Today's Gordon-Conwell Advent devotional:
John the Baptist challenged his hearers to the most essential aspect of preparation for the coming of the Christ: that of repentance. The Christmas story begins with an announcement of the birth of this forerunner of the Messiah, the one who was to make ready the path before him.This story of John the Baptist asking Jesus to confirm His identity as Messiah has been popping up in a lot of my reading lately. Sheila Walsh discusses it in her fantastic book Get Off Your Knees and Pray, using it to illustrate that Jesus doesn't shrink from our hard questions. He wasn't offended that John, His most ardent supporter, suddenly doubted Him. He didn't condemn John for asking. He just pointed him to proof of who He is. I like that.
When Jesus of Nazareth had come to him for baptism, he had identified him as the Christ; but since that time, Jesus had established no political system, raised no army, shown no interest in cultivating the rich and powerful. Within the dungeon, John began to wonder and sent his disciples to inquire whether the identification had indeed been correct [Matthew 11:2-14]. Implicit in his question is also John’s uncertainty about his own identity. If he had failed to identify the true Messiah, was he himself an authentic prophet?
Jesus answered the inquirers by a concrete demonstration of precisely those works which the Scriptures had promised would accompany the coming of the Christ. The blind saw; the lame walked; the marginalized rejoiced in the good news of God’s love. After the disciples’ departure, Jesus took on the more delicate task of vindicating John’s own identity. He had come “in the spirit and power” of the promised Elijah, as the last and greatest of God’s prophets.
During Advent, we ask again “who is Jesus”; and in his identity as Son of God and redeemer and Lord, we find ourselves. It is his coming that brings meaning to our lives and enables us to find our own true identity.