When the Messiah Is Not Who You Expected

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Matthew 11:3

This is John’s dispatch to Jesus from his prison cell after hearing “the deeds of Christ.” The sobriety of the question and the details around it silence me: John the Baptist, at this point in his life and career, is asking this question?

John’s interaction with Jesus extended back to the day he leapt in his mother’s womb (Luke 1); to a career spent proclaiming the Messiah’s coming; to personally baptizing Jesus; to “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Reality didn’t seem to be lining up with expectations. The coming Messiah that John had announced was going to come with vengeance and power, ushering in justice and a new kingdom. And, certainly John was baffled by his own surroundings since the Promised One he was looking for was going to “proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

It’s the perfect question for Advent, this season of anticipation and longing and expectation; a season of profound joys often haunted by unsettling somber notes. Were we expecting someone or something different? A bit more grand? Did we hope to be more certain? More content? More victorious?

Jesus’ response strikes me as a classic missed opportunity to demonstrate letting your yes be yes. Nevertheless, these are the words. And, this Advent season, they once again represent a place to begin seeing and hearing (and recalibrating our expectations around) who he is:

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you think Jesus’ “answer” settled the matter for John? Why or why not? What about your present circumstances makes you want to ask John’s question?

PRAYER: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; Amen. (From the Book of Common Prayer)


P.S. from Mark: Gate Davis is the Laity Lodge Program Operations Manager, responsible for ushering retreats along, from initial idea to opening night. Originally from Mississippi, Gate spent nearly twelve years in Austin before coming to Laity Lodge. He and his wife, Sarah, have two children, Eleanor and Wiley.