Blessed: Who Are You Seeking? (Matt 11: 2-11)
This week in the news there was a report about a Canadian airliner on which the crew had dressed like Santa Claus and his elves. As the flight winged its way to its destination carols were sung, Christmas poems were recited, and the crew even asked the passengers what they wanted for Christmas recording their requests on clip boards. What the passengers did not know was that the crew then radioed ahead and had the requested items purchased. Items as big as a big-screen TV awaited the passengers when they went to pick up their baggage.
Some squabbling soon followed. Some passengers were delighted. Others wished they had asked for something larger and more valuable. Those who said they didn’t want anything for Christmas now wondered if they shouldn’t have asked for something.
If you had been on that airplane, what would you have requested? If you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for? What are you asking for today?
The bible tells us we will find if seek with all of heart. Of course, that message is not referring to big-screen TVs, but it is an important truth that when our hearts are given to God we find that God guides us to find what we seek with all of our heart.
In the children’s musical, The Great, Late Potentate, an apocryphal fourth wise man discovered what we can all discover: that if we seek God with all of our heart, we discover that God has been seeking us all along.
The Great, Late Potentate was seeking a bunch of things, but mostly, he was seeking a baby born as a king to whom he could bring a gift. He found out that what he was seeking, or perhaps better, who he was seeking, was different than what he thought. What are you seeking?
In Jesus’ day, a lot like today, there were groups of people who sought God and God’s help.In Jesus’ day, there were at least four identified groups. Each of these Jewish sects had names:
- The Zealots.
- The Sadducees
- The Pharisees
- The Essenes
Like today, these groups didn’t represent everyone, but they did represent some world views that others also held.
The Zealots, were a Jewish sect which sought a military answer to their situation. The nation of Israel was an occupied nation. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was an occupied city. The Zealots sought to overthrow the government, using force if necessary. They hoped for a Messiah to lead them in this enterprise, so that sought for a military leader. Though Jesus was “militant” for God’s cause, He did not fit the image they sought.
The Sadducees, were a Jewish sect which sought an accommodation with Rome, the occupying power of Israel. Because they sought to get along with this occupying power, the Sadducees had been set up by Rome as a governing power. Because they were in power, they sought to keep peace, something which matched the notion of Pax Romana. They sought to keep the status quo. They did not want to lose their authority to rule, so they sought a continuing accommodation with Rome. It’s clear then that they sought a Messiah who would allow their role in their worldview to continue, and even to join them in this continuing accommodation. Jesus did not fit their worldview.
The Pharisees were Jewish sect which sought to live by the law of God, the law which Moses had handed down hundreds of years before. They were legalists who sought to remain true to the past. They thought, if only we could get back to the way things once were the world would come about right. Everything would be okay. They sought a Messiah who would world right the wrongs of the world using the law of God as they understood it. So, when Jesus challenged their notion of the Law, he failed to fit into their worldview.
The Essenes were a Jewish sect who believed that all of the world was corrupt. Their answer was seeking to escape the world. The sought to leave the old world behind. They pinned their hopes on a world to come. They sought a leader who would bring about this new world. And though Jesus promised such a Kingdom to come, He also laid claim to the goodness of God’s creation, of God’s love for the world. Jesus failed to fit neatly into their desire to escape, calling them rather to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom which had come and still was coming.
In each case, the Zealots, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, these Jewish sects sought someone who would solve their problems, someone who would be the answer to their worldview. In each case, Jesus was both their answer and not their answer. For Jesus brought a different answer. He brought a different view of the world.
The Bible tells the story of a man called John the Baptist. John was like the OT prophet Isaiah spoke of, a voice crying out in the wilderness, crying that the people should prepare the way of the Lord through repentance, by turning to God. It is interesting that John the Baptist, though he was a cousin to Jesus, was not exactly sure who Jesus was. Because he preached a message contrary to the powers at work in the world, John had been thrown in prison. He’d been calling everyone, including governing authorities to live a clean, godly life. This picture was offensive to many, especially the king and his wife. And so the king put him in prison.
While John was in prison, he sent people to ask Jesus, “Are you the one we have been seeking, or should we wait for another?” He was asking if Jesus was the Messiah, sent from God? John the Baptist was seeking to know for sure. If Jesus was the one God had promised to send, the one who would save people from their selfishness, their worldview, from their sin, then surely He was the true Messiah of God
Jesus’ answer to John’s questions came straight out of the words of Isaiah the prophet. We can read them in Matthew 11:4-6: 4 Jesus answered …, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
These were the things prophesied that the Messiah would do. These were the very things Jesus had been doing: healing the blind, and the lame, the deaf; making people clean again, raising the dead to life; bringing Good News to the poor that the One they had sought for the answers to their lives had come.
Today our world is not much different from the world in which those Jewish sects existed. Each of them had sought someone to be the answer to the questions their worldviews posed regarding the needs of their world.
Out of all this the question for us is, what are we seeking? A way of forcing the world to go our way? A way of keeping the status quo? A way of making everyone follow the law? A way of escaping from this world to the next? A way of righting the world as we see it? Who are we seeking? Do we find who we seek in Jesus? Or are we going to keep on seeking to find someone who better answers our questions?
The people on the plane had their requests fulfilled for the things they wanted for Christmas, and yet it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because our needs are never really for big screen TVs and the like. But if we will just take the time, if we will seek with all of our heart, we will find that the needs of our hearts are found when we seek the One who has come, the One who wants to come to be part of our lives … Jesus who was born in Bethlehem.
Most interesting to me is that when we seek Christ with all of our heart we discover that all the time we were seeking, He was seeking us. And like the Great, Late Potentate we discover that the only thing we need to bring, really the only gift we have to bring… is ourselves. And we can do that right here, right now, if we will seek who we are really seeking, the One God sent into the world to save us from ourselves.