Signs For John the Baptist and For Us

I was thinking about Matthew 11:3-6 this evening.

2 Now while in prison, John heard about the works of Christ, and he sent word by his disciples, 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or are we to look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 those who are blind receive sight and those who limp walk, those with leprosy are cleansed and those who are deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is any person who does not take offense at Me.”

It’s noteworthy that each of Jesus’ signs is closely paired to something immediate and fully effective at restoration:

  • blind –> see
  • lame –> walk
  • leprosy –> cleansed
  • deaf –> hear
  • dead –> resurrected

…until we get to the poor. Wait a minute. It’s:

  • Miracle
  • Miracle
  • Miracle
  • Miracle
  • Miracle

… then suddenly just “let’s talk about what you believe?”

How can this last sign of “have the good news preached to them” not be similarly connected with doing something practical about being poor… unless we have misunderstood what this gospel, the good news, really is? From an evangelical point of view, the “good news” is eternal, that we can go to heaven when we die. It assumes that “poor” is about being poor in spirit.

But every other sign Jesus listed is something tangibly restorative. They were all things that John’s disciples personally witnessed. Even the sign of the dead being raised is about life here on Earth; why would Jesus resurrect the dead if His goal was really just about eternity?

Maybe we’ve been missing the point Jesus was making? Maybe He was far more interested in the welfare of the living than we’ve been told. Maybe our evangelical view of “good news” is far, far too limited.

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