Last weekend we heard of John’s dramatic preaching and call to repentance. He was the striking figure crying out in the desert, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John was an expert at pointing out what stood in the way of the coming of the Kingdom. He could uncover sin with clarity and precision. His preaching exposed anything that stood in the way of the coming Kingdom and demanded that it be acknowledged and repented. The whole region was going out to hear his call to conversion.
Now we come to this weekend’s Gospel. Things have changed. Time has passed. The story has moved on. John is no longer in the desert. He is in jail precisely for pointing out the sin of Herod, the ruler. The crowds are gone. John is alone and in prison. Doubt starts to come to his mind. We can imagine him thinking to himself, “What if I was wrong? What if Jesus is not the one to usher in God’s Kingdom? What if I am suffering in prison for nothing?”
So John sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him who he is. Is Jesus really the one?
Jesus answers by pointing out what is happening in his ministry. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” The Kingdom is indeed coming. In fact, it is already here in Jesus’ ministry. Others are already living a taste of the Kingdom.
Whether we are experiencing the joy of the Kingdom, or the prison of doubt, we need one another this Advent season. Even John the Baptizer needed others to help him wake up to the Kingdom.