Jesus and John the Baptist
John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
New International Version (NIV)
"Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me"--that statement has always been intriguing to me.
Why would anyone "stumble" or take offense (meaning of the phrase) at someone taking care of the physical needs of people as a front-and-center, core proposition of one's faith vision?
I mean really, now.
Jesus' "action list" presents quite a resume of relief, doesn't it?
Blind people regaining sight.
People who can't walk now able to walk on their own.
Those with no hearing now able to receive and process sounds.
The dreaded lepers now cleansed of their physical and social maladies.
Even those who've passed on and over brought back to life.
And, get this, good news is being proclaimed to the poor.
The list ascends to the most surprising outcome of all that Jesus did: he included the poor at the center of his mission and his kingdom.
Maybe now I'm understanding this idea of "taking offense" or stumbling over the acts, agenda and engagement of Jesus.
You can still see the "offense," the "stumbling" today, can't you? Much of the time the most deeply offended claim to be followers of the person who creates the surprising offense.
For some it is downright offensive to make or to regard "the poor" as a priority. It's too social, too worldly, too "liberationist" to understand that the heart of God's program contains a radical commitment to those who are poor and, as a result, left out, marginalized, kicked aside and easily forgotten. Forgotten, and not just by secular forces, but also by people who
claim to follow Jesus, the great offender.
Surely, this is not what Jesus made central to his life, work and teaching? So it seems, and just there we face up with the offense!
So, today around the world, preachers will call out his name, the name of Jesus.
I wonder, will anyone be offended? Will anyone stumble over the real nature of his life and work? I hope the spokespersons today will be clear enough to create some much-needed tension in the heart of the church.