When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages.
John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples
to ask, "Are you the One we've been expecting, or are we still waiting?"
Jesus told them, "Go back and tell John what's going on:
The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
"Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!"
When John's disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. "What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper?
Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot.
What then? A prophet? That's right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you'll ever hear.
He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, 'I'm sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.'
"Let me tell you what's going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.
For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God's kingdom.
But if you read the books of the Prophets and God's Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom.
Looked at in this way, John is the 'Elijah' you've all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.
"Are you listening to me? Really listening?
"How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents,
'We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.'
John came fasting and they called him crazy.
I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riff-raff. Opinion polls don't count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way.
"Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute.
At Judgment Day they'll get off easy compared to you.
And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around.
At Judgment Day they'll get off easy compared to you."
Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people.
Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."