“Go and tell John what you hear and see.”
John has sent his disciples to find out if Jesus is Messiah, the one Israel has been awaiting. You see, John’s in prison and his world doesn’t seem to be working for him lately. He’s been out in the wilderness eating honey and bugs, preaching and arguing with self-righteous Jews, and pretty much getting his legs and feet water logged. More recently though, he’s been arrested and is sitting in Herod’s prison, and he won’t get out alive. Maybe he knows that, maybe he doesn’t. I suspect though, that he’d exchange the cell for water logged feet without much coercion.
Jesus doesn’t answer John’s disciples directly. Instead, he talks around the answer, expecting them to draw their own conclusion based on what has been going on. These signs, he says, that I’ve been doing – healing folks, restoring sight, raising the dead – what do they tell you?
Keep in mind that John is Jesus’ cousin, that John baptized him and presumably heard The Voice and saw the dove. John has even told others that Jesus is the one who was promised; that John wasn’t worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
And the answer he gets is essentially, “what do you think?”
This response isn’t unique toward John. Jesus uses essentially the same response or even the same question with his challengers and even his own disciples. When asked for a sign, Jesus’ response is that there will be no sign except that of Jonah. When pressed in another place, he tells his hearers that they can tell the times of the year, but they can’t read the signs of God right in front of them. Instead of telling his disciples who he is, he asks, “Who do the people say I am,” and “Who do you say that I am?”
He seems to think his identity should be obvious to people who have their eyes open. If they’ve been paying attention it should be relatively obvious who he is. But it’s not as though they don’t see what’s happening. Even John’s disciples are told to consider what they’ve seen and heard. Rather, in keeping with the oft stated admonition, “let him who has ears, hear,” or negatively, “having eyes, they do not see,.” Jesus avoids a direct answer and puts the question back on the inquirer.
The point of these sayings is that we do see what’s going on, but we fail to comprehend what is happening; the import of what we see. We see Jesus, but do we see Messiah? Do we see God? Do we see the salvation of the world in the kept promises of God?
This is our challenge as much as it was John’s. Do our eyes show us, do our ears bring to us the revelation of God’s presence in the world? Do we have the ability, the practice, to discern God in his creation and in our world? Do we see him in our lives?
If we become discouraged and wonder if God is really there, we often want a clear answer. A good, tight, physical hug would help too. What do or will we do if we get an answer similar to the one John received? Can we see God in the middle of our hurried and anxious lives, or do we miss him and wonder if this is all real?
What has been your experience?