3rd Sunday in Advent – A LSB #’s 970, 826, 427
Text – Matthew 11:2-3
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask Him, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?”
ARE YOU THE ONE?
Time is running out for finding just the right present for that someone special whom you love. Christmas is a mere ten days away. Right now, many people spending a lot of time asking, “Is this the one? Is this the perfect gift? Or should I look for something else?”
Another search that involves asking questions is the search for your soul mate, your one & only. So as you meet people who have the potential to become your spouse, you may be asking, or you may have already asked, “Are you the one?” And then well-meaning people often say, of that very search, “You’ll just know when you meet the right one.”
With all the broken relationships we have known, & with all the divorces we have seen, it should be clear that not everyone will just know! People actually go through life struggling with doubts regarding who is the right one. A lot of time & energy can be put into particular relationships, only to have them fail.
Doubts are natural because not every relationship ends up meeting our expectations. As John the Baptist sat in prison – waiting to die – he too was struggling with doubts. He’d invested a lot of time & energy in his relationship with this Jesus. John was THE messenger sent ahead of Messiah to proclaim that Jesus was the One who is to come. Remember?
“Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness...” (Mark 1:2-3 NASB) Many of you well know the words of that prophecy. John the Baptist was born of a miracle in order to fulfill those words. And because John had invested his entire life in that relationship it seems natural that he had some rather high & definite expectations of Messiah. Apparently those expectations were not being met by this Jesus of Nazareth, so John was looking for some reassurances as he sent his question to Jesus, “Are You the One?” PAUSE
Have you found yourself in that kind of situation where you were questioning God? It often happens when someone we love dies. Have doubts ever haunted your soul about whether or not Jesus is for real? Satan will twist & turn our sinful minds just as he did with Adam & Eve. And does God really love you? He doesn’t always meet our expectations, does He?
Friends & family members lose their jobs; they get divorced; they come down with cancer. And in our fear Satan finds it very easy to tempt us with doubt & worry. Does God really care about a nobody like me? Is Jesus truly my Savior? Sometimes He doesn’t seem to be saving me from anything.
Though we may not physically be in prison, like John the Baptist was, we can still feel caged in & surrounded by walls of hopelessness & despair; by depression or sadness; by fear & feelings of worthlessness. Near the end of today’s gospel lesson, Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11a)
If that man, acclaimed by Jesus as the greatest, suffered from doubts, then we should expect to suffer doubt ourselves, but it does not mean that our faith has died. Our doubts are not a sign that God no longer loves us. They are only evidence that each of us is still sinful at heart. Our doubts should be a reminder that every day we need to confess our sins!
Already this morning we’ve done things that God has forbidden, & we have not done the things He has commanded. We have not honored His name, nor have we demonstrated His love to our neighbors. If you’re struggling with, & suffering from, doubts & fears, know this, those are not the only sins you’ve committed already today. There are plenty more where
those came from, because your sins come from your heart. In Matthew 15 Jesus tells His disciples, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.’”
You & I are unclean & we deserve to die a horrible & an eternal death. That’s why we struggle with doubt, depression, worry or fear. We are sick with sin. Yet God’s Word assures us that Jesus Christ is the One. He is the answer to all of our questions, all of our doubts & all of our fears.
The message of the Bible readings today, the message of Advent, & indeed the entire message of the Gospel, is that we, you & I, are people of a past, a present, & a future hope. This Gospel of hope, this overflowing with hope that you heard about last Sunday, this comes from already knowing the final outcome, & that is eternal life rather than eternal death.
That hope, that faith is what empowers us in our day to day lives, to live as if we are the one. The one to bring that message of hope to people who believe that there is none! Yes, John the Baptist specifically asked Jesus of Nazareth if He was the One to come, but that designation applies to each of us every time we encounter someone who needs help, comfort or hope.
You see, Jesus didn’t answer John by saying, “Yes, I’m the One.” Instead, Jesus replied, “Go back & report to John what you hear & see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, & the good news is preached to the poor.” The only thing on that list which is not happening today is the dead being raised.
Now, if you’re not a doctor, you may not be healing anyone of their diseases, but the last thing on Jesus’ list, & the most important, is this, “The good news is preached to the poor.” That good news is the same news Zacchaeus heard which caused him to offer paying back four times whatever he may have stolen. Zacchaeus heard from Jesus that even his sins were forgiven, & God brings people into our lives, specifically so we can tell them that same good news. Listen to Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” & the best part of that sentence is the ending, “which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Have you ever thought to yourself, “Oh no pastor, I’m not the one. God can’t possibly use me to tell other people about Jesus!” If you’re thinking that now you’re wrong!
God has already prepared those people & those situations just for you. There are people in this world right here in Holt or Lansing, people whom you know, that are struggling with doubt due to cancer, loss of a job, divorce, alcoholism, depression, you name it. Those people are wondering if there’s hope, & they are wondering if this Jesus is for real.
And you know what – you can tell them that He is. Even if you can’t heal them or give them a job, you are able to share with them how Jesus Christ has forgiven you. God has sent me here, not just to preach this news to you. God sent me to teach you how to share that news with anyone you meet. Keeping it to ourselves is only another sin.
But thank God that He sent His Son to die in our place. In our Advent preparation we rejoice in the Coming One who has already reversed our sin & brought us back to holiness & wisdom, to safety & joy.
In our Advent repentance we take courage from the promise that one day Jesus will return. He will completely undo all the effects of sin. That’s His promise, come true already now, but coming true in an even more glorious & visible way on the Last Day. As you declare that promise to anyone you meet God makes that promise true again through you!
The OT reading was fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Christ, & Jesus quotes Isaiah in order to reassure John that Jesus of Nazareth is the One who will save His people from their sins. But Isaiah is still being fulfilled through the ministry of each of God’s children. As we bring the message of hope to our neighbors here on earth – faith & new life are created. And in that God’s perfect creation is restored just as Isaiah prophecies:
“The wilderness & the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice & blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly & rejoice with joy & singing.” (35:1-2a ESV) Those words are a picture not merely of nature’s beauty, but of the beauty of another one of God’s children being granted eternal life.
Yes, the power of the devil, the desert’s hold of death, does continue to exert its influence as Christians await the final & the full manifestation of Creation’s glory. Until Christ returns we will always be living in that tension of already… but not yet. We are now 100% saint but also 100% sinner. When Jesus returns we shall be sinners no more.
On that day, the paradox that all Christians live in will be taken away, but in this life, faith is always an affirmation of the invisible, of our holiness. Here, faith must continually be maintained against the realities we experience – our sinfulness, our doubts, our fears. On the Last Day we shall doubt no longer, & we will know no fear.
If you believe that God could never use you to tell anyone about faith in Christ, then you’re only looking at the realities of your sin, your doubts & your fears. Jesus came, & He’s coming again, in order that you might look only upon the reality of your holiness, given to you already at your baptism, & strengthened every time you hear the Words of God. PAUSE
John the Baptist has a question today, not only for Jesus Christ, but also for you.
Are you the one? As your Heavenly Father has declared you to be His child, He also reassures you that you are the one. And as surely as God has chosen you to be His holy & precious child, He gives you the strength & the courage to tell others of His love. Amen.
If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say He died for all. If you cannot rouse the wicked with the judgment’s dread alarms, you can lead the little children to the Savior’s waiting arms. If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall, pointing out the path to heaven, offering life & peace to all, with your prayers & with your bounties you can do what God commands; you can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands. Amen. LSB 826:2-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet