The message for the Third Sunday in Advent turns raw. The reality is that the question being asked is our question as well. Is Jesus the one we should look to solve all our problems or do we need to look in another direction? Is Jesus the one to bring the day of Lord which is the reign of God? Or, what politician can we turn to who will bring God’s blessings? Which corporate CEO can we turn to who will restore paradise on earth? What latest technological advancement is coming that will elevate humanity above the mess we keep making in and on the earth?
Last week John the Baptist was so sure and confident. He railed against the leadership calling them ‘vipers.’ The people were strongly urged to repent and to be baptized in preparation for the coming of One who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John challenged Herod’s unethical conduct and ended up in prison. Soon his head will be fetched as a party favor and for revenge. Suddenly John’s boldness turned to doubt. John pointed to Jesus but he didn’t live up to expectations. Now a prisoner, John asks, “Is Jesus the One?”
The message for today is raw because it cuts deep to our own doubts. Where do we look for that strong, decisive and charismatic leader, who: restores us to an idealized past…leads us to an utopian future…takes away all of our enemies…makes sure we end up on top? This question has been on humanity’s lips for thousands of years.
Jesus responds to John’s question by referencing the Year of the Lord’s Favor, the Year of Jubilee, when salvation and freedom is brought to all (Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, raising the dead and the poor heard good news. We are blessed if Jesus’ ways don’t offend us. We are blessed as the ways of God that bring life are welcomed; instead of a reinforcing the ways of human power.
After all, why did the people go out to listen to John in the first place? See the scenery? Look at a person of wealth and power? No, they came to listen to a prophet. They came to listen to a word from God. Isn’t that what we are really listening for in our questioning – a word from God that speaks of salvation?
Jesus brought a radically different understanding of how God’s salvation will be brought to this world. This radical way is glimpsed when the sick are cared for…good news is heard in the place of empty promises…the poor are lifted up rather than being used for better profits…death is overcome by resurrection. We are blessed if Jesus’ ways of bringing the kingdom of heaven don’t offend us.