Are You the One Who Is to Come

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, the imprisoned John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Are you the one who is to come?”

I can picture John in his prison cell, worn and weary. Perhaps he knows that he will soon come to his death. I can imagine him wondering, “Did my life and witness have meaning? Am I in jail about to die for a good reason?” And so he sends his disciples to Jesus, seeking some assurance.

Jesus doesn’t give him quick and easy solace. How easy it would have been to console a dying man, for Jesus to instruct John’s disciples, “Tell John it’s all cool. He backed the right horse.” Instead, Jesus tells them “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

In other words, draw your own conclusions. Don’t take it on my say-so. Don’t believe in me because of who I say I am. Rather, judge for yourself based on what you know of me and my work. (“Who do you say I am?”)

Consistent with his response, Jesus doesn’t chide John for his anxiety and his questioning. Immediately after John’s disciples depart, Jesus extols John, telling the crowds that “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”

Judge for yourself.