What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” Matthew 11:8-10 (New Revised Standard Version)
And we’re never wrong, are we? Well, of course, we are! All the time. Whatever we’ve been told or chosen to believe before the initial meeting may be all wrong. Or a little wrong and a lot right. Or some twisted combination.
So here’s Jesus, confronted with the question (and I paraphrase), “Are you the one we’ve been looking for all these years, or should we just, you know, wait for another guy?” We don’t know the tone in which the question was asked. Sincere? Sneering? Incredulous? We do tend to assume that, “You sure don’t look like a Messiah!” is implied. Jesus responds, “Yep, it’s me all right,” and goes on to support his answer with examples of what he’s been up to—giving sight to the blind, healing to the lame and lepers, hearing to the deaf, good news to the poor.
Then he asks the crowd, “What on earth were you expecting? Fine clothes and a palace? A couple of new cars in the driveway? My own reality show Prophesying to the Stars?” Obviously, he did not stack up to the Messiah image folks had been building up over time. Managing other people’s expectations is a tough job, even for Jesus, but he did just that, plus gave credit to John for preparing the way, to boot. I picture folks dispersing, nodding their heads and saying, “OK, yeah, I get it now.” I’m sure they did not walk away disappointed.
During this season of preparation and waiting, try to keep a check on your expectations—of the people you love, of colleagues, of strangers, of the holiday, of the Christ Child. Keep your heart and mind open to glories you cannot even expect or imagine. You will not walk away disappointed.
Praise and honor to you living God for John the Baptist, and for all those voices crying in the wilderness who prepare your way. May we listen when a prophet speaks your word, and obey. Amen. (from A New Zealand Prayer Book)