A few years ago, and in a place far, far away, I heard a priest give an excellent and profound description of religious obedience. He wrote, “Sometimes, religious obedience means admitting that you are the droids they are looking for.” Are you the one we are looking for?
Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another? This question posed by the disciples of John the Baptist to the Lord Jesus is one of the most central questions of the Scriptures. It is, in fact, one of the most central questions of human existence. Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?
John the Baptist, the prophet clothed in camel hair, who ate locusts in the desert, and baptized Jesus in the river Jordan, was now imprisoned by Herod. John the Baptist called the people of Jerusalem to conversion. He defended the sanctity of marriage. And now, John, sensing that his days on earth were numbered, sent his disciples to Jesus. That was always the primary mission of John, to direct people to Jesus. In the womb of his mother Elizabeth, the unborn John the Baptist became the first to worship Jesus. He leaped in her womb when he heard the words of Mary’s greeting. John was the one who pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And of the Lord Jesus, John the Baptist would say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” It is for this reason that the Lord Jesus would say that among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.
And today, John performs that last of his duties as the last of the prophets, save for the shedding of his blood. He sends his disciples to Jesus. The question they ask expresses the long-desired hope of the people of Israel. Is Jesus the one who is to come? Is the one who stands before them the long-desired Messiah prophesied by Isaiah? Is he the one in whose presence the desert and parched land would exult and all creation would rejoice for her Lord was near? And is he the one who will open the eyes of the blind, clear the ears of the deaf, cure the lame and enable the mute to sing?
And Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” In answering their question, Jesus demonstrates that he is the one who is to come and his kingdom is at hand.
And yet, there was more to question. Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another? The question posed by those disciples was not only about the identity of Jesus. This question was about their own identity too. For if Jesus is the one they were to search for, if he is the Messiah who will restore all creation, then he is the one who can tell them who they were created to be. Jesus can tell them not only who he is, but who they are. And what was true for the disciples of John the Baptist is true for us too. We have no need to seek for another.
The world will try to tell us who we are. Advertisers will try to tell us who we are. Politicians will try to tell us who we are. Other people will try to tell us who we are. They have no right, for the Lord Jesus tells us who we are.
But the Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, tells us differently. The Lord Jesus tells us that our fundamental identity is a share in his. In Christ, we are the beloved of the Father. We are heirs of the kingdom and people of the promise. When we look upon the face of Jesus, whom we encounter teaching and healing, suffering and redeeming on the cross, wrapped in swaddling clothes and sleeping in a manger, we understand who he is and who we are.
We come now to the altar of God with the humility of John the Baptist. We claim our identity as Beloved children of the Almighty Father. And in that moment after we receive our Lord’s precious Body and Blood in Holy Communion, we profess that Jesus is the one who is to come and we will not seek for another. Amen.