptist is in prison but has been told about what Jesus is doing. He is puzzled! Jesus’ actions don’t seem to match up with “the axe, fire and judgment” that John had told people the Messiah would bring (remember last week’s reading in Matthew 3:7-12). Had he made a mistake? Was someone else ‘the one who is to come’? So he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus a straight question.
Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer but tells John’s disciples to report the evidence – ‘people are healed, the dead raised to life and the Good News is preached to the poor.’ He wants John to understand that he is indeed the Messiah and is bringing in the Kingdom of heaven as foretold by the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah – and not as might have been the ‘popular’ hope at that time.
We are not told John’s response, but Jesus commends his integrity and confirms that John is indeed the ‘messenger’ sent to prepare the way for the Messiah in line with what was actually prophesied by Malachi (3:1).
John’s prophetic role was to denounce evil and call for repentance. His message was the same for everyone – kings, religious leaders, as well as non-titled people – and he was not afraid to speak out. It got him thrown into prison for condemning King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife and ultimately cost him his life (Matthew 14: 3-12)
Time after time in scripture we read accounts of how God intervenes in peoples’ lives in the most unexpected ways at times, bringing forgiveness, healing and guidance. Maybe reflecting on the ways God has intervened in our lives up to this – might be a useful exercise for this week-end.
On this 3rd Sunday of Advent the lighter coloured (pink) candle is lit by way of focusing on the Joy that should be at the heart of the Christmas celebrations. So often – too often Faith in Jesus Christ is presented as burdensome, bothersome, and bewildering. This of course is the direct opposite to what it should be.