Sunday, December 17, 2006

John the Baptizer and the Christ He Was Looking For

There is probably a difference of opinion as to whether John the Baptizer actually had doubts about Jesus as the Christ. In the Luke 7 pericope this morning (for those who follow the newest 3-year series out of CPH!), John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one to come or if they should look for another. Was he doing this for his followers only, or for himself as well? For myself I entertained the possibility that John had his own questions about what he was hearing about Jesus. Dr. Just's commentary on Luke was helpful here. He said that a "straightforward reading" of the text supported this interpretation. I concurred.

But why should John have doubts? Remember that a part of John's preaching involved the coming judgment. All reports of Jesus to that point would not have noted any judgment. Certainly John must have wondered. Did he also wonder, if Isaiah predicted of the Messiah that the captives would be set free, why he was still in prison? We don't know for sure. But it's possible.

Even if the doubts were only with his disciples, the problem still had to be addressed. Disappointed expectations are part of each of our lives. Some are disappointed that the church does not grow as it should. Some are disappointed with the preacher, as was evident with John ("What did you go into the wilderness to see?") Some are disappointed when Jesus doesn't do what we feel he should do for us right now (heal us). And such disappointments are often the result of having only part of the story. John would not live to see Good Friday or Easter or the Ascension. Many of us will probably not live to see the Parousia. Still, we believe. Why? For the same reason John would have. The testimony of the Word! We walk by faith and not by sight, Paul writes. And so it will always be with the church this side of heaven. The church is not always what we want it to be, but we still believe she is there, for the church itself is an article of faith. And where do we look? This morning I found the church where Jesus told us to look: in the proclamation of the Word and at the Table of the Supper. Disappointed expectations? Yes, we all have them, and the cure is the same as for John - the Word.


Revvin' Rev said...

Remember that a part of John's preaching involved the coming judgment. All reports of Jesus to that point would not have noted any judgment.

We were studying Matthew in Bible class and that was the conclusion I made too. I wonder if other Old Testament prophets who looked at the ministry of Jesus would have had doubts as well. They often saw the two peaks of Jesus' first and second coming so close together as to think they came at the same time!

D. Engebretson said...

I think that the picture of the "two peaks" is quite apt in this case. What we see in time often appears different than it does to God who is above time.
One possible indication of those two peaks being seen close together could be Eve after the birth of Abel. Modern translations render it as "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord." However, "with the help of" is not in the Hebrew text. I think that Luther supported the idea that Eve may very well have believed that the birth of this child was a fulfillment of Gen. 3:15, the seed that would crush Satan's head ("I have gotten a man, the Lord".)
Thank you for reading and for the comments!