The messengers of John the Baptist
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - December 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Today is what the Catholic Church calls Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, Lutheran Churches, and other mainline Protestant churches. It can fall on any date from December 11 to 17. The word Gaudete means “rejoice,” which Catholics and Christians do during the Christmas season. Today’s gospel reading is about the story of the Messengers from John the Baptist that you can read in Matt.11: 2-11.

“2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “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.”

“7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

“‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

 who will prepare your way before you.’

“11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

* * *

When this story about John the Baptist was told, he was already imprisoned by King Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. He was the son of Herod the Great, who ruled the area in Palestine when our Lord Jesus Christ was born. According to the Synoptic Gospels, Herod Antipas was married to Phasaelis, the daughter of king Aretas of Nabataea when he decided to divorce her and marry Herodias, the wife of King Herod’s brother Philip. Because he rebuked King Herod for his illegal marriage to Herodias, he then imprisoned John the Baptist, but did not harm him because he had so many followers.

In ancient times, where there was really no human rights to speak of. When you are imprisoned, fear always overcomes you that you would probably die in jail. So I presume that this was the very reason why John the Baptist sent his messengers to our Lord Jesus Christ who asked the Lord the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

But our Lord replied to John’s messengers with a more dramatic response when he said, “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.” If you’ve read the sayings of the prophets, you would immediately know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah as promised by God himself. In short, while he was in jail, John the Baptist knew that his mission to herald the coming of the Messiah was over.

After the messengers of John left our Lord Jesus to return to John’s cell to tell him the good news, the Lord Jesus Christ then gave a great praise to John the Baptist saying, “11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

If you didn’t know, after the prophet Malachi died around 450 BC, no prophetic voice was heard in Israel for 500 years, which later became known as the period or gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Without a prophet, people in the land began to divide into parties and groups, each claiming the right to interpret the scriptures and lead the people until John the Baptist appeared in the desert near the Jordan River. So John’s holy mission was done, while our Lord Jesus Christ began his ministry in Galilee.

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JOHN THE BAPTIST
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