“When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me’” (Matthew 11:2-6 NIV).
Can you imagine what John must have been going through? When Jesus came to him at the Jordan to be immersed he had seen the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove, identifying him as the promised Messiah. Yet if Jesus was the Messiah, why was John in prison? And why was Jesus doing nothing about it? So he sent his followers to ask Jesus if he really was the Messiah.
Jesus’ answer was simple: “go back and report to John what you hear and see.” They were to tell John what Jesus was doing: giving the blind back their sight, the lame were able to walk, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf could hear, the dead were raised, and the good news was being proclaimed to the poor.
That might seem to be a strange answer to us. But it would make perfect sense to John because he knew the Jewish scriptures and in particular the writings of Isaiah. Isaiah had written extensively about the coming Messiah. This would be a time when the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk, and the mute would sing for joy (Isaiah 35:5-6; 29:18-19), when the dead would live again (Isaiah 26:19), and when the good news would be brought to the poor (Isaiah 61:1). By showing what he was doing, Jesus let John know that he was fulfilling the prophecies concerning the promised Messiah.
Although this seems to have satisfied John, not everyone was convinced. Sadly, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah, despite the miraculous signs that he did. “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” (John 12:37-38). Although these signs showed who Jesus was, they still refused to believe.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (in John 11), one of the things the Messiah was to do, the Jewish leaders could not disprove what had happened. After all, too many people had seen that Lazarus was dead and had seen him come out of his tomb alive. What were they to do? Their solution: kill Jesus and kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11) – get rid of the one doing these things and get rid of the evidence! How sad that they had the evidence of who Jesus was but they refused to accept it.
Jesus’ ultimate sign was to come back from the dead. He said that he had the authority to lay down his life and the authority to take his life up again (John 10:17-18). This was the sign that confirmed without a doubt who Jesus was. “This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2-4 NET).
The evidence as to who Jesus was is easy to see and understand. The question for us is simple: what are we going to do with it?
Readings for next week:
10 July – Matthew 7
11 July – Matthew 8
12 July – Matthew 9
13 July – Matthew 10
14 July – Matthew 11