Not Made to Be Trapped – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 7:19-23
Isaiah 45:5-8, 18-25
Psalm 85:8-13

I’m sure most of us have set mousetraps. I’m sure most of us have also accidentally set them off. I think this experiences helps us to feel what Jesus tells us at the end of today’s Gospel. “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” The root word of “takes offense” in the Greek is often translated “stumbling block,” but literally means the trigger of a trap. Just like touching the mousetrap’s trip, in encountering Jesus we may feel surprise or pain, pull away reflexively, or, if we are unlucky, get caught in a trap.

What did the messengers from John expect to find when they encountered Jesus? A king ready to lead a liberating army? What must they, sent out to see if this man, finally, would be the one foretold—what must they have felt when this man gave as his bona fides his work as a healer, a restorer, and a bearer of good news? Maybe they felt a little surprised or a little hurt. Maybe they tried to create a little distance. Maybe encountering Jesus was a trigger that sprang the trap of their own expectations.

And don’t we do something similar? How often do we come to Jesus and expect him to conform to or affirm our priorities, prejudices, and opinions? We place all these things in front of us so that they mediate and make conditional our encounter with Jesus. We fail to meet Jesus face to face, to take him on his terms, to receive him as he offers himself to us. This is the trap we build, and that we ourselves spring.

But we are not made to be trapped. Jesus is a liberator: “All praise, eternal Son, to thee, whose advent doth thy people free.”[1] Our God is a liberator: “His salvation is very near to those who fear him.” And this is a radically open and inclusive message of freedom: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!”

How can we cooperate with God? How can we turn away from all that traps us, and turn toward the God who frees us? During this season of Advent, as we await the coming of Jesus, we can recognize that Jesus is already here—in word and sacrament, in the gathered body of Christ, and within each of us. Jesus comes to us now, in the particularity of each moment and each circumstance, and waits for us to meet him. Look for and hear him with open eyes and ears, receive him with open hands, and engage him with open mind and heart. Jesus comes to us and offers us freedom. Pray for fresh encounter to meet him anew each day.


[1] From stanza 5 of “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry,” by Charles Coffin (The Hymnal 1982, 76).

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