Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

Third Sunday in Advent

Matthew 11:2-11

[2] When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples [3] and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” [4] Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: [5] 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. [6] And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
[7] 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? [8] What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. [9] What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. [10] 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.’
[11] 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 opening verse of this text says that John the Baptist was in prison. He found himself there after pointing out to King Herod that it was unlawful for him to have taken his brother’s wife for his own. Herod didn’t take kindly to having his public sins denounced publicly. John was simply doing what God had called him to do as a prophet—declaring the word of the Lord, and for that he found himself in prison. Such upheaval and trauma can often shake up one’s faith.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he truly was the Messiah. It wasn’t that John was doubting, so much as he just wanted some assurance that God was still with him and active, even if things had turned bad for him.

Jesus doesn’t criticize or condemn John’s questions but graciously gives him the assurance he’s looking for. Yes, Jesus is the Messiah. Yes, John fulfilled his call and commission to prepare the way of the Lord.

We too can find ourselves in unexpected, and undesired circumstances, wondering if we somehow took a wrong turn. We find our faith shaken and questioning if it has been well placed. Jesus welcomes those questions, and is eager to give us assurance (as he did for John) that he is with us and continues to be at work in our lives and the world—even if it is in ways we didn’t anticipate and can’t quite fully understand at this time. But Jesus doesn’t expect us to have a perfect faith that never questions, doubts or wonders. Rather he welcomes a faith that brings those questions and doubts to him.