TEXTS: MATT. 11:2-11; 1 COR. 4:1-5; IS. 40:1-11
JESUS IS THE ADVENT ONE (THE COMING ONE)
WHOSE THRILLING VOICE IS STILL SOUNDING!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the Church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ; From prison John the Baptist asks - “Are you (the advent one) the one who is to come or should we look for another?” The Greek word for “another” indicates one of a different kind – here with qualities contrasting with Jesus (TDNT – II – 702)


Are you the Advent One (the coming one) or should we look for an alternative Christ? Remember how John was first taken aback when Jesus came to receive baptism from him? “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-15). Now once again he struggles with the action or perhaps the inaction of Jesus. John’s proclamation had included fire and judgment. However, the chaff did not appear to be burning in fire nor did the axe appear to be swung to cut down the evil that was still so strong (Matthew 3:10-12). Indeed, in the stark loneliness of prison – with the tongue of Herodias tickling her adulterous husband’s ear – perhaps John thought that he would soon be cut down for speaking the truth. So, the question comes from John’s mouth through his disciples to Jesus and to our ears today. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DEC. 15, 2013
TEXTS: MATT. 11:2-111 COR. 4:1-5IS. 40:1-11
JESUS IS THE ADVENT ONE (THE COMING ONE)
WHOSE THRILLING VOICE IS STILL SOUNDING!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the Church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ; From prison John the Baptist asks - “Are you (the advent one) the one who is to come or should we look for another?” The Greek word for “another” indicates one of a different kind – here with qualities contrasting with Jesus (TDNT – II – 702)


Are you the Advent One (the coming one) or should we look for an alternative Christ? Remember how John was first taken aback when Jesus came to receive baptism from him? “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-15). Now once again he struggles with the action or perhaps the inaction of Jesus. John’s proclamation had included fire and judgment. However, the chaff did not appear to be burning in fire nor did the axe appear to be swung to cut down the evil that was still so strong (Matthew 3:10-12). Indeed, in the stark loneliness of prison – with the tongue of Herodias tickling her adulterous husband’s ear – perhaps John thought that he would soon be cut down for speaking the truth. So, the question comes from John’s mouth through his disciples to Jesus and to our ears today. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”


King Herod Antipas acted to silence John’s voice by imprisonment but this question of unfulfilled expectations escaped those walls. “Are you the one who is to come (the Advent One) or should we look for another?” It is a question that still lives in the prisons of life today. From the confines of what grips us – we are not immune to Messiah hunting – Messiah inventing – Messiah tweaking. Such hunting and tweaking goes on because we cannot free ourselves from seeking our own earthly advantage. We cannot free ourselves from the annoying need to be recognized as right. Nor can we free ourselves from aging or sickness or death. We cannot free ourselves from anxious thoughts about ourselves and those we love. We’re caught in this prison-house of sin with our Old Adam and we cannot escape him. As Luther exhorts, we can seek to drown him with all sins and evil desires, but not even for one day are we completely free from his binding effects. And because sin clings to us, our conscience can put chains on our joyful trust in Christ. John’s question still lives in the prisons of life today – where disappointment or distress or disease or darkness or doubt intrude and sometimes linger. Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another.


And 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. Did you notice what Jesus gave the highest position in His answer? The blind see – yes, a wondrous healing of that prince of the senses! Lepers are cleansed – yes a wonderful freedom from that disfiguring, imprisoning disease! Astoundingly – the dead are raised up – restoring earthly life for a time. Yet, towering above all these miracles, in the ultimate position of importance, Jesus said, “The poor have the gospel preached to them. John and his disciples were not to look for another kind of Messiah because Jesus was proclaiming the forgiveness of sins to sinners. Then came Jesus’ startling final sentence – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

 

That word for offend means to trip and fall down. To one in any prison – these are beautiful words! They trumpet the truth that there is always hope in Christ even in struggle and suffering even when you are afraid of falling. They are not triumphal words – “Blessed are those who bubble and glow in every circumstance – so come on John smile and buck up!” Nor are they accusatory words – words such as - “Blessed are those who have no doubts or questions in the deep struggles of life!” No, these are rather beautiful words of hope in Christ. Jesus says in effect “Blessed are you, John, even in prison, no matter what comes, if you do not throw me away!


Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! So we sang of John the Baptist. How thrilling was His cry for repentance and His laser-like pointing to the long-expected lamb come with pardon down from heaven. John did not seek peoples’ favor. For “what did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? A man dressed in soft clothing? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.”


John surpassed all other prophets because God chose him to prepare immediately for the Messiah. John’s ministry signals that the decisive moment in the history of the world’s salvation has begun. A new day had dawned in the darkness of this world. John stands astride the ages with one foot in the Old Testament and one foot in the New Testament.


But with the feet of both ages in prison John voices this probing question. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” John’s question does not seem so thrilling. The age of the Messiah is now at work – so John had rightly proclaimed! But evil was not immediately and fully withdrawn! John is therefore the first to face the paradox of the now but not yet - a paradox we must repeatedly learn as well. Yes, the Old Testament promises are being fulfilled in Jesus! Yes, the age of salvation is here! But no, Christ’s Bride on earth is not free of painful affliction or lingering tribulation. “It is through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), said St. Paul after being stoned and left for dead. Jesus also said to expect opposition from every corner (Matthew 10:24-39).


Dear Christians, if John’s heart was in need of renovation what about the prideful highs and hurting lows of your heart and mine? While John’s question does not seem so thrilling, Jesus’ answer to Him is thrilling in the highest degree! Speaking to the last of the Old Testament prophets Jesus proclaimed – The poor have good news preached to them – this included poor imprisoned John. Jesus did not disown His way-preparer for his agonizing struggle – nor will He disown you in agonizing struggle. Jesus did not respond in anger to doubt but with the type of comfort, Isaiah voiced. “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God – That is cause my people to breathe deeply and easily! Speak tenderly to Jerusalem – that is speak to her heart - and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. Instead of shame – a double portion of comfort and forgiveness! Instead of dishonor – rejoicing!


Hark a thrilling voice is still sounding! The one who answered John’s questions also said, Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Beloved that would be you – greater than John the Baptist! It’s not because you’re so great an individual or that your struggles and doubts are less than John’s. Nothing like that! It’s because of Jesus! From the standpoint of those who lived by the promises of the Old Covenant, no one is greater than John. He announced Christ’s Advent and saw Him in the flesh! He baptized Christ!


There is, however, no greater identity than to belong to the kingdom under the blessing of the King! Remember when John said to Jesus, “I should be baptized by you.” Beloved, at the command of Jesus’ thrilling voice you have been baptized by Him for the remission of sins! You are now clothed in Christ – baptized into His death – living a new life in Him! Nothing greater than that! You see, it was no easy thing for Jesus to tell John – the poor have good news preached to them. The preaching of that good news could not take place without its purchase – at great cost.


When John’s life ended it was for amusement at Herod’s lust-filled birthday bash. When Jesus’ life neared its end, this same Herod was looking for amusement once again. He was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer…And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate (Luke 23:8-11). That splendid clothing was stripped off Jesus as He covered all our sin with His blood. The axe was swung against Him. God’s fire consumed Him in our stead. The splendid clothing He now gives you cannot be stripped off by others – even in the prisons of this dying world. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”


Go and tell John what you see and hear…“the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them. He who raised the dead to more earthly life Himself rose from the house of death to eternal life. Now there is an answer to the lament, All flesh is grass…the grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it…” The answer is the risen Christ and the breath of His voice. Fresh from the grave He breathed on His disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Forgiveness of sins – spoken at the command of the living Christ! Hark a thrilling voice is sounding – speaking peace to you – His people – His saints. Servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God have nothing to give but the gifts His voice speaks! A new and heavenly gift He speaks again today – His body, His blood, bulldozing the pride – filling in the emptiness of poor hearts with Himself! He is the Advent One – the coming one!


Beloved when your faith is tested as was John’s - when your heart is weary as was John’s - when evil seems to be winning the day and your work appears to be going nowhere as did John’s - blessed is the one who is not offended by me. Jesus will not disown you because of your struggles and hard questions any more than He did John. He knows your temptations. He knows the darkness. He continues to come to one so poor as you with good news – the Gospel of His forgiveness. He speaks tenderly to you today – speaking to your heart! He comes to comfort you with His love, giving your conscience peace, causing you to breathe deeply and easily before Him! It is what He desires for you! You are to look for no other Messiah. Your iniquity is pardoned! In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a