Year A Proper 22 WEDNESDAY, 7 October 2020
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“You Know The Answer”
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
When John’s messengers had gone, 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 put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 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.”
I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ (And all the people who heard this, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.”
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’
When John’s followers came to ask Jesus if he was “the One” we see someone who just needs to make sure. John was so devoted to his mission, he needed to erase all doubts and know.
And Jesus, being Jesus, does not give him a Yes or a No. He says this:
‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
Jesus responds with three different prophecies from Isaiah (29:18-19, 35:5-6, 61:1). Jesus gives him a very direct answer, but in an indirect way.
In fact, Jesus does what I do quite often. When someone comes to me asking for advice I often go through all the options with them. And most of the time, they already know the answer to the question they are asking. They already know the path they should take.
John was in an unbelievably stressful situation. He had denounced wrong as wrong, and it could very well cost him his life. And soon it did, so graphically so we still have a phrase for it: “Bring me his head on a platter.” But in this in between time, between his arrest and his death, we see him wanting to know if he bet on the right horse.
Jesus goes through several characteristics of the “right horse” and implies that yes, he, Jesus, is the right horse. John knows the answer. John knows he was the One. Depending on the Gospel account, those at the baptism did or did not hear the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism. In this Gospel, Luke, it is heard and a dove is seen and lands on Jesus. So in Luke’s version, John did hear and knew. He just needed a reminder.
Most of us are like that. We need a reminder. We know what we should do, but that is often the harder path, the one that takes more work, time, or money, or all three.
We just need to be reminded.
We are all in stressful times. We might be hurting. We might be angry. We might be wanting to strike back. We know that is not the right answer. We need to appeal to our better angels of our nature, as Abraham Lincoln called them.
Jesus did not belittle John in his seeking of affirmation. We see Jesus actually going on to praise him. He sees him as great a person as any that have lived.
Last night I had a touchingly deep conversation with one of my daughters. She and I were talking about faith, and she was cautious to share her thoughts because she had some doubts. I told her that at her age, she is okay to have doubts. (It is okay at any age, by the way.) That is what being a teenager is all about, trying things on for size and asking does this fit me or not. Not everything that your family hands down is something that you want to wear. I told her she can be honest. And she can make decisions for herself. I trust her because I know her soul. She will make the right call. Jesus knew his cousin John the same way. Jesus said to John, “You know the answer,” because in his soul Jesus knew that he did.
Friends, my prayer for all of us in these stressful days is that we embody the word “Remember.” Re- meaning again, -member meaning to be a part of. When we “remember” we re-connect and go back to the space and role that we are comfortable occupying. You know the answer, and it is okay to seek affirmation as you need it. Amen.