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Advent 3 – Matthew 11:2-11

by pastorjuhl ~ December 20th, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            What did you go out into the wilderness to see? John the Baptist is more than a prophet. He is God’s messenger who prepares the way of the Lord. Nevertheless, the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than [John].

How can this be? How can the ultimate prophet, more than a prophet, also be a nobody? This is because John is an extraordinary prophet preparing the way for an extraordinary Savior, Jesus Christ. Even Elijah, in all his greatness, cannot hold a candle to John. But by the time Jesus begins His earthly ministry, John is in prison. The greatest, yet the least, is holed up in a cell. John no longer proclaims repentance toward the forgiveness of sins. No longer does John baptize in the Jordan River. He is a common criminal, soon to be beheaded for preaching repentance to someone who didn’t want to hear about repentance and forgiveness.

It doesn’t matter whether or not John doubted Jesus was the one who is to come. All of us are doubters, just like John. The ways and means to connect the dots of all the miracles Jesus performs to Him being Messiah are not working. Perhaps we don’t want it to work. We’ve been in the wilderness watching John do his thing. Now along comes another fellow saying and doing strange things. Mind you, God has been silent these four hundred years prior to John. No wonder John sent word by his disciples to Jesus asking Him, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

Looking for another Messiah is a convenient cop-out during not only Advent, but also any time of the year. 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. Yeah, right. Tell me another one, Jesus. We’ve seen just about everything, and now you tell us that you are Messiah, the Anointed One from God? With the right confederates, anyone can do the things you do. And this business about the poor having good news preached to them, how can there be any good news amid the terrible things heard every day?

Where is the good news when 26 children and adults are dead in a school in Connecticut? Where is the good news as our country stands on the crumbling fiscal cliff while politicians point fingers at each other instead of finding a solution? Where is the good news when so many jobless families are not able to provide a decent Christmas for their children? Where is the good news less than two weeks away from the worst holiday for those who suffer from mental illness?

The good news isn’t wrapped in a big box under a Christmas tree. The good news isn’t decorated in tinsel, holly, mistletoe, and evergreen boughs. The good news isn’t headline news on cable television. The good news is in the preaching of John. The good news is in the miracles of Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ is offensive. Their preaching is scandalous. No one thinks about getting their spiritual house in order while the rest of the world is sleepwalking in fake joy and anticipation for the inevitable perfect Christmas that won’t happen. No one wants to hear the cry of Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand when ’tis the season to be jolly. The preaching of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins will always be offensive.

You don’t want to deal with sin. You don’t want to deal to repentance. You don’t mind dealing with forgiveness of sins, but only on your own terms. When everything is all about you, then you need the preaching of John the Baptist more than ever: Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. The greatest of all prophets has prepared the royal highway for the King of Kings. Your house must be ready to welcome the Savior once again. Your house is ready through putting away all anger, greed, cruelty, hateful and hurtful thoughts, words, and deeds. Repent and welcome the Savior Who comes to you in low and humble means.

He comes to offend, but His offending is no longer off-putting for you. His offense is the scandal of the cross. This Savior long promised by prophets and patriarchs comes according to the flesh to die for your sin and rise for your justification. The cruelty you deserve goes on Jesus. He pays all your sin in full. You who are born twice, the first birth being your natural birth, the second birth being your baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, die once. You live with Him for all eternity.

That’s the good news in the midst of death and life. The same Jesus Who delivers sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, cleanses lepers, and makes the deaf hear, also raises the dead. He raises not only dead bodies to life, but also raises your body out of the pit of corruption and places you with the saints in light. What Jesus does is a scandal and offense to the world. What Jesus does for those who are being saved is comfort and joy. As the prophet Isaiah says in today’s Old Testament reading: the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

In the midst of life there is death. In the midst of death there is life, for God is familiar with death in His Son Jesus. His death is an end to your death. His life is the beginning of eternal life for you. Rejoice in the thrilling voice of John, for the Savior draws near for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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