Go and tell John what you hear and see.” --Matthew 11:4
Three people come upon an old car parked on the side of the road. The first looks at it and smiles. She sees the first car she drove when she was a youth and remembers the joy of having her first wheels. The second person looks at it and frowns. She sees an old wreck abandoned on the street and wonders why the city doesn’t just tow it away. The third person barely glances at the vehicle. He notices the brand new sports car parked a few spaces in front of it and thinks about how wonderful it would be to drive it. Three people, three very different perceptions.
We do the same thing with people, don’t we? Three of us can look at the same person walking down the sidewalk toward us and see very different things. Where one sees a father, another sees a potential threat and the third a beloved child of God.
We do the same thing with God too.
Some of us look around us and see God’s presence and power all over the place. Others look and don’t see anything at all. Some see a loving, gracious God. Others see a fearful God of judgment.
John the Baptist didn’t know what he was seeing when he looked at Jesus. Was he the Messiah or not? When Jesus was baptized, according to some accounts, John saw the dove and heard the voice from heaven. But, Jesus didn’t turn out to be exactly what John had expected. When the messengers from John came to Jesus, he sent word to John telling him to look again a little closer – and to compare what he was seeing with what Isaiah proclaimed. The prophet had declared that when the long-promised day of redemption came, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped and the lame would leap like a dear. (Isaiah 35:5-6) Jesus had done all of that and more!
This past week, we spent several days with congregations talking about what we see and hear as we think about the congregation’s mission and ministry. Do we look around us and see nothing but challenges, decline and a futile struggle for survival, or can we see the blessings, promise and power of God at work among us? We mined the past to see how God had been present there, and practiced looking for God’s positive presence in the present. It was amazing what we saw when we looked! Once people started looking, they saw God’s fingerprints all over the place! We saw Jesus present among us. It was transforming! (And a lot of fun too, I might add.)
The same is true for us as individuals.
When we ask with John, “So, are you the one, or should we look for someone else?” Jesus answers us the same way, “What do you see and hear?” With the well-known Christmas song, I would ask you, “Do you hear what I hear?” and “Do you see what I see?” I see God at work in the world all the time (in spite of all the real negative, hard and challenging stuff). If you don’t, I would encourage you, as Jesus encouraged John, to look again. You might be surprised by what you perceive.
Pray that God would open our eyes so that we might see Jesus in the world around us. Thanks for reading!