What Were You Expecting?

Advent 3A: Matthew 11:2-11

There John is, rotting away in a prison cell—decapitation imminent. Not too long ago he was in the wilderness eating weird food and wearing weird clothing screaming about repentance and how Jesus is the Lord and the one who would cut down those not bearing good fruit and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. His expectation for Jesus was astronomical. John thought that Jesus would burn those sinners and tax collectors; instead, Jesus sits and eats with them. He is not what John expected.

The popular and often raunchy and comically violent television show Family Guy imagines Jesus’ second coming, and as the scene opens, a crowd of average people are looking at a four-foot-tall Jesus. Jesus says,

“Okay everybody. I know you were expecting something else, but as science will tell you, people were a lot shorter two thousand years ago. So let’s try to be adult about this—no snickering. (someone snickers) Hey! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. So if we can all be mature—(someone pops chewing gum) give me the gum—we can get through this a lot faster.”

Although Family Guy’s purpose was not to make you think about Christ’s second coming, the comical scene disarms you and makes you think outside the box just a little bit about what that could actually look like.

John was expecting something else, and he sends his disciples (students/followers) to ask Jesus (in what sounds like a very passive/aggressive manner), “Are you the dude or not?” Jesus replies that they should tell John what their hear and see, namely that the blind see, “the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

What happened when John heard this?

How did the original readers of Matthew’s Gospel account hear this, given that this man who performed such miracles had lived only a few decades earlier? What hope did this give them?

How do we read this separated from the events of Jesus’ life by two thousand years, holy wars, schisms, political turnovers, natural disasters, disease, famine, plagues, and so on? Is it safe to say that the hope the earlier followers of Jesus experienced is somewhat more distant from where we sit?

What are you expecting from Jesus, or even from the coming couple of weeks? What are you expecting to happen to your anxieties and sufferings? How do you envision God will redeem all of these things for you and everyone else through Christ’s return?

And how do you speak with others about the ways in which God seems active or inactive in your life?

Let this be your meditation as we move into the third Sunday of Advent, a time in which many people seek to find or give encouragement that Christmas is almost hear, as is Christ’s glorious return when all shall be made whole and holy.

The Rev. Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday. His personal blog is entitled Bowing to Mystery, on which he posts sermons, articles, pictures, videos, etc.

This is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.