John and Jesus were cousins. I wonder what that was like. I’m sure they had at least seen each other at family reunions as kids. I wonder if John was shocked when he found out that Jesus was the one he’d been looking for. Shocked or not, he seemed pretty sure of it when he proclaimed Jesus’ identity to the crowds nearby.
But later on when John was in prison, he started to doubt. Even after he had seen the evidence that God had provided, he wanted to be sure that Jesus was the Chosen One. So he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was really the one he’d been waiting for.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 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.” (Matthew 11:4-6 NIV)
There are so many lessons here and Jesus’ response is very intriguing. But I read this recently and something jumped out at me that I had never noticed before. Specifically, the list of evidence that Jesus wants John to hear about.
Jesus says to tell John that the blind now see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the gospel is preached to the poor. That is a pretty impressive list of undeniable miracles. However, one of those things doesn’t seem to fit.
Jesus has provided a list of miracles. Things that do not happen unless He is involved. That list includes many different ways in which people are healed, and then Jesus adds that the poor have heard the good news. Is that really a miracle? Jesus put it on the same list as healing the blind and raising the dead, so it must have been a pretty big deal.
At the time when Jesus walked on the earth, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were pretentious to say the least. They cherished their upper class status and seemed to have the definition of a “holier than thou” attitude. And these were the people in charge of honoring God. When we read the Bible and other historical texts, it does not seem like the poor were a focus of their ministry at the time. But still…a miracle?
What about today? Do we focus our ministry on the poor? I do think that we minister to the poor. We send missionaries to impoverished countries. We have food banks and clothing drives. We support local service agencies with donations and volunteer hours. But as the focus of our ministry…unfortunately, I don’t think it is the poor.
In my opinion, we focus on ministry to ourselves and people like us. We worry about “getting fed” just as much as we care about giving of ourselves. And it is much more convenient and comfortable to give of ourselves at our churches, or in our neighborhoods. To people like us.
Jesus often talked about the poor. He spent most of His time with them, actually. Getting to know them. Loving on them. This we know. But if He thought it to be miraculous that He was able to do these things and to bring them into His kingdom, why on earth would we be doing anything else?
I can’t go anywhere in my small down without seeing somebody asking for help. There are thousands of organizations that would readily accept my donations online. My wife and I have both been blessed with jobs when some people out there can’t find work anywhere.
WHAT ARE WE DOING?! We have ample opportunity to share Christ’s love with the poor each and every day. We can be a part of the miracle of sharing the gospel with the less fortunate, the outcasts, and the unloved and this is the best we can do? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is not Christianity.