Archived Story

Jesus is not a genie in a bottle

Published 9:48am Friday, December 13, 2013

By the Rev. Kenneth Jensen
Retired ELCA pastor

“When John heard in prison what the Messiah was going, he sent word by his disciplines and said to Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” – Matthew 112-3

Months earlier, John the Baptizer had announced the Messiah was about to appear. He would separate the wheat from the chaff gathering the wheat into his barn and burning the chaff with an unquenchable fire. When Jesus arrived on the banks of the Jordan River, John knew he was the one!

But now, John was languishing in prison. He was beginning to have his doubts. Had he miscalculated? Had he placed his faith in the wrong one?

Jesus replied, “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 he who takes no offense at me?”

Quite an impressive list, don’t you think? Jesus’ answer implies that John didn’t know these things; yet, Matthew states that John was fully aware of what Jesus was doing. Hence, what caused his doubts?

In that era, it was widely believed people who suffered deserved their plight. The blind deserved to be blind. The lame had offended God. Lepers were unclean. As for the poor, it was just deserts due to laziness, irresponsibility or lack of faith.

Was John anticipating something more spectacular? Did he expect the Messiah to fix the world’s problems crushing beneath his heel all sources of evil including the occupation forces of Rome?

Peter Woods writes: “John had been sent to prepare the way and he had. It was however not the freeway for an avenging army, it was the rocky road for a suffering servant. Those who prepare the way don’t get to determine who rides on it or how … (Jesus) always goes to be where the pain is and not where the power or pleasure is.”

We have our expectations of Jesus do we not? When he fails to follow what we have scripted him to do for us, we may find ourselves asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we wait for another?”

However, Jesus did not come to be our genie in a bottle granting us our every wish. He came to walk with and embrace those whom we might not invite to our Christmas parties … pointing us to invite people we really don’t want to see. Little wonder he adds, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”