Third Sunday in Advent (Dec 11th)

Pastor's Summary of Matthew 11:2-11

John the Baptist has been arrested and imprisoned. Discourage and in doubt, he sends messengers to ask Jesus: "Are you the one...?" (v. 3) But Jesus does not simply say yes. Instead, he points John (and the crowd) to the signs of the Kingdom (v. 5). Echoing Isaiah, he points out that the blind, the deaf, the lame and the lepers are being healed and good news is given to the poor.  Anyone can claim to be a herald of the kingdom, but only in the presence of the Messiah will the true signs of the Kingdom be evident.  These are not mere claims, but incontrovertible proof. Yet apparently there are some who take offense at Jesus (v. 6). Perhaps even John himself has been disappointed because his expectations of the Messiah do not seem to be fulfilled by Jesus, e.g. he does not "wear soft robes" (v. 8). Perhaps this has given rise to doubts. Jesus refers to the signs of the Kingdom in Isaiah. John is "more than a prophet" (v. 9) for he heralds the dawn of the final era of history and announces the coming of the Kingdom. Now Jesus validates John's ministry as a true prophet (by quoting a prophecy from Malachi, v. 10), going on even to identify John as Elijah, returned (v. 14). (Jews understood the time of the prophets to have ended, but took Malachi's words to mean that Elijah would come again.) Jesus criticizes the people who went out to see John the Baptist in the words to mean that Elijah would come again.) Jesus criticizes the people who went out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness with a variety of incorrect expectations. What they actually saw was greater than they could have imagined. Yet even John, as great as he was, only pointed the way to an even greater reality (v. 11). Up to and including John the Baptist was the time of prophetic promise; now this promise is starting to be fulfilled (v. 13). When we are disappointed, or our expectations of God's Kingdom are dashed, perhaps it is because we are not looking for the signs of the Kingdom that are all around us.

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