|Sermon Preparation -
John [the Baptist] was in prison when he heard what Christ was doing.
So John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus,
"Are you the one we should be looking for?
Or must we wait for someone else?"
"Go and tell John what you have heard and seen.
The blind are now able to see, and the lame can walk.
People with leprosy are being healed, and the deaf can hear.
The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the good news.
God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do."
As John's followers were going away, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John:
"What sort of person did you go out into the desert to see?
Was he like tall grass blown about by the wind?
What kind of man did you go out to see?
Was he dressed in fine clothes? People who dress like that live in the king's palace.
What did you really go out to see?
Was he a prophet? He certainly was. I tell you that he was more than a prophet.
In the Scriptures God says about him, 'I am sending my messenger ahead of you to get
things ready for you.'
I tell you that no one ever born on this earth is greater than John the Baptist.
But whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John."
1. From early to late we ask about the speediness of redemption. In the Garden of Eden folks reached for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil as if the good could be hurried into being and evil could be hurried away. John was in prison but Jesus was not revolutionizing the world with John's focus on repentance. It is as if we have always known about fast forward and slow motion. We want our finger or thumb on the remote to control the pace of life.
2. The issue here is that John is hungry for results right now, he would have made a good American who wants what he wants when he wants it, and Jesus is busy being yeast, and not even the fast-rising kind. May we each see and be seen for the gift we are and not be rejected on the basis of the externals of our lives. We are not blessed by rejection but by healing. In a sense John said each person had to straighten out their life (repent) while Jesus reminds us that all efforts at self-control are useless if a person does not live in (believe) GOD's reconciling love.
3. No one ever born is greater than John. Further, no one ever born is greater than you. This truth is not an occasion for pride and control. The "greater" language sets the stage for Jesus' teaching about "lesser" living. If you read on past this passage we find Jesus reflecting on the tendency of his age, and, by extension, ours, to try to take over heaven by force. However, Jesus comes as a friend of sinners not a repentance enforcer. John's disciples used to fast; Jesus' disciples will know how to forgive. John called folks to the austerity of the desert to let go the non-essentials of life; Jesus lived among people and heals wounds from the inside out.
May you wait for the healing process by choosing friendship over force.
May you, like John, learn that blessings flow at their own good pace -- and that is quite good enough.
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