Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
The words and deeds of Christ are controversial, as they have been since the time of John the Baptizer’s imprisonment. John’s question to Jesus in Matthew 11:2-11 is whether Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus’ answer is that John has to make up his own mind. What are the works of Jesus? How do they compare with what John knows of the Messiah. He is healing, even raising the dead, and he is preaching good news to the poor. Are these the works of the Messiah?
These are the works of the Messiah. But Jesus is not the Messiah that some cultures want. After all, by some accounts he should have crushed the Roman government, that bunch of oppressive and hateful people. Maybe he should have given free money and food to all who wanted it. At least it would have been nice if he had healed all sicknesses forever and made it so nobody would ever sin against me again forever. If Jesus was going to usher in a new order of the ages, at least he could have done it the way my imagination would prefer.
This is just the problem we have with all the biblical prophets and other leaders, all the way up to Christ, who showed himself to be God the Son, savior of the world, conqueror of sin, death, and the grave. They don’t do things the way we wanted them to. John was still beheaded in prison. Jesus heals people and they get sick again. They even die! The poor are still among us. For all the preaching about peace, we live in a world of war. What’s going on with all this?
Jesus points out to his listeners that they also didn’t recognize John the Baptizer for what he was. They thought he was some sort of oddball, and really he was, but he was a prophet who would point people to God. In the final analysis, when we try to understand God’s work in terms of our momentary temporal existence in a sin-cursed world, we don’t normally manage the task. This is why we need God’s perspective, as He has delivered it to us in the Scripture. We are then prepared to look through God’s eyes and see that Jesus is rescuing people from sin, death, and an eternity of penalty by grace through faith, delivering them into eternal life. We can see those around us as God sees them, as people who are laboring underneath the weight of the curse of sin and who cannot rescue themselves. We can bring the Gospel - good news of forgiveness, life, and salvation - to the least and the greatest of those surrounding us. We begin to see that Jesus is accomplishing the will of God the Father and that we are along for the ride.
We, like John, may still be imprisoned. We may sometimes lose sight of what God has done in Christ. At those times we are reminded, as was John, that Jesus is doing the work of the Messiah. He is reconciling the world to himself.
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