What I’m Thinking: Fulfillment Defined

When John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the one they’d been expecting, Jesus not only answered the question, he defined what kind of Messiah he would be.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eleventh chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11), in which we find John the Baptist no longer baptizing in the river Jordan, but instead imprisoned by orders of King Herod.

John, after baptizing Jesus, had apparently paid some attention to Jesus’ ministry. That would have been somewhat difficult. John’s ministry took place in Judea along the Jordan whereas Jesus was some distance away up in Galilee. But from prison John had, I guess, the time or at least the ability to satisfy his deep and earnest question: is this, in fact, the Messiah that I have been proclaiming? So he sent messengers to Jesus: “Are you the one for whom we have been waiting or is there another?”

This was a good and necessary question. The Jews in the first century understood the coming Messiah in a number of different ways. Probably the most common way of understanding the role and the function of the Messiah was to imagine a returning monarch, one who would overthrow the Romans and get rid of King Herod and essentially set up a new era of a monarchy, of a nation, similar to that of ancient days with King David.

But there were other theologies around and Jesus: his activity certainly didn’t match that of a conquering monarch, but what did it match and how did he understand himself? So John sent his messengers: “Are you the one who is to come or should we wait for another?”

Jesus’ response both assured John that the one for whom they had been waiting was here, but also defines his Messiahship in very certain terms. “Go and tell John what you see and hear: that the lame walk and the blind see and the deaf hear and the poor have good news preached to them. Blessed are they who take no offense at me.”

I don’t know why… well, I can guess… but Christianity has struggled with this for two millennia. We have known that our Savior came and refused to act like a conquering monarch. We’ve known that our Savior came as a healer and a teacher. We’ve known this and we have also developed empires and kingdoms that were built upon force and upon fear. We have attempted to convert people to the religion of Jesus by force.

Go and tell your neighbors what you see and hear: that the disabled are treated like fully functional human beings, that the poor are reassured that their poverty does not define them. Hmm… and you might mention from the other text for the Sunday that the rich get sent empty away. Go and tell people what you see and hear in this Messiah: healing and restoration and justice and peace.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on December 5, 2022

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