Imprisoned, John is in doubt about what he has done and what he has said (Matt. 11:2-3). So he sends several of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Prison may purify a mind, but may also break it. Has John roared for nothing? Pointing to the one who is the Lamb of God, was he pointing at a desert mirage, merely projecting his own plaintive hope? Was he wrong? Was he mad? Jesus responds, saying, “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news brought to them” (Matt. 11:4-5). Jesus is the one doing this new work, and in pointing to Jesus, John had shown himself to be the greatest among those born of woman.
Jesus gathered into himself an old hope. “The eyes of the blind shall be opened,” says the prophet Isaiah. With “the ears of the deaf unstopped … the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” (Isa. 35:5-6). “A highway there shall be, … the Holy Way” (Isa. 35:8). And Jesus speaks, saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “I am the way.” “No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; … the redeemed shall walk there” (Isa. 35:9). The redeemed shall “delight in your will and walk in your ways” (BCP, p. 79). And yet the world is still a dangerous place. The righteous are imprisoned, forgotten, murdered. The One who is the Way must, in a world so broken, awaken hope again and again. Jesus is ever calling us as he was calling John to “hear and see.” There is no false and naïve optimism in this contemplative gaze. The Christian lives from the truth of the Incarnation and so never turns from what is real and evident and earthly. The Christian sees suffering, small crosses, and terrible crosses littering the field of human history. But something else is also happening. Life is breaking forth from death and death is itself losing its grip as a curse and enemy. Jesus has overcome the world and we, in union with him, participate in his life-giving power.
With new eyes we see this power at work. We see eyes opened, ears unstopped, limbs strengthened, tongues liberated for song and joy. Where do we see this? Sometimes, of course, at the clinic or the hospital, but most often in a hidden way. “Hidden” may sound rather vague, a mysterious appeal to something unreal. But faith is hidden, hope is hidden, love is hidden. Where are they? They live under the surface of what is, are in fact more deeply real than concrete things. Faith sees new life coming and faith partners with every project for human hope and love. Faith begins to make a new world, and yet faith is ever a gift from God. Thus, God is at work.
To see this we will need a great dose of patience. “Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. … Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).
Is Jesus the One? Some may settle the matter with no room for doubt. But what is more human than doubt? And so Jesus keeps saying, “Listen, Look!”
Look It Up
Read Ps. 146:7-9. What is the Lord doing?
Think About It
“The Voice without the Word strikes the ear, but does not build up the heart” (Augustine, Sermo 293).