by Ed Cyzewski
John the Baptist sat in prison wondering where everything fell apart. He’d faithfully testified to the Messiah, called Israel to repentance, and challenged the Gentile rulers who were perverting the land with their immorality. His reward was prison.
Instead of the Messiah liberating Israel and restoring God’s rule over his people, the Messiah was hanging out in the wilderness. If restoration was part of the plan, John didn’t see how it would ever happen. Worried that he announced the wrong Messiah, he sent some of his disciples to double-check.
They asked Jesus point blank, “Are you really the Messiah?”
Jesus didn’t respond with a simple yes or no answer. He didn’t quote anything from the scriptures. He simply told John’s disciples to do one thing: look. Look at what I’m doing. This is what a Messiah does.
What was Jesus doing? He was healing the sick and telling the poor about God’s coming Kingdom.
I find the simplicity of Jesus’ reply jarring. It hints at a quiet confidence that he was accomplishing precisely what God had called him to do. The testimony that Jesus offered to John, the Pharisees, and to even us today is rooted in what he did. He tells us to look at what he’s doing in order to understand who he is.
If I have any ambition to imitate Jesus and to demonstrate his presence in my life, the path forward is simple: heal, serve, and share the Gospel with those who are poor, hurting, and wounded. When someone asks whether I’m really following Jesus, I can say: “Look. I’m healing the sick and proclaiming the Good News to the poor.”
That’s it. Just have a look at what I’m doing.
Jesus could have proven his Messianic identity with elaborate arguments from scripture and signs in the heavens. They would have worked. However, he chose to make himself known by serving others and sharing God with those who are poor.
John’s doubt wasn’t just any ordinary doubt. He had heavenly confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. His entire mission revolved around correctly identifying the Messiah. And yet, he doubted. When confronting the most stinging, difficult doubt to handle, Jesus pointed to his work among those were poor.
There’s something about healing the sick and telling the poor about God’s salvation that demonstrates to our world that there’s another Kingdom at work among us. If we give ourselves to this other Kingdom in the midst of our world, we prove that we are deeply committed to something that isn’t readily apparent without divine intervention.
If we aren’t actively engaged in healing and preaching among the poor, sick, and imprisoned, then we need to ask ourselves whether we are basing our Christian identity and witness in things that aren’t all that important to Jesus in the grand scheme of things.
Jesus made his priorities abundantly clear for his followers. If we want to testify him, we know the who and the how. Much like John, we are faced with the choice to accept whether or not the path of Jesus is the right one for us. We don’t know how John responded, and that omission serves as a warning to never make following Jesus into something that it is not.
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life and A Path to Publishing. He blogs on Christian living and theology at www.inamirrordimly.com.