Summary: This is a sermon that focuses on the true identify of Jesus.
“Are you he who is to come?”
“Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” The question itself seems harmless enough. A simple yes or no answer would seem quite sufficient for such a straightforward question. And yet, it was not… that simple of a question, and Jesus did not respond with a simple “yes”… or “no.”
Behind this question, were the doubts and misconceptions of John the Baptist and many others. Jesus, in this scripture, deals directly with those who doubt or misunderstand his messiahship, and he forces them to reexamine their expectations within the light of who he really is. Do we also carry false expectations of the messiah? Do we need reexamine our expectations in the light of this text? Let us consider John.
It is tempting to forgive John for his misunderstanding. After all, he had grown up with the Jewish idea of the messiah. He knew that his people expected a special prophet, an anointed priest, a royal king … all of whom were foretold to come in conquering glory… to be Israel’s deliverer. The Old Testament is filled with titles for the coming messiah: they expected a “messiah of justice”… a “chosen one”… a “king from on high”… and a “powerful one.”
Numbers 24 tells of a messiah who will lead his host to war, and will subdue great and populous nations. It is no wonder, then, that John the Baptist only eight chapters earlier, heralded the messiah as one coming with “unquenchable fire”, as one who already… had the “axe lying at the root of the trees.”
Can you feel it? … This tangible expectation? … The crowds wondering, “Is this man REALLY the messiah?” “Is it finally time for our liberation … for our stand against Rome … for our day in the sun????”
And at the center of all this expectation was Jesus, entirely unconcerned with earthly power himself.
Instead of making a name for himself by associating with the most powerful in Israel, he stayed and ate with tax collectors… prostitutes… even lepers!
Instead of spending his time with the most knowledgeable men of the Torah, he spent his time in the fields “giving the good news to the poor.”
He came not as the conquering hero they expected… but as a servant.
It is no wonder then, that John might have questions. This… was not the messiah HE had
When John’s disciples spoke to Jesus, it was John’s own words. “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?”
And Jesus did not respond with a “yes” or a “no”. Instead he instructed John’s disciples… to tell John what they saw and heard. The evidence was plainly within Jesus’ acts. He was fulfilling scripture… just not in the way they had expected.
Indeed Jesus was a conqueror… but not a conqueror of nations.
Indeed Jesus came as a mighty warrior… however he waged no physical war.
Indeed Jesus came as a king… but not a king of kingdoms.
It was only after John’s disciples had already left that Jesus spoke to the crowd plainly about his messiahship. John was left to reexamine for himself his false expectations of the messiah.
Like John, it can be easy for us to build up false expectations about the messiah. However, we do have the advantage over John by seeing Christ through our Christian perspectives. We do not stumble over the political expectations.
No, we have learned that lesson. However, I think we sometimes take that lesson too far, and expect too little of our messiah. …. ….
I think that sometimes we expect our messiah to be the prophet and come into our lives, but we don’t expect him… to change us.
And sometimes, I think we expect our messiah to be our priest and council us, but we don’t expect him to have any harsh words for us.
We may expect our messiah to be the King and do what is best for us, and yet we don’t expect to have to give up control.
Reducing Christ to this kind of messiah is much like John reducing Christ to a political hero… it doesn’t represent who Christ really is, or what Christ really does.
When we enter a real relationship with Christ, we will be forced to learn … to grow … perhaps even … heaven forbid …. to change! What will happen to our expectations of the messiah in this light? Will we doubt like John? Will we question Christ’s authority when he doesn’t fit our expectations of the messiah? What will our response be when Jesus challenges us to reexamine our expectations in light of who he really is… and in the light of what he really does? Hopefully, we will not doubt… hopefully, we can be like the ones in verse six, who are blessed because we do not take offense in who Jesus really is.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.