Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope that you’ve had a good week thus far.
In our final Biblenotes.email of the week we consider Jesus’ credentials after John the Baptist asked his disciples to find out if he was the Messiah or a prophet. Our reading comes from Matthew’s Gospel:
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
One of the changes brought about by COVID is that there are far fewer people calling door to door. Previously we used to get quite a number of charity collectors visiting our house, as well as lots of people trying to encourage us to sign up for weekly menu boxes – pre-measured produce and recipe cards that you use to make your own meals. One of the most memorable people to visit our door, though, was a guy dressed in a three-piece suit and sporting a trilby hat plus a classic pocket watch. He spoke with a gravelly smoker’s voice and reminded me very much of Frank Butcher in the old days of EastEnders. ‘Frank’ used to turn up once every couple of months or so and wanted to know if we had any spare gold to sell. Quite why he thought we might have is beyond me! He struck me as a bit of a dodgy wheeler-dealer, and, if I was going to do business with him, I would definitely ask to see his credentials!
In our verses today, John the Baptist is in prison. He has heard news of what Jesus is up to, and sends his disciples to find out if Jesus was the Messiah – the rescuer of God’s people promised throughout the Old Testament – or merely a prophet, preparing the way for the coming Messiah. As instructed, John’s disciples go to Jesus and asked him if he was the Messiah.
Jesus responds not by confirming or denying that he is the Messiah, but by showing them his credentials. Look at what I’ve done, he says, and make up your own mind. Tell John that through Jesus, “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.”
How could anyone other than the Messiah, God himself, have accomplished this?
Look at me, Jesus says, and decide for yourselves. Surely the only conclusion is that Jesus is the Messiah?
Of course, for those who knew their scriptures, Jesus was making clear reference to the prophecies in the Old Testament of the Messiah.
Jesus tells John’s disciples how he has given the blind sight, enabled the lame to walk and enabled the deaf to hear, a clear fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 35:5-6:
Jesus tells John’s disciples that as a result of him, “the good news is proclaimed to the poor,” a clear fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1-2
Here, then, are Jesus’ credentials as John would have understood them. Jesus is the fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah. Here is the one foretold throughout the Jewish scriptures, the one whom the Jews were waiting. Here is the Messiah come to liberate God’s people.
How do we respond to this statement of Jesus’ credentials? If he is sent by God to rescue us, how do we respond? If he rescues us from our sin by dying on the cross, how do we respond? If he asks to take up our cross and to follow him, how do we respond?
Definitely worth a moment or two of reflection on a Friday morning!
Have a great weekend. We’ll be back bright and early on Monday morning with another Biblenotes.email.
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