As we close the season of Advent, a time of waiting, the first few readings for this week ask, "What are you waiting for?"
Monday we saw the religious leaders demanding Jesus' credentials. When they are asked what they think about John's works, they reveal their true intention: They are looking for one with human authority and power. They do not pray to seek God's guidance, nor do they discern what might be happening. Instead they play politics; it's more important for them not to be seen as wrong, and not to risk the anger of the crowd, than to say what they think.
Today's story continues the encounter. In the parable one son shames the father by refusing him, the other shames him by not actually honoring his wishes. In the culture the father would have been angry at both, but more angry at the one who didn't outright defy him publicly (but didn't do the work)? Or at the one who made him look bad but then changed his priorities and served? Jesus allows that those who don't look so good but believe John (and Jesus) have an advantage over those who say the right things but then act differently. Yet they are waiting one who will confirm the status quo.
Wednesday's reading picks up on how Jesus defies expectations, even John's! Apparently John must have been looking for something more than Jesus' preaching and miracles. Jesus points out that his authority comes from fulfilling God's promises (made through the prophets) -- to heal, to bring good news to the poor.
There is a lot about Jesus' life and ministry that gave others offence -- even (especially) good, religious folks.
Does Jesus' style and message offend you?
If our lives of faith and service do not offend anyone, can we be doing all that we are asked?
Which Jesus are you waiting for? The babe sleeping in the manger? The healer and teacher? The revolutionary, overturning religious power like the moneychanger's tables? The reconciler who invites you into a renewed relationship with God?