Text study – Matthew 11:2-11

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be bourne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary!

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh; come peasant king to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary!

The Gospel text for this Sunday (Advent 3) comes from Matthew 11:2-11.  As I was doing some research I came across a sermon that another pastor posted that was titled, "What Child is this?"  Of course he was referring to the good ole favorite Christmas carol of the same name (which also happens to be my sister’s favorite hymn…anyway…).  That title alone got me thinking…what Child IS this?  Who is this baby that we (hopefully) give all our attention to during this time of the year?  Who is Jesus for you?

John the Baptist was born to be a fore runner of the Messiah.  John knew his mission — in that there is no doubt.  Last week we heard John preach a message of "baptism for repentance" and to "produce fruit worthy of repentance".  Now…after all of this…I am left wondering and pondering two different interpretations of this text.  I will throw them out here and let you decide:  INTERPRETATION #1 — John is growing weary of sitting in prison when he thought Jesus was the one who was to come and "open up a case of whip _ ss (I will refrain from misusing the word that is also used to talk about a donkey).  So John sends his disciples to find out if this prison thing is all worth it.  Was John wondering who Jesus really was?  INTERPRETATION #2 — John knew exactly who Jesus was.  His sending of his disciples was to instruct them:  "One is coming after me who is greater than I; one whose sandals I am not worthy to carry."  Follow Jesus…not me.  Was John’s question meant, not for him, but for his disciples, for the original readers of Matthew and for us?  Or…(after all this) maybe it doesn’t matter what John was thinking or feeling.  Maybe the point is the question itself.  After all, Matthew is writing for a Jewish community where the Messiah is indeed a big deal.  Maybe the message is:  There is no need to wait for anyone else.

Whatever the interpretation, the question is still thrown out there — who is this Messiah?  What Child is this?  Is Jesus some nonthreatening Messiah who will leave you alone; to live life how you want or is Jesus a kick butt type of Messiah meant to change your life?  Is Jesus a non-personal type of King who does not know you even exist or care about you current sufferings or is Jesus an intimate King, Lord and Messiah who is closer to you than you are to yourself? 

Who is Jesus?  What Child is this?  I guess Advent is a time to discover this.  Advent is a time to ask questions and see, once again, this awesome thing that God did in that manger stall.  What Child is this…this sweet, non-threatening, little baby?  This Child is our intimate, Savior, Lord and King who has and continues to "open up case upon case of whip _ss upon the sin of the world.  And because of that, there is no need to "wait for another".

Praise be to God, MERRY CHRISTMAS and Amen!


5 thoughts on “Text study – Matthew 11:2-11

  1. Julie Schulz

    Thank-you so much for this message. Every year I hope that the church includes this song in the service. I have gotten my wish on occassion. Thanks again, it was very sweet of you to mention my favorite song.
    Your sis.

  2. Eric Lemonholm

    When John’s disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the One?” Jesus doesn’t answer yes or no. Instead, he says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see…” He leaves it up to John and his disciples to judge: Is Jesus the Messiah? It seems that it’s a question of hearing and seeing, a question of faith. Thank you for writing this – what a great carol to focus on during the tail end of Advent – What Child IS This?

  3. Eric

    Good point. If Jesus had said a simple “yes” then there is no guarantee that the disciples, or John for that matter, would get what kind of Messiah Jesus is. They were expecting a earthly ruler, but that’s not what Jesus came to be.

    I agree…it is indeed a question of faith.

  4. diane

    well, the other intriguing detail is that John is sitting in prison while Jesus is supposed to be the one who sets people free.

    …and it seems to me that if the gospel isn’t for people who are in prison (of one kind or another) it isn’t for anyone.

    what is good news for people who are sad, struggling, lonely, etc. at this time of year?

  5. Eric

    Diane — very true, very true. You have just inspired me here. Thank you. I think I am going to have the congregation sing “What Child is This” prior to the sermon and then ask those questions: What Child is this that I am sad? What Child is this that I feel depressed or “imprisoned”, etc. This hymn does a great job of answering those questions. Thanks again, Diane.

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