“The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” These were the words of a town crier in the iconic cold-war farce from 1966 by the same name. No one believed the crier in that small island community, despite the grounded Russian sub just off the coast. It was a silly movie. But it highlights the challenge John-the-Baptist faced when he cried out to the Jews that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Few people believed him. Certainly some did, but mostly people were more interested in mocking this strangely dressed man who lived in the wilderness, who didn’t eat normal food or drink alcohol. Some even said he had a demon. They missed his urgent message.
John was God’s great prophet, the “Elijah” that Malachi had promised would come on the day of the Lord. John stood at the end of a long line of prophets; the last of the prophets at the inauguration of the Christ’s kingdom. He was called to “prepare the way”, yet the text indicates that people didn’t listen. Verse 12 paints us a picture, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent take it by force.” Jesus goes on in verses 20-24 to curse the unrepentant cities for their failure to listen.
Jesus indicates that it wasn’t just John the people didn’t listen to, but Jesus himself was rejected. The rejected the mourning prophet, and the rejected the dancing Prophet-king saying, “look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Even John, since being locked away by Herod, was starting to doubt that his 2nd cousin was in fact the Messiah.
But Jesus sent report back to John – though you may be locked up, the kingdom of God is indeed at hand – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, even the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed. Despite the failure of some to heed the king’s herald, or the king himself, the kingdom of God was breaking in. Today the Kingdom of Christ continues to sweep across the globe. Some can see it, some can’t. It causes some to repent and rejoice and others to scoff.
How do you respond to message of the kingdom? Do you see it breaking in? Are you one of the subjects of the great King? -RG