Mercy trumps judgement

The Bible readings for today are Isaiah 35.1–10; Psalm 146.4-10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11.

John began to doubt Jesus because he was not living up to his expectations of a messiah. Matthew leaves us in no doubt about his own perception of Jesus’ identity. He tells us that John sent to check up on Jesus ‘when he saw what the Messiah was doing’.

Jesus was teaching disciples and preaching good news and John was confused. He thought that Jesus would bring retribution on the people and here he was giving them another chance. John had preached as if there would be no tomorrow, but Jesus had the long-term in view. Perhaps John felt a bit like Jonah. Both had preached impending doom only to be confronted by the patience and kindness of God.

This does not allow us to dismiss John. His disturbing word will not be silenced. And yet, for some reason he hadn’t sufficiently counted on the mercy of God. Jesus reminded him that healing and helping were more a part of Messiah’s remit than judging and condemning. We are not told whether John got the message but if he was half the prophet Jesus thought he was, then surely he must have. And it is not that Jesus gives up on judgement. Isn’t it more that the self-giving love of God revealed in Jesus judges (and redeems) us like nothing else ever could?

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