Saint John the Baptist in Prison Sends His Disciples to Question Jesus,
Drawn by Ermenegildo Lodi (active 1598–1616),
Drawn circa 1600
Pen and brown ink, brush and grey wash
© Metropolitan Museum, New York
Are you the one who is to come?
John, summoning two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?’ When the men reached Jesus they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you, to ask, “Are you the one who is to come or have we to wait for someone else?”’ It was just then that he cured many people of diseases and afflictions and of evil spirits, and gave the gift of sight to many who were blind. Then he gave the messengers their answer, ‘Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
Reflection on the Drawing
Little is know about Ermenegildo Lodi, our Cremonese artist who executed this small drawing circa 1600. Two scenes are depicted. In the foreground we see Saint John the Baptist instructing two disciples to go and find Jesus. In the background, we see the two of them, having found Jesus and now putting the questions to Him as in today’s Gospel reading.
Twice we hear the same question being asked in this short passage of Luke: 'Are you the one who is to come or have we to wait for someone else?”. Luke includes this question twice because the answer has such vast, eternal implications. As Israel at that time had been waiting for a long time for the Messiah to come, it is only to be expected that such a question would be put to Jesus eventually. But it is at first maybe a little surprising to hear the question being asked by St John the Baptist. After all, Luke started his Gospel with describing St John the Baptist as a faithful forerunner of Jesus, preparing the way for Christ’s mission. And in our reading today, John is asking Jesus if He is really the one who was to come? Maybe John, as he was imprisoned, was wondering how his personal experience squared with what he had been preaching about the Messiah for his entire life? "If Jesus really were the Messiah, wouldn’t he have crushed His opponents and I wouldn’t have ended up here in prison?" Maybe disappointment about his own fate led him to ask the question? Who knows exactly what went on in St John’s heart when he sent out his disciples to ask the question of Jesus.
To me today’s reading gives great courage. If even St John was seeking certainty at times and asked even the most fundamental questions, then there is hope for all of us. We too should never be afraid to ask any question to Jesus, even the most basic ones. Today's question, ‘Who are You really and who are You to me?’ is a beautiful question on which to reflect during this time of Advent.
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