O Come, Let Us Adore Him – Advent Day 6 – Expecting His Coming
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3, ESV)
During a season in which time with family is greatly cherished by many, plans often revolve around this question: “When are you coming?” It is especially important if folks are coming from a distance because there could be additional work involved in accommodating their arrival. But sometimes, in true Christmas fashion, people go for the big surprise arrival! When our daughter Lexi was only a few months old, we pulled it off. We had told my in-laws that we would be making the trip from North Carolina to Ohio the day after Christmas. Instead, we left mid-day on Christmas Eve, knowing they would be away from the house when we arrived. That gave us time to park the car one street over, put Lexi to bed, and sit back to await the moment we could unveil the surprise. I still remember the hilarious look of panic and confusion on my brother-in-law Jeffrey’s face as he walked towards his bedroom and saw Cindy and me step out to meet him. He yelled first, then his sister Sara, and then his father Ron. But still standing outside with the door open was his mother, Martha, with no clue what was going on, yelling, “What’s happening? What’s happening?” It was hilarious, heart-warming, magical, and unforgettable. For all four of them, it meant Christmas with their first grandchild and niece! Even though they were expecting our coming, they didn’t know when we would get there.
You feel a little bit of that in the words of John the Baptist in the verses above. Like many before him, John the Baptist was absolutely certain the Christ, the Messiah, would come; he just didn’t know when. Knowing the promises that were written about the coming Messiah, you can definitely sense the anticipation in the early parts of the Gospels. John wasn’t alone! Just read through John 1 and you’ll find men that heard John the Baptist proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Andrew began to follow Jesus and then spoke to his brother Simon Peter. In addition, Jesus found Philip, who spoke to his friend Nathanael. All these men were quite obviously looking, hoping, and longing for the Messiah to come. They just didn’t know when He was coming!
That brings us to this passage in Matthew 11. John had clearly known the Messiah was coming, and even that he himself was the chosen forerunner in fulfilment of Isaiah 40:3. You see that in John 1:23: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” But despite this knowledge, and the confidence he previously had in stating that Jesus was “the Lamb of God” (1:29), he now asks if he has misplaced his faith. Is Jesus the Christ? Is He the long-awaited, long-promised One who is to come, or should he look elsewhere? He expected the Messiah, but it appears he ended up not really expecting Jesus. No kingdom had been established; Rome was still in charge. Maybe he was expecting a different Christ than the One God had promised. But instead of a yes/no answer, Jesus, who had already fulfilled things written in Isaiah 26, 29, 35, 53, and 61, gives a predictably brilliant one. To the man who himself fulfilled Isaiah 40:3, Jesus sends this message: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). In other words, “Look no further, John. I am exactly whom you were expecting!”
What a thrill for John and for all those who understood—this is the Christ! To a nation that had been waiting 4,000 years, He had finally come, and the world would never be the same. As David Crowder says in “Postlude” from that same Christmas album, “What once was in darkness has now come to light.” You wonder what went through John’s mind when the word came from the disciples. Perhaps the truth rushed in, never to be shaken: “The Light has come. Hope has come. He has come!”