Day Fifteen: Friday, June 26th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 11:1-30
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” In a very real sense, the gospels all have the same intent, to announce to the world that Jesus is the one. Jesus is the one who has been long expected by Israel. To hear John the Baptist ask that question catches us off guard, because the Baptist had spoken so clearly at the Jordan that one was coming after him who was more powerful than him, who would baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. And yet questions obviously linger for John the Baptist.
While the question of the Baptist might catch us off guard, it can also serve to raise our guard, to heighten our awareness, to help us pay close attention to what is being revealed in the Gospel narrative. If we do pay close attention we will discover how clearly and definitively it is proven that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God, and how with Jesus God is well pleased. So Matthew 11 gives Jesus the chance to report on all that people have been hearing and seeing: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. That is what has already happened. And we are only up to chapter 11. The question of the Baptist has prepared us to pay close attention to what follows in the remaining chapters and how the events that unfold will help us move from the question, “Are you the one?”, to the bold and beautiful declaration, “You are the one!”
Earlier in our readings I made reference to the key role the Old Testament prophet Malachi plays in preparing our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. The question from John the Baptist provides Jesus the opportunity to connect the ministry of the Baptist to God’s prophetic promise in Malachi. “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” (Malachi 3:1) Jesus makes a direct connection between his coming and the coming of John, who came before him to prepare the way for him.
Those who take time to explore the four chapters that make up the book of Malachi will find an unexpected surprise about the long expected Jesus. One of the most beloved Christmas carols draws directly from Malachi to help proclaim the good news of great joy that caused a choir of angels to sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” In a delightful little book entitled “Mr. Dickens and his Christmas Carol” the author suggests that Dickens favorite carol was “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Frank Capra used that very carol to bring his chronicle of George Bailey’s wonderful life to a soaring and happy conclusion with the whole cast joining to sing, “Joyful all ye nations rise…”
When Charles Wesley wrote his Christmas favorite he not only told the story of the birth of Christ, he drew on Malachi to announce that Jesus was the one whose coming the prophets foretold. In Malachi 4:2 we read, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” That verse in Malachi, a verse pointing to the long expected Savior who would one day bring salvation to this earth, is featured prominently in the third verse of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Today John the Baptist wants to know if Jesus is the one. Charles Wesley and a multitude of joyful souls have discovered the truth that Jesus is the one. So I leave you with words declaring Jesus is indeed the one who brings salvation to this earth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!
The twentieth-century Protestant theologian Karl Barth regarded John the Baptist as the prototype of Christian discipleship. Over Barth’s desk in Basel, Switzerland, hung a reproduction of the Isenheim altarpiece (executed by Matthias Grunewald). To the left, John the beloved disciple holds Mary, Jesus’ mother, as she looks in horror at the body, pierced body of her Son on the cross. To the right, John the Baptist, in bare feet and camel’s hair cloak, holds a book in one hand and with the other raises his long bony index finger toward Jesus on the cross. That, says Barth, is true discipleship; simply to point to all that God has done for us in Christ…In John the Baptist, we find an answer: to be a disciple is no longer to look at oneself, but rather to look at Christ. In pointing to him alone, the disciple’s own identity finally becomes clear: “Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God. I am thine.” John Burgess, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, p. 72) The final lines Burgess quotes are from Dietrich Bonheoffer in his letters and papers from prison.