18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’[b]
28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Jesus the Politician
Jesus draws upon the imagery of a reed in the desert to talk about John. A reed was on the coins of the local king Herod, so Jesus was saying subtley, “Did you go into the desert to see a new king of Israel?” Jesus acknowledges the political questions that surround him and that he is a political conundrum too. Many people avoid seeing Jesus as a political figure because they have a strong division between religion and politics. Politics has something to do with secular, public life whereas religion is private and personal. However, Jesus is bringing social reform that comes from a transformed heart. We can not avoid the fact that Jesus brings political public change and demands a government of his own which changes people from the inside. We elect him by opting out of the corruption in society, but we do not opt out of society. We bring the good that a transformed heart will bring and so we are greater than the greatest in other religious or political systems because we bring true life-transformation. Democrats and Republicans promise change. Labour and Conservatives promise reform, but Jesus brings powerful change that really makes a difference.
Why, then, do so many people give up on the change that Jesus brings? They give up because they see Jesus as an agent for the change they desire. They see Jesus as one who will be a citizen of their own kingdom. Jesus does not kowtow to us. Jesus does not play by our rules. Before we criticize Jesus for not playing by our rules, we ought to see that was never the deal. God makes an offer through Jesus for His kingdom to come on Earth. We find his peace when we submit to his rule, not when we control and dictate, but when he does. No-one elects Jesus and puts him up for review. Jesus may graciously show us what he is doing, but he does not have to.
Let me not look to a world system, a wife, a family or education to save us. No system can provide the true turn around that you provide. I want to know you and walk with you, but sometimes, like John, I have my doubts. Thank you that you have provided answers. Let me trust them.
How does John feel?
- Why does he need assurances?
- What does Jesus say as his ‘talking points’ when asked about his ministry?
- How do other religions and systems claim to bring real change today?
- How have those you know experienced change that can only be attributed to God?