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Notes for Advent 4 – John 1:19-28

by pastorjuhl ~ December 15th, 2008

Church Fathers

But the righteous who have done well and endured torments and hated the enjoyments of the soul, when they shall behold those that have gone astray and denied Jesus through their works, how that they are punished with grievous torments in unquenchable fire, shall be giving glory to God, saying, “There will be hope for him that hath served God with his whole heart.” (2 Clement 17:7)

And, accordingly, our Lord in His teaching, proclaimed that this very thing would take place, saying that Elijah would also come. And we know that this shall take place when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come in glory from heaven; whose first manifestation the Spirit of God who was in Elijah preceded as herald in John, a prophet among your nation; after whom no other prophet appeared among you. He cried, as he sat by the river Jordan: “I baptize you with water to repentance; but He that is stronger than I shall come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into the barn; but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 49:3)

For when John sat by the Jordan, and preached the baptism of repentance, wearing only a leathern girdle and a vesture made of camels’ hair, eating nothing but locusts and wild honey, men supposed him to be Christ; but he cried to them, “I am not the Church, but the voice of one crying; for He that is stronger than I shall come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” (ibid 88:7)

The Jews had a certain attachment to John. They deemed ti unfitting that he be held as less as Christ, because of the many proofs of John’s excellence, chief of which was his illustrious origin, for he was a son of a Prince of the priests…. In Christ was seen the opposite: His lowly birth, with which they reproached Him, saying, “Is this not the son of the carpenter?” (Matthew 13:55). Since, therefore, John was continually sending them to Christ, they, preferring to have John as teacher, send to him: thinking to draw him by flattery, so that he would declare himself the Christ…. No true servant will seize on the dignity of his master; and will reject it though proffered to him by many. (John Chrysostom)

The way of the Lord to the heart is made straight, when the word of truth is received with humility; and life is guided by precept. (Gregory the Great)

For unless (Jesus) were despised, He would not be crucified. Unless He were crucified, He would not shed His blood; by which as with a price He redeemed us. He was crucified, that He might pay the price for us. He was despised, that He might be crucified. He came in lowliness, that He might be despised. (Augustine)

20th Century Fathers

The ancient Church called this last Sunday before the Holy Nativity the Preparation…. From the preparation by the Bible and by the Church we are led to the yet deeper truth of preparation by Christ Himself. (Paul Lindemann, “The Sermon and the Propers” Vol. 1, p. 53)

(John) precedes the Lord and leads the Bridegroom (Christ) to His bride (the Church). His is the voice crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He is the dominant figure in the Gospel, a position suited to him because his exhortations to repentance pinpoint our greatest moral task during Advent. (Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace” Vol. 1, p. 133)

We must ever be ready and willing to receive the kingdom of God within ourselves as opportunities present themselves. Baptism was our first Christmas, and every Mass is Christmas repeated. The feasts of the Church’s liturgical year are days of grace, days of the kingdom of God. (ibid Vol.1, p. 135)

Without the slightest equivocation or show of reluctant humility John made his confession that he was not the Christ. It would have been an easy matter for him to assume the honor, for the people would have supported him without question; but he put even the suggestion of the temptation away from him…. That was the chief, the prominent part of John’s ministry, to call Israel to repentance. (P.E. Kretzmann, “Popular Commentary” NT 1:409)

John’s example in confessing Christ before the enemies of true salvation should encourage the Christians of all times to stand up courageously for Christ. (Ibid NT 1:410)

“the one coming after me I am not worthy that I may loose the strap of His sandal.” Bernard of Clairvaux cites a rabbinic axiom that a disciple might offer to do any service for his teacher which a slave did for his master, except that of unfastening his sandals. (Raymond Brown, The Anchor Bible Commentary on John, Vol. 1, p. 44)

(John’s) baptizing and preaching in the desert was opening up the hearts of men, leveling their pride, filling their emptiness, and thus preparing them for God’s intervention. (ibid 1:50)

Blessed Martin Luther’s House Postils

If you do not listen to what (John is) preaching, you will not find (Jesus).

When John with his testimony is silenced, heaven is closed and people will come into hell…. For there is no other way to heaven than through this testimony of John concerning Christ.

Well (John) perceives that we humans are trying to save ourselves in all sorts of ways… in short, everybody is seeking a special way and his own way to heaven.

It is easier for us humans to believe and trust everything else than in the man Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.

Ought it not hurt to the quick that we humans are setting our hearts on created things, but are unwilling to do so on John’s testimony and preaching alone?

You ought to accept Christ just as God sends Him, not as you want Him to be.

All power reposes in this person called Christ, and that we should not ignore but welcome Him, neither let Him pass on by nor look for another.

(The Jews) do not inquire about (John’s) preaching and teaching, but merely about his person, power, authority, and appearance. They were much too conceited to inquire about his doctrine or to address him themselves.

Hymn Plan: LSB 346, 357, 818/354, 383

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