Although not that bluntly because I don't note the interest discussion over the text that had been going on.
Advent 3 – December 16th, 2007 – Matthew 11:2-11
In the Name of Christ Jesus the Advent King +
How do you know Who to look for? When looking for the coming Messiah, how do you know who He is? John – John knew. John knew the Messiah before he was even born – For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. This is John. John saw Christ and cried out Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – words which we will echo here in a few moments. This is John, who when Jesus comes to him to be baptized boldly proclaims, I need to be baptized by you, and do You come to me? This is who John is – of those born of women none greater than he. This is John, Christ’s own messenger. But now, John is in prison, never to get out again. John is on his way to the chopping block, literally. So what does John do? Remember, John has followers, John has disciples – people who follow him, who want him to be their teacher – and his time of teaching is nearing an end. What will be done for them? They aren’t John – they never jumped around in the womb, they weren’t in the Jordan with Christ. Where will they go when John is gone?
John knows, John hopes – John will send them to Christ – John will have them go to Jesus – show them, Jesus, that You are the Christ. Show me again, Jesus, show me that You are the Christ, for it is dark in this prison, and I am sorely tested. John sends His disciples to Jesus – hear His Word, and then, my friends, bring it back to me, for even I am in need of it.
So John’s disciples head out to meet Jesus, and they ask Him a question. Are you to the One who is to come, or shall we look for another? John’s disciples were worried too – who do WE look for, where do we go when John is gone? He is suffering, he is fading, he will be gone. Where do we go then – John had said it was You – but do we look for another, Jesus? Think on the fear and anxiety that John’s disciples would have had – they had dedicated their lives to following John, and John was soon to be gone – where would they be? Will You take us Jesus, are You the One we are to follow.
Jesus has a fantastic answer which He gives. Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” A wonderful answer. Think on what it would be like for John’s disciples to hear this answer. John baptized, John preached – Jesus does everything better. Jesus heals – washes way even leprosy. Jesus preaches even to the poor – they, the lowest people are even gladdened by the news they hear. This is a wonderful thing – and it shows that Jesus is the right One. See the signs that He is doing – He is indeed the Lamb of God, the One that we are to follow. They learn that they themselves are to follow this Jesus and no other. Yes, He is the One who was promised, the One who is here – He is the Messiah.
But did you note what Jesus has them do? Go and tell John. He doesn’t forget that John is there in prison preparing to be slaughtered. Is it dark in that prison John – remember that the blind receive their sight. Are you bound and unable to leave – those crippled and bound now walk. Is it dank and dirty – even the lepers are cleansed by me – those isolated by deafness hear – and yes John, even the dead are raised. Yes, death is coming for you, a wicked little dance will do you in John, but it will not be the end – the dead are raised. This is the good news that is preached to the poor – even to those rotting away in a prison cell. Go and tell John – tell John that he might be supported in his time of trial by Christ’s own Word. And they go.
So what is the result of this? Everyone was prepared, well and thoroughly prepared, for what was to come. John was strengthened, renewed, could meet his martyrdom with boldness – trusting in Christ. John’s disciples, they could face their master’s fate knowing that there was a place for them – that they could continue in John’s footsteps by looking to Christ and no other – by pointing others to the Messiah just as John had done. They were made ready for what was to come, what they were about to face – Christ’s Word had prepared them.
So, what do we learn from this reading this morning? What instructions are meant for us? Well, for one, it is a fantastic demonstration of love, how love works. John’s in prison, but he doesn’t just think of himself. John doesn’t just send one messenger, he doesn’t demand a personal audience with Jesus – he sends his disciples – all of them – he sends them to Christ. John’s focus, even in prison, is on showing love and care for his friends. Likewise, Jesus shows love as well – make sure you go tell John, go refresh him. Jesus cares not just for the disciples but for John – all the actions taken are done to maximize the love that is shown – and that is a wonderful reminder, a wonderful bit of teaching for us.
However, we are in the season of Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas – so there is another focus that is brought out here, another thing which we are to see and learn over and above the example of love. Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another? Look. Advent is the season of looking, the season of watching – the season of preparation. You and I are in the same shoes as John’s disciples – we are on the watch and preparing for the Messiah – to celebrate His first coming and to participate in His second. Jesus gives John’s disciples what they need to be prepared, to have their watch done right. So, let us ponder this – what does Christ give to us this Advent so that we are prepared for His coming – so that we rightly look for Him? To John’s disciples, a long list was given – blind folks and lame – things that they could see and touch, that showed them that Christ was active. What about you, O Christian – what is there that lets you see that Christ is active – what has He given to you so that You know that He is coming, so that you are prepared?
While I can’t say that I personally have seen the lame walk – we do have one thing on that list that is here today directly. The poor have good news preached to them. Does that not continue on unto this very day – do we not gather here, together in this house as the poor in spirit, as poor, miserable sinners and have the Good News preached to us? Think on what we receive in preaching, in this service. Is there a time you are sent out those doors left to wonder whether God actually loves you – or rather is Christ continually proclaimed to you – is not the Cross of our Crucified Lord continually held before you – See what Jesus has done for you with His death and resurrection – you are forgiven. This is the good news given to poor, miserable sinners – this is your windfall, a windfall of mercy and grace. And does this not color our lives – does not the Lord’s forgiveness shape us and how we see the world? Thus we are prepared for the Lord’s Coming.
But even more than that. When he was Baptizing, John said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Do you not realize that you have this – that you have the very Baptism that even John the Baptist looked longingly towards. How are you prepared for Christ’s coming, how are to you keep your watch for Christmas? Think on what a gift you have received in Your Baptism. Not only were you washed clean of your sin, but you were joined to Christ – you were made part of His Body – Your Body became His temple. If this is true, if God’s Word on the wonders of Baptism are right – do you see what this means? You are baptized and joined to Christ – I would say that prepares you for Christ’s coming. Think on whom He has made you to be – you are now God’s own child – this is real and true. God prepares you by Baptism. As Luther puts it, “Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man, and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.” With this gift, you are prepared – remember it daily – this is why Luther recommends starting and ending each day with the Invocation and the sign of the Cross – the sign given to you as your own at your Baptism.
Again, we have another treasure for our preparation in the Lord’s own Supper. Think on what the Lord does – He gives us His own Body and Blood – life and forgiveness and salvation. Do you wish to be prepared, do you wish your watch for Christ to be right – then make use of the Supper! Hear again what Luther says, “On this account it is indeed called a food of souls, which nourishes and strengthens the new man. For by Baptism we are first born anew; but (as we said before) there still remains, besides, the old vicious nature of flesh and blood in man, and there are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes also stumble. Therefore it is given for a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so as not to fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger.” Everything you need, everything that is required for your life in Christ is given to you here – and so long as in folly and sin you don’t abandon it, you receive from Him all that you need. Just as John’s disciples were pointed to Christ, we are pointed to Christ, indeed, we receive Him so that we are strengthened.
Cling to Christ, dear friends – trust in Him and His strength – receive the gifts He gives you and despise them not. In this way, dear friends, you will be kept strong and prepared what whatever befalls you in this life – and you will be able to welcome Christ with gladness upon the last day. As His own Baptized who live in His Word and receive His Supper, we are right to pray, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.