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Friday, August 5, 2011

The proof is in the pudding

16-19"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 riffraff. Opinion polls don't count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
(Matthew 11:16-19)

John the Baptist is in prison - his disciples are sent to bring him back a report on what Jesus is doing.  In John's mind, he is still wondering if Jesus is the Messiah they were awaiting, or just another prophet, like him.  Jesus proclaims a list of things to the disciples in response to their, "Are you the one we are looking for?"  He outlines "evidence" that will help John make his own determination about the Messiah - lepers healed, blind see, lame walk, deaf hear, dead raised, and if that is not enough, those rejected by the world see that God is on their side.  That should be pretty convincing evidence!

Jesus then turns to the crowds to instruct them about John - the prophet that Malachi had announced as the forerunner to the Messiah.  He even goes so far as to tell them that John was the "Elijah" they were awaiting as a sign that the Messiah was coming.  Why does Jesus take this time to "build up" John?  John's ministry is pretty well over - you cannot baptize without a river!  John had done his part - now Jesus was doing his.  Yet, Jesus does not want the crowds to forget the important work of this obedient servant.

Jesus then presents two opposites - John and himself.  John fasted, Jesus feasted.  One was condemned for his extreme lifestyle in the desert, the other for his extreme lifestyle that crossed all the lines when it came to the Law of Moses.  Then he basically tells them that the proof is in the pudding.  As a student of words, I needed to find out the original use of this term in order to really understand what is being said in this passage.

The "proof is in the pudding" is a shortened version of an old phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".  Back in the day, the only way to really tell if a dish was cooked to perfection was not by its appearance, but by the taste.  All the right ingredients may have gone into the recipe.  The presentation may be exquisite.  But...the actual taste of the dish was the only true judge of the dish.  Before a dish could be served, it was tasted.  A cake, for example, would be determined to be expertly baked and presented when it was fluffy and light.  -If the center was kind of runny, or too under-cooked, the tasting of that cake would prove the cake to be inedible.

Jesus reminds all of us that are seeking the mere "show" of a thing, we can be disappointed when it comes to the "taste" of the same thing.  Even though it looks good to us, when we experience it firsthand, we may be left with a bitter taste.  I cannot help but think that Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day when he was speaking these words.  Yes, the crowds were there, but I think he was being a little pointed in his discussion - directed toward the fact that the religious leaders put up a good show, but all their religious rites and rules left you with nothing in the end.


Jesus offered them more - his list of evidence that he sent back to John stood as proof.  The most important thing on that list was the last - those rejected by the world see that God is truly on their side.  I take hope in that promise - I can honestly say that I have tasted of that "dish" and I know it is GOOD!  The proof of God's love was in the "pudding" of Jesus!  He sent his one and only Son - for the forgiveness of our sins.  The proof is really in the pudding!