By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 11:2-6 – Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
In the face of the chaos, corruption, and destruction that plagues life on earth we rightly look to the people who rule over our societies for solutions. We recognize their responsibility for the decisions that negatively impact our lives. “If they weren’t so greedy.” “If they weren’t so unreasonable and closed minded.” “If they weren’t such cowards.” Sound familiar?
When our rulers break enough promises or life in our societies become too chaotic, we protest, rally, and even revolt in an effort to change the hearts, minds, and personnel in charge. Out with the old. In with the new. This is what the promise of Messiah represented to the people of Israel in the time of Jesus. A new king, a new head of government, who would establish a glorious, just and righteous kingdom for all of the people on earth.
But over time, John the Baptist and his disciples had become confused by Jesus’ ministry program. The popular understanding of Messiah was that he would liberate the nation from Roman rule and reign from Jerusalem over the entire earth. Faithful Israel will be vindicated and all unrighteousness and injustice will cease. Jesus was moving way too slow.
Jesus reminded the people in his First Coming that God’s motivation behind the execution of his judgment is saving people from the power of sin and death. In Matthew chapter 1, the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save the people from their sins. The message of John the Baptist and Jesus was “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The signs that Jesus pointed John’s disciples to were the people Jesus liberated from the power of sin and death. Jesus pointed to the fact that because of him people were now able to live for God freely among the people of God. Those marked as unclean and outcast were made clean and reincorporated into the community at large, by the power of Jesus’ word.
God was not working from the top down through Jesus. God was asserting his supreme power and authority through Jesus and his followers among those at the bottom. Jesus doing what the Roman and Jewish authorities, even the religious authorities, were unable to do. Jesus and his disciples were using their God given power and authority to transform the lives of the people society had left behind. Jesus was not leading a revolution. Jesus and his followers were living in light of the eternal and invincible rule of God over his creation, among the most disreputable people in Jewish society. They were spending their time, and energy on and among those society deemed cursed and hopeless.
Their impact shone a light upon the impotence and self serving nature of humans exercising authority apart from submission to God. Jesus and his disciples revealed that the problem in our society was not poverty or ignorance or corrupt government. The problem was everyday people living without trust in the powerful, faithful, and loving presence of God. Jesus revealed that God was with them. Jesus revealed that there was no earthly or human power that could overcome people who trusted God’s loving wisdom, mercy, and grace. Jesus revealed that God had a purpose and responsibility for everyone to fulfill in this life.
The warning for those of us who identify with God in Jesus Christ is not to be offended that God’s first priority is not the destruction of our cultural enemies. God’s first priority is the salvation of his enemies for life within his kingdom. 2 Peter 3:9 states that God does not desire that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. Romans 2 :4 states, it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.
We are called to speak the truth in love. We are called to represent God among those whom society dismisses. When people question our motives and activities as believers, we persuade them with our faithful testimony of the liberating and transforming power of God in and through our lives. Just like Jesus did for John’s disciples.
1. Love one another, no matter what. According to Jesus this is the one commandment that makes us stand out the most as his followers. (John 15:12,17)
2. As God gives you opportunity, spend your time and energy helping others experience the power, presence, and love of God. Especially those who are overlooked, discounted, and dismissed by your society at large.
3. Accept the fact that everyone will not understand or embrace your new priorities.