Matthew 11:2-6 — When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answered them, “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 good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?
John the Baptist had a problem with his cousin Jesus, who had turned out not to be anything at all like John had expected him to be. John had devoted his entire life to preparing the way for the coming messiah. He had made all kinds of personal sacrifices so that Jesus would be able to do whatever needed to be done to save the people and set them free.
Yet instead of bringing fiery judgment, Jesus had been healing the sick and raising the dead. Instead of confronting the powerful, he had been comforting the poor. If Jesus was the Christ, why did he not just proclaim himself the Messiah King, destroy the power of the Romans and of Herod, and release John himself from prison? It was becoming clear to John that perhaps Jesus just might not be the one after all. His growing disappointment had led him to wonder whether Jesus would ever conform to popular messianic expectations. If Jesus was not going to be who John needed him to be, perhaps the time had come for him to give up on Jesus and look for someone else.
Who among us has not found ourselves stumbling over expectations of who we are supposed to be? It seems as though our parents, teachers, partners, family, friends, coworkers, pastors, bosses, and even perfect strangers all expect us to be and to behave in a certain way — the way that works for them. If the voices of the others are strong enough, we will even embrace their expectations as our own, as though what other people expect of us is what we are somehow supposed to expect of ourselves. If we go along to get along for too long, we can lose sight of who we really are. Once that happens, we are no longer able to become who God created us to be.
The truth is that, even when we do miraculous things, somebody is going to be disappointed. Yet their disappointment is just that; it is theirs. It is not our responsibility to pick up and bear the burden of their disappointment. We can allow others to own and to carry their own feelings about us and at the same time embrace all of who we truly are.
My prayer in this season of Advent is that each of us will come to know and to accept our own “true you” so we can become who we really are. For that miracle, the world awaits. Amen.