12 Dec 2021
The Gospel. St. Matthew xi. 2.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
The Gospel for today was selected to show John the Baptist’s great position in relation to the Redemption of our world. Our Lord says that in the Baptist the words of Malachi, (Mal. 3:1) had at last been fulfilled. “This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy Face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.” If Jesus is to be understood as the Messiah, the Jews knew he had to have a forerunner. John the Baptist in all ways fulfilled that role.
Just think of how we look at prophesy today! Not just with religion, but in every mundane thing, people are projecting how things will turn out. Sometimes it sounds convincing, but at other times we remain skeptical. It was that way in Jesus time too. There had been false prophets, and they had caused great damage sometimes inciting violence and hatred in those who believed and those who didn’t. But each of the prophecies which had fulfillment in our Lord carried no doubt especially in the minds of those who had seen his miraculous healings. He had raised people from the dead! Since the time of the prophet Malachi, the Jewish nation had gone through great tribulation. You can read about some of it in the books of the Maccabees. You can see why many people who had not seen Jesus’ works had trouble grasping that the words of Malachi had finally come true. When our Lord came into their world, those who received Him ceased to have any doubts. It followed that John was his messenger sent to prepare His way.
It might seem to you that really our Lord needed no forerunner to introduce Him. But Scripture shows this is typical of how God’s plan is revealed to His creation—often slowly with hints and visions. As we examine the role of various people in the Bible and how God planned to bring us back to Himself, we are struck by the ages He has patiently built into the unfolding: the work of Noah, the promises to Abraham and the other patriarchs, the redemption of Israel from Egypt by Moses, the firm bond with King David. Centuries passed after the prophets of the Old Testament had written their words, but all this was in preparation for the coming of the Son of God. The purpose of John’s message was to awaken the people’s minds to the immediate coming of fulfillment: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;” (Matt. 3:2.) and, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29.)
John was fully qualified for the role of forerunner. He had the courage to stand up to the priests and Levites who were ready to attack his message of repentance. They wanted to know who he was “pretending” to be? The Messiah, a prophet? His answer “a voice crying in the wilderness—make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” And later, when the time was right, he directed his faithful followers to Christ as the true Messiah. These were among the first disciples of Jesus. John knew and lived what the priorities of God were in John’s own part of the plan. And when Jesus was asked, he revealed that John’s role was greater than people had ever recognized.
All of us, whether we want to be or not, have our share in the Baptist’s role. As Christians we have been blessed with a great treasure which we are obligated to share with all those who we find are open to accept the Good News. There are those around us who are suffering, in despair, angry, and lonely. The kingdom which John was sent to announce the coming of requires our taking on the role of messenger today. It will take the courage of John the Baptist in us to carry on the work. In this sacred Advent season, let us be inspired by John’s work and be faithful examples of Jesus’ light and love to all those around us.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins