Friday of Trinity 16 – Matthew 11:2-19

| October 9, 2014 | 0 Comments More

The Land of Cockaigne (Bruegel)Matthew 11:2-19

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

It seems like a clear and straightforward question.  I don’t know why, but I expect a clear and straightforward answer, you know, something like: “Yes, I am Jesus, the Messiah, the Coming One, the King of the Jews, the Son of God, Yahweh.  Any other questions?”

But as He almost always does, Jesus surprises me.  What He actually says is: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

That’s an odd answer.  Jesus doesn’t say anything about Himself – or does He?

What He doesn’t say is what I want or expect Him to say, or, at least, not how I want Him to say it.  What are John the Baptist’s followers to think of Jesus’ answer?  He doesn’t answer directly who He is but tells them to tell John the things which they have seen and heard.  Apparently, seeing and hearing what Jesus did should make us understand who He is.

Who is it that can make the blind see and the lame walk, cleanse the lepers and raise the dead, and preach the gospel to the poor?  I think you have your answer.  The intriguing thing is that it was the things John had heard in prison about the works of Christ (verse 2) that made him inquire into the person of Christ to begin with.

There’s something here I: can smell it.  There’s something important here about Jesus and how God works in the world, and I want to know about it.

One of the explanations I’ve heard about why Jesus answers John so obliquely is that He knows that if He openly proclaims Himself to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews, then Herod might want to hunt Him down.  Herod and, perhaps, the Pharisees and scribes.  So Jesus has to reveal Himself obliquely.

But maybe there’s another reason as well.  When I consider my life and this world, I feel like John the Baptist may have felt.  I ask to see God, and the answer I usually get is something like the answer Jesus gave John.  What I mean is that I don’t get the obvious answer: “Here I am, my son.  I will make myself as bright as the sun to you and as near and obvious as your own hands.  I will fill you with the best feelings today and will make life easy on you.  You will hear my voice loud and clear when I speak to you, and I will stand before you and have my glory and goodness pass before you.”

What I get is a small, still voice telling me to go out and seek God today.  I have heard about Jesus, and He is telling me that I will find Him today in what He does, just as He told John.  But there’s a twist: I won’t see the blind see or the lame walk today.  The lepers will probably not be cleansed, and the deaf may not hear.  The dead will most certainly be raised, but I won’t see it.

God makes us look for Him every day – He doesn’t waltz in, announce Himself, start throwing miracles around like confetti, and sit back and wait for everyone to be overwhelmed and believe in Him.

No, one of the things God wants from me today is faith.  He wants me to see Him in the small things and believe in Him through the invisible things.  He wants me to prove faithful to Him today by going out and working for my manna.  Faith will not walk to me on its own, as if I’m not supposed to be an active participant in this faith business and this work of finding God on earth.  I’m at the center of this activity because God wants to involve me in His work!

What I want is the Land of Cockaigne, but what He gives me is a heaven-filled earth.  (Here is a painting by Breughel of the Land of Cockaigne.  Notice the egg with a knife in it, walking to serve itself to men.

I am supposed to go out every day and find my daily bread, which I first must pray for, because God wants to involve me in His story, His life, and His work.  I cannot be a passive spectator, or else I will remain an atheist or agnostic.  I must actively seek Him, which means looking and listening for Him.

One other implication of this looking and listening is that as a Christian, even as I eagerly seek God each day, I must be involved in doing His work.  As I look and listen for Him, I must be so involved in His life and work that He can use me to help others see and hear Him through His works.  Remember that it was what John had heard about the works of Christ that caused him to inquire about Christ.  And remember that Jesus’ answer about Himself was for John’s followers to tell John what they had heard and seen.

As I participate in the work of God, two miraculous things happen.  First, others are enabled to see and hear God.  As I do God’s work, others see and hear God.  This is true not only for the things I do but also for the things I say.  After all, one of the works of Jesus by which He is demonstrated to be God is that the poor have the gospel preached to them.

But something else miraculous happens as well.  As I participate in God’s work, I am the chief person who gets to see and hear God!  We don’t see and hear God so much from the outside but from the inside, from a life that has become one with His life.

Haven’t you noticed this before?  That if you sit around and wait for God to come to you, that sometimes He delays, but that if you actively go out and seek Him, He has a miraculous way of showing up?  When you sit around and seek God only by yourself, He seems to be a shadow.  But when you share Him with others, through what you say and do, and others share Him with you, the shadow becomes substance, and the hazy black and white is turned to technicolor.

God could simply tell us who He is.  But we might not believe Him.  But when He shows us, by involving us in His story, His life, and His work, then we truly begin to see and believe – and so do others!

Prayer:  Father of light, in You is found no shadow of change but only the fullness of life and limitless truth.  Open our hearts to the voice of Your Word and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision.  Restore our sight that we may look upon Your Son who calls us to repentance and a change of heart, for He lives and reigns with Your for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Points for Meditation:

  1. Where could you look for God today, perhaps in places you haven’t been looking?
  2. How can you look and listen for God today by your words and deeds or the words and deeds of someone in your life?

Resolution:  I resolve to cultivate an attitude today of actively looking and listening for God. 

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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