“Were you looking for a prophet?” (Matthew 11:9)
John the Baptist had been arrested and imprisoned and Jesus, who had a deep affection for his pious cousin, began to ask the crowd who had once gone out to hear John preach, “Were you looking for a prophet?”
When crowds gather, there’s always a reason…or multiple reasons. We’re all looking for something. Today or tomorrow, for example, many of us will gather with other people in church services around the world. What are we each looking for?
Some of us may want to experience God. Others may want to see friends. Others may want to maintain a habit (for the sake of conscience or appearance). Others may simply enjoy the fun and entertainment of the production. Perhaps it would be good if, from time to time, we clarified and declared (as honestly as possible and at least to ourselves) what we are looking for. It might help re-align our hearts and re-focus our purposes.
But I also wonder what we’re looking for when we seek Jesus. I wonder what I’m looking for? It seems to change in different seasons of my life.
Sometimes I have looked for Him because I needed a Savior; someone to deliver me from my sin and myself. Other times I have looked for a Teacher; someone to provide wisdom and advice on how to live a flourishing life. Yet other times, I have looked for a Healer; someone to step in and physically or emotionally restore me or someone with me. Still other times, I have looked for a Provider; someone to pop that unexpected check in the mail when the bills were due and the bank balance had bottomed out.
Remarkably, graciously, He plays all of these roles in my life at different times. He assures me, comforts me, convicts me, empowers me, restrains me, humbles me, encourages me, restores me. I imagine (and hope) He has done much the same for you. But today I’m intrigued by His question to that ancient crowd: “Were you looking for a prophet?”
The question speaks not only to purpose but also motive. Once I know what I am looking for in Jesus, perhaps it would be helpful to explore why I am looking for that. Might we look for certain things from Him because of fear, guilt, or shame? Might we look for other things from Him because it makes Him manageable and comfortable? Might we not really be looking for Him at all (!), but like the benefits of being with people who are?
On this third Saturday of Lent, let’s take a few minutes to prayerfully consider what we’re really looking for in the Church and in Christ.