“Why do I have to wait?”
I waited as a child for a great many things which never happened. I longed for my alcoholic father to be sober and to learn to love, so I waited. I pleaded for my single parent mother to have energy for me at the end of her work day, so I waited.
There are many things that I waited for but never came.
The day before Advent, this year, I declared loud and clear to Brad (my husband) that I was not waiting this year. We had just come out of the election, people were fighting, there were fires, earthquakes and rumors of war.
I wasn’t going to wait.
I became a little concerned with myself. What was this oozing out of my soul? What was lying underneath it all…what was the root? Why was I avoiding Advent?
I could feel myself stumbling as I was skipping Advent. I started pulling out my Advent books. I was looking for help…maybe I had forgotten something key about Advent…I wasn’t sure at this point but I was up to my knees in rut marks from digging my heels in and it was only day five of Advent.
In Matthew chapter 11 we find John the Baptist asking Jesus a question, a question that it would seem you shouldn’t ask Jesus.
John stumbled just as I stumble. He didn’t stumble because he asked a question, I want to be clear on that. John questioned the identity of Jesus, but also John questioned even his own very identity.
John asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This is John! John the Baptist!!! Luke chapter 1 verse 41 John knew in his mother’s belly that Jesus was sent by God. John chapter 1 verse 29 John was the first to proclaim Jesus, the Lamb of God. Matthew chapter 3 verse 17 John heard God’s own voice, declaring Jesus as His Son. This very John the Baptist asks, “Are you the one, or shall we look for another?”
Michael Card says, “Clearly John has stumbled. Jesus has failed to meet John’s expectations. And if Jesus failed to meet John’s expectations, certainly he is likely to fail to meet ours.
There is nothing wrong with Jesus; it is our expectations that are patently wrong.”
John has questions! John the Baptist needs to know…he needs reassurance to get past this rock which he has stumbled over.
John needs to be reminded of the identity of Jesus because it is in the identity of Jesus that John has established himself.
As my Advent books are piled around me, I find it. A dear friend, Jim Branch has an Advent book called Watch and Wait. Jim writes these words, “Waiting demands both an attitude and a posture that are the opposite of my normal default mode. In fact, waiting almost completely takes the ball out of my hands. It asks me to let go of my agenda and my control, and to surrender them both to God. And that is a really difficult thing to do. But maybe the biggest reason that I hate waiting is because, deep down, I am really afraid that whatever, or whoever, I am waiting on will never appear. I mean, what if I just wait forever and nothing ever happens, or no one ever comes? It is a frightening thought.”
This is a naming of my rut marks. I am stumbling because I don’t want to surrender my expectations and I sure haven’t seen Jesus yet and in my expectations He should be back by now, maybe even yesterday.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of John’s question! It is okay to ask hard questions of Jesus! He isn’t afraid to enter in, even in questions of His identity! JESUS ANSWERS JOHN! He answers him! He tells John’s disciples to tell John what they see and what they hear! Jesus asks them to COLLECT, to collect what they saw and carry the news to John… collect that the blind see.
collect that the lame walk.
collect that the leapers are clean.
collect that the deaf hear.
collect that the dead are raised.
collect that the poor have good news preached to them.
These collections are the works that would signal the Messiah, listed in the book of Isaiah. John the Baptist would of already collected these words by heart. Jesus affirms what John already knows he is watching and waiting for, Jesus confirms His identity to John.
Something that is left out from this grouping of scripture from Isaiah…the Messiah would set the prisoner free and loose the captives. Jesus does not mention that here in this collection.
John was imprisoned by Herod when he asked this question. Maybe John was reminding Jesus to get to it…be this Messiah that you are, set the prisoners free and loose the captive, but again these expectations of our own implemented timetables. This is not how John thought it was all going to go down.
He is in prison, for speaking truth…God’s truth, and will ultimately be beheaded. Jesus does answer John. Jesus tells John that He is the Savior, He is about His Father’s work, but not all of it yet. He invites John to a hard waiting. He breaks John’s expectations of how it all would come about.
Michael Card has a song called the Scandalon. Scandalon is a Greek word meaning stumbling stone. The first verse reads,
The seers and the prophets had foretold it long ago That the long awaited one would make men stumble But they were looking for a king to conquer and to kill Who’d have ever thought He’d be so meek and humble
He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that HE can make them whole And many will be crushed and lose their own soul Along the path of life there lies a stubborn Scandalon And all who come this way must be offended
To some He is a barrier, To others He’s the way
For all should know the scandal of believing
Jesus says, “Blessed is he who does not stumble because of me”. Card says, “Jesus would not have said this unless the prospect of stumbling over the scandal of Him was a reality. The Bible states it in Isaiah Chapter 8, “He will be…a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” The expectations of the people were so different. Conquering was expected and triumphal entries.
The truth of Jesus, how He came, what He did and who He met with caused some to stumble away but, it also caused some to stumble and to be broken so that He might make them whole. Those who come close to Jesus often stumble.
I stumble this Advent. I can feel my stumble and I can feel the breaking. He is making me whole…again and again and again.
The beautiful thing about John’s story to me is that Jesus didn’t walk away from John in the midst of His stumbling. Jesus invited John the Baptist to collect the truth that he heard and what his disciples had seen. Jesus invited John to remember. Jesus points as a watchman. I AM HE! Jesus proclaimed HIS truth over John.
Jim Branch continues in his book, Watch and Wait, by discussing a watchman. He says, “A watchman waits for the morning because he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the morning will indeed come. All he has to do is wait.” Jim points out that even though this takes the ball out of our hands we still determine HOW we WAIT. He says, “For once the watchman has dealt with the fact that he cannot hasten the morning’s arrival, nor can he delay it, only then can he settle down in trust and begin to truly wait for its coming, being both attentive and expectant.”
Jesus settles John.
Jesus nor John were willing to play the games of the world. They would not dance to the world’s tune. John was announcing the Day of the Lord and Jesus the Messiah was there…there should of been rejoicing yet John did not dance. He didn’t even eat normal food or drink wine. John turned his back on society’s ways and told the people to repent. The people felt the Messiah should take up their cause, they were oppressed after all. Jesus should of cried out with them! But he came eating and drinking as if celebrating life. He ate with sinners and the tax collectors.
Both John and Jesus lived authentic life styles that wisdom produced.
John had a mission to call the nation to repentance and that is how he lived his days.
Jesus presented the message of the kingdom to all who would listen and that is how He lived His days.
The kingdom moved forward, even though the way John and Jesus moved about their days looked so different from what many expected.
Jesus speaks over John, settling words, inviting him to wait, watch, collect and know the truth. I know my issues with waiting and the roots are revealed. I need encouragement to wait just as John did. I need Jesus to settle me, releasing me from my own expectations. To settle my heart. Jesus is the Messiah! He is who He says He is.
I implement my timetable on God and I have expectations that need to be broken. Who am I to determine when He should return? Who am I to determine His identity? I confess that I want the easy road. I do not want to wait.
There are hard things in waiting…broken things that need mending. This life is hard. Jesus suffered, on the cross that we might be redeemed…that we might be free! We will also be invited to suffer with Christ just as John was invited to, in this life.
Advent is hard for me. I was stumbling before I even reached it. I want to skip the not yet because the very now is hard! If I just keep control…if I just keep busy enough I won’t have to sit and wait! I want to jump to the celebrations, it feels a little safer. It is there that I know what to do and I find a little control.
Someone once said that you cannot feast without fasting first. It is in this Advent time of waiting that I am invited to fast as I remember all that He is and all that He has orchestrated and done.
We are not saved by God’s grace so that we might escape (though I am tempted). We were saved to carry on Christ’s work…work that He was killed for, that He willingly died for. If we share in His sufferings we will also share in His GLORY one day! What we see isn’t all that there is. These false expectations cloud our way. There is light. He is light! He is making us whole. Keep watch! Morning is coming!
I know the end of the story! I know of our Saviors GREAT LOVE for us! He will return! I am broken now…I still stumble but one day…one day I will be restored! It is hard to wait because I already know the ending but until He comes again He is making us new. He is making us His. He is making us disciples. So, I enter in a little reluctant and I wait.
This Advent God is reminding me of His great love in simple things so I have taken His advice to John to collect. There are small jars that sit on our table of things that I have found on walks that remind me of Him and His beauty. He is near! I am taking pictures of things that I cannot carry into our home and storing them up. He is near! I am collecting moments with Him so that I can remember that even in the waiting for His will (not my expectations) that He is meeting me and He is making me new…again and again and again until His return when He will fully restore me.
So till then I watch and wait entering into the fullness of Advent. I fast and await the feast. He is, who He said He is, just as He told John. So, I collect.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen
Written by Joy Guilford
“Why do I have to wait?”