October 5 – Thursday of the Eighteenth Week after Pentecost (3rd of Luke) Luke 7:17-30
Becoming a Forerunner: Luke 7:17-30, especially vs. 20: “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” The Orthodox Church calls Saint John, who baptized Jesus, by the title Forerunner, for we recognize John’s crucial role in preparing men and women for the coming of Christ. Today’s Gospel reveals three means by which Saint John carries out this mission. He centers his life on Christ, he directs others to Christ, and he encourages people to discover for themselves whether or not Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah.
Through these actions Saint John models for us, the faithful, how we may serve the Lord. as forerunners. Laboring by God’s grace, we may play a role in preparing nonbelievers, inquirers, and catechumens to “remove far from them their former delusion” and become filled “with the faith, hope and love” that come to us from God in Christ.
First and foremost, the Forerunner defines his entire life solely in terms of his relationship to the Lord Jesus. Even as a babe in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, he leaped for joy at the voice of the Theotokos who, at that moment, was carrying the Incarnate Christ (vs. 1:41). Later, during his ministry of baptism for repentance in the waters of the Jordan River, John is asked, “Who are you? He confessed, ‘I am not the Christ. . . . I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord’” (Jn 1:19-20, 23).
The Forerunner seeks to prepare people for the One who will come after him and baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3:16). However, when the Lord Jesus actually comes to be baptized at Saint John’s hands, the Forerunner “tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You.’” He only agrees to our Lord’s request in order “to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:14-15), acting respectfully so as not to be seen as greater than Christ (Jn 3:30).
Now, in this passage from Luke, we see the Forerunner persisting in his Christ-centered life. When his disciples express concern about the Lord Jesus’ ministry, Saint John sends two of them to the Lord so that they might witness that Jesus is the Christ (Lk 7:17-19).
The Forerunner encourages these men to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (vs. 20). Saint John does not resort to persuasion to convince his disciples, but rather tells them to search out the truth for themselves, based on Jesus’ own actions and words (vs. 19).
We, too, should encourage others to investigate Christ Jesus for themselves. We need not sell Christ to the world as if He were a commodity. Faithful forerunners understand that knowing the Lord Jesus and His teaching firsthand is more powerful than any human testimony, so they plant questions and invite exploration.
Finally, the Forerunner encourages men to observe our Lord carefully to determine if He is indeed the One (vs. 20). The Lord amply demonstrates the truth about Himself (vs. 21). Many people come into our churches; some eventually join themselves to Christ because they discover that He is present here. If we get ourselves out of the way, we allow the Lord to heal others’ blindness and enliven their lame, feeble lives and languishing spirits (vs. 22).
Let us become true forerunners! We start by developing Saint John’s habit of referring every aspect of our life Christ (vs. 19) who dwells in us (Jn 6:56). May our hearts leap for joy at the presence of the Lord (Ps 94:2). May nothing in our lives divert any seeker from Christ our God, but rather lead all to encounter Him.
Shine through us, O Light of all, that all men everywhere may see Thee and give glory, praise, and worship to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. – Prayer for Catechumens