11 Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. 2When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the 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. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 7As 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? 8What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
11Truly 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. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15Let anyone with ears listen! 16″But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17’We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 20Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21″Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
I once visited the bedside of a sixty-seven-year-old woman, with her two grace-filled adult children by her side. They asked what they should know about dying. The son said he believed in God. But, he wasn’t sure if Jesus was the way. The daughter had chosen to take the leap of faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The mother, dying of cancer, confessed that she was not a Christian. She wasn’t sure what would happen when she died. The gospel writer tells us of varying responses to Jesus. Some doubt and wonder and eventually choose to reject the Savior. Even John the Baptist, after all he has done to announce Jesus’ coming, is puzzled, asks from his prison cell if we should look for someone else. Townspeople of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum refuse to turn in the direction of this saving Christ, even in the wake of Jesus’ miracle ministry! Jesus wants us, even with our uncertainty. He hails John as an example for faithful following, despite his doubt. Praising his devotion, Jesus compliments John, saying there has never been anyone “greater than John the Baptist.” Innocence, doubt, and bewilderment all seem to qualify as criteria for turning to Christ. Thanks be to God!
The Rev. Hillary T. West Priest at Epiphany Episcopal Church Herndon, Virginia
What are you expecting in the One who comes to save? What does Jesus expect of you?
Lord, accept us in our doubts and wonders. May our innocence open us to the wisdom of your saving grace. Give us ears to listen. Soften our hearts to hold your redeeming love. Help us to expect the miracle of you in all that surrounds us. Amen.
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.