The following vocal ministry was offered during worship on June 12, 1994 and recorded afterwards in my journal.
The Synoptic tradition relates that when Jesus was asked by disciples of the imprisoned John the Baptist, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”1 he did not give a direct “yes” or “no” answer. Nor did he quote scripture or words of religious figures from the past, or appeal to inspiration, vocation, or a divine commission (which many readers, perhaps unaware that the gospel books are composite documents, might expect him to do, given the Synoptic version of his baptism). He pointed to his praxis, his deeds of compassion and liberation:
…the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor receive good news — and blessed are they who do not find me a stumbling-block.2
The gospel book of John is outside of the Synoptic tradition, and the more exalted Jesus presented there differs greatly from the Jesus of the Synoptics. Nonetheless, the Johannine Jesus, too, points to the testimony of deeds — his and ours. In the discourse that includes “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places,” he says these words:
What I say to you, I say not from myself, and it is the Father who lives in me who does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else trust me because of the works themselves. In truth, in truth I tell you, whoever trusts in me will do such deeds and even greater, for I am going now to my Father.3
The implications of this are, I think, clear and compelling. To paraphrase George Fox: Friends, we know what the Jesus of the gospel books says, but what can we say? Are we the ones who are to come, or must the suffering world look for others?