This story is inspired by Matthew 11:2–6.
Gripping the cell bars outside John’s dank prison, I refused to leave. John shook his head. “I’m not the Messiah. He’s out there. Will you recognize him?”
With a heart aching, I replied, “We need you to identify him for us. And we need you to keep preaching repentance.”
When John asked for news of his cousin Jesus, it seemed like changing the subject. No, we hadn’t seen him. John was thoughtful. Then he looked me in the eye and with a commanding tone said, “I want you to go find Jesus. Ask him if he is the Messiah.”
The contrast from jail to the open air jarred our senses. Despite everyone talking about Jesus, we couldn’t reach him. He always seemed to be one town ahead of us. But in each town, we heard stories of miracles.
On our third day searching, we caught up to Jesus in a small village. A noisy, enthusiastic crowd met us first. One man shouted, “I can walk!” Another grabbed people’s chins with his hands, staring into faces as if he’d never seen before. He hadn’t. This hot, dusty crowd was full of raucous, jubilant people healed by Jesus.
As we waited our turn to talk with him, Jesus restored deaf people’s hearing. I saw broken bodies knit back together and marvels of many kinds.
“Love in all circumstances,” Jesus said. I listened, observing people press around him. Somewhere deep within, I felt Jesus’ authenticity, beyond words, as if God were plucking a harp in my chest. At last it was our turn. I looked into his eyes and felt at ease.
“We come from John,” I started. “Are you the One, or are we to wait longer?”
Even as my words came out, and I watched the corners of Jesus’ mouth turn up, I realized that John had set me up. John knew already that Jesus was the Messiah. He wanted me to see for myself. During the past three days, I’d witnessed the results of Jesus’ encounters with people. Today I was alive with the contagious hope and excitement of people all around Jesus. I was witnessing Jesus at work firsthand.
“Go now, my friend. Share what you’ve seen,” Jesus said to me. Wait a minute. I finally meet the Messiah, and he sends me away? How can I describe the miracles I’ve seen? I don’t feel equipped to carry the message to others. I’m a follower. Send someone else, Jesus.
Jesus explained that some people think the Messiah will come with military force, not healing power and concern for the poor. “God’s plan is beyond political issues,” Jesus said, smiling. “Go and tell John that the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them.”
Then I got it. John sent us to discover Jesus. Jesus’ message of love wasn’t the messianic message I expected. God is full of surprises. I couldn’t wait to tell John what we’d seen.
I suspected this might be the last time I saw John. Power like Herod’s is dangerous. I also knew that John was right: his ministry was diminishing for a good reason. The Reign of God was in our midst, and I needed to help promote that message now. Yes, I will go and tell.
Image: “Jesús sana a los enfermos,” in the Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Santiago, Chile), painted around 1940 in the workshop of Pedro Subercaseaux. Photo by Rodrigo Fernández under CC BY-SA 4.0.