John dreamed of the coming of the Messiah. He looked forward to it.
He proclaimed it every chance he got. He loved the Messiah of his dreams. His
Messiah would come with axe in hand to chop down every tree that did not
bear good fruit (Matthew 3:10). With his winnowing fork, the Messiah would
clear the threshing floor and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire (Luke
3:17). John looked for a Messiah who would come in fiery judgement on the
world-saving the few and scorching the many. And he loved that Messiah.
It was this vision of the Messiah that caused him to question in Luke 7:18-23
whether Jesus was the one of his dreams or not. He had heard what Jesus was
doing while John himself languished in prison. So, he sent some disciples to
ask Jesus point-blank if he were the expected one or not.
Jesus’ reply can be summed up this way: 1) Those in need, like the blind and
the leper, are being cared for and healed. 2) The poor, i.e., those looked down
upon as the unwashed masses who do not follow the dictates of “the Law,”
receive from the lips of Jesus the good news of God’s Kingdom. 3) Those who
are not offended by the acts and words of Jesus are called blessed.
Jesus distrusted the title Messiah because so many had such wrong ideas about
the mission of God’s Messiah. Certainly John the Baptist was such a one. Jesus
answered neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ to the inquiry. Instead he said, “This is what I
am doing, and if it does not offend you (and your dreams) then you can be
In this third week of the Advent Season we focus on love. But that single
word raises the question, who do we love?
John loved the image of a Messiah who would save on the one hand and
utterly destroy on the other. At times it almost sounded as if he was more
interested in the latter than the former. Even today, perhaps all of us have
heard preachers proclaim the coming judgement at the return of Christ almost
as if they welcomed it.
During Advent we reimagine waiting for the coming of Christ and we also
carry it over into our waiting for the return of Christ. I leave you with a question:
Who would you love to come? What kind of Christ is the Christ of your dreams?