Believe the Words and the Works!

Advent 3 Tuesday

Matthew 11:4-6

“Jesus answered and said to them: Go and tell John what you see and hear: The blind see; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; and the deaf hear, the dead rise up, and the gospel is preached to the poor. And blessed is he who is not offended by me.”

Christ responds to John also for the sake of the disciples. Yet he gives a twofold answer, one of works and one of words. He does likewise in John 10:24-25 when the Jews surrounded him in the temple, saying, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Yet he directed them to the works, saying: “I preach to you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” He does the same in John 10:38: “If you do not want to believe in me, believe the works.” He does the same here, showing them first his works, then also the words, saying: “Blessed is he who is not offended by me.” By these words he not only confesses that he is the one, but also warns of taking offense. If he were not the one, the one who is not offended by him, would not be blessed. For we can do without all the saints; we cannot do without Christ. No saint helps us. Only Christ helps us. The answer based on the works is more certain. First, because neither John nor anyone had ever done such works before. Second, because the prophets had foretold these works. Thus, when John’s disciples saw that things went as the prophets had said, they could and should be certain. For this is what Isaiah said about the Christ, 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord rests upon me; this is why he anointed me to preach the gospel. He sent me to the poor to heal the broken hearts, to preach redemption to the captives and sight to the blind; to preach the pleasing year of the Lord.” By saying, “he anointed me,” he understands that he is the Christ and that Christ is to do these things. And whoever should do these things is to be Christ. For “Christ” is Greek for “Messiah” in Hebrew and “Unctus” in Latin and “Anointed” in English. The kings and priests were customarily anointed for the kingship and the priesthood. Yet “God himself,” says Isaiah, was to anoint this anointed King and Priest, not with temporal oil but with the Holy Spirit who rests on him, as he says here: “The Spirit of the Lord rests on me.” This is the ointment with which he has anointed me. Accordingly, he preaches the gospel, gives sight to the blind, heals all kinds of disease and preaches the pleasing year, the time of grace, etc. Likewise in Isaiah 35:4-6: “See, our God himself will come and save us. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be open. Then the lame will skip like a buck and the tongue of the mute will be loose,” etc. Now, when John’s disciples compared Scripture to Christ’s works, and his works to Scripture, they were able to recognize John’s testimony in Christ: He had to be the right man! And Luke writes in 7:21 that Christ, at the time when John’s disciples asked him, was healing many diseases and plagues and spirits and gave sight to many blind people.

St. Louis ed., 11:76-78.

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