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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

10 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 11: 2-11

I wonder why Jesus asked the crowd what they were expecting when they went out to the desert to meet John. It sounds like there must have been a lot of murmuring about him. Curious Jews had made the long trek out to the Jordan valley, just north of the Dead Sea, to see this famous preacher. It sounds like they might have been surprised, and disappointed, by the person they encountered.

It’s hard to imagine they might have been expecting “someone dressed in fine clothing.” Surely word had spread about the austere clothing and diet of this fiery preacher. More important, the desert territory where he made his home was long associated with the life of the great prophet Elijah, whose ascetical dress made him easily recognizable (2 Kings 1:8). His memory was still powerful in Israel, and certainly was invoked when people met the Baptist, whose dress, and diet, and locale was identical to him who had lived nearly a thousand years earlier.

He was also certainly not a “reed shaken by the wind.” This guy? He stood up to the Pharisees, and anyone who hoped that rigorous observance of the Law was more important than giving a cloak to the one was cold, and food to the one who was hungry (Luke 3:11). No, this Baptist stood up to Herod Antipas himself, and didn’t back down, even when in chains in Herod’s dungeon. And I’ll bet that when the soldiers came for him the night of Herod’s drunken birthday, his last words were his earlier words with Jesus, “that I may decrease, and he may increase” (John 3: 30).

That’s the man they encountered. That’s the man we encounter today.

Which prophets in your life would you go out to the desert to see?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Advent - Cycle A

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