Thin Places

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Last week, a number of readers posted “questions for God.”
Some of them can be answered by looking at specific passages from the Gospels.
Others require a bigger picture view of the Bible and Christian theology. Over
the course of the fall, on Tuesdays, I will look at the following questions
that people ask Jesus:

Are you the one who was to come?

Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Where can we get this living water?

Don’t you care if we drown?

How can a man be born when he is old?

How can we know the way?

Why this waste of perfume?

What is truth?

Hopefully, they will provide a lens into some of the
questions you asked–questions about forgiveness, suffering, salvation, and the
nature of God. For today, I’m going to take a look at Luke 7:20-22:

When the men came to
Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who
was to come, or should we expect someone else?’

At that very time
Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight
to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to
John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk,
those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the
good news is preached to the poor.”

Have you ever had a plan for God that hasn’t worked out?
Have you ever prayed a very specific prayer for exactly the thing that you know
God would want and then seen the opposite happen? Have you ever been
disappointed by God?

John the Baptist had a sense from God that the Messiah,
God’s anointed one, was coming. And when Jesus appeared, John wondered if he
was the one he’d been waiting for. Perhaps it should have been obvious. Jesus
was performing miracles left and right, attracting a crowd, teaching with
authority, fulfilling prophecy. But John wasn’t so sure. And the fact that he
sent his disciples to ask Jesus directly makes me wonder whether John had been
wrong before. Maybe he had been disappointed. Maybe he wondered if his
predictions of the coming Messiah were just shouting in the wind.

I imagine he felt somewhat like Samwise Gangee in The Lord
of the Rings, Frodo’s friend who has to trust that Frodo is the only one who
can destroy the ring of power–really, this guy is the one who’s supposed to
save us all? This is the one we’ve been waiting for? Are you sure?

So John sends his disciples to ask the question.

The text implies that Jesus waited a while before responding
to their question. John’s disciples had to hang around and watch Jesus, get to
know him or at least observe him a bit. I wonder what they were expecting. Did
they expect someone who was going to liberate the Jews from the Romans? Did
they expect someone who was going to make political speeches or make a lot of
money or perform magic?

I don’t know if they got what they expected or not. All I
know is that Jesus respected their question, and yet he gave them their answer
through his actions. Through healing, and caring, and offering good news to the
poor. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t showy. But it was real, the work of God in action.

John’s disciples reported back, and John had his answer.
Jesus was the one he had been waiting for.

So what do we make of all this? First, when we’re confused,
disappointed, wondering about who God is and what God is doing, we can ask.
Second, when we ask, we might not get the answer we’re expecting. Third, often,
the answer comes by watching where God is at work, not by a booming voice from
the clouds.

So as you wonder, as you feel disappointed, as God doesn’t
quite meet your expectations–ask about it, expect the unexpected, and keep your
eyes open for the work of the one who was to come.


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