MATTHEW 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

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? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 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.

As the forerunner of Jesus, John the baptist was early on forced into a paradigm shift with respect to how his personal expectations matched up with the living reality of Jesus himself.

John had preached the coming of God’s messiah, who would ring down the curtain on history, bring divine vengeance on a sinful world, and make everything right. What he witnessed instead was a spiritual teacher and activist who called people to the compassionate life, proclaimed the universal and unconditional forgiveness of God, and challenged us to be more concerned with being true (authentic, genuine, real) than being right.

Quietly John dispatched a delegation of disciples to inquire of Jesus whether he was or was not in fact the one they had been stumping for. In reply Jesus simply asked, “What do you see?”

John had been anticipating the end of the age by way of an intervention from outside the world-system, as it were. Sinners would pay, pagan kingdoms would fall, and everything would be put in order once again. Jesus, however, followed a different path because he also had a very different vision of reality.

According to his gospel (“good news”), the New Reality that brings the end of this present age is not breaking in from outside but breaking through from within. His work was to empower the poor, not make them rich; to heal the body, not simply rescue the soul; to restore outcasts to full community and personal value in this life, not simply promise them heaven and beatitude in the next.

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