THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DEC 14, 2014
TEXT: MATTHEW 11:2-11; 1 COR. 4:1-5; ISAIAH 40:1-11
BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO IS NOT OFFENDED BY ME!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: A voice cries in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Mountains leveled – valleys lifted – rough places smoothed! All these testify to the need for sin forgiven – for turning from sin - for life recreated by God’s grace! This painful scraping and filling and leveling you need! A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. Profound - sobering theology! No one is made alive without this voice! Yet this voice first heralds death and judgment. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows on it…The best and most beautiful that man can offer will not stand before God’s holiness. Before God’s breath - the flower fades. We fading sinners need rescue and comfort. Since comfort means nothing to those who do not sense their withering malady – A voice cries…make straight…a highway for our God.


Dear Christian – repent! Turn from yourself! Turn from this decaying world! All flesh is grass including yours – including mine - withering – fading! Turn from the futile hopes of man-made heaven on earth - for there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing new - except for the Son of God who makes you a new creation! He is the one John the Baptist came proclaiming!

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DEC 14, 2014
TEXT: MATTHEW 11:2-111 COR. 4:1-5ISAIAH 40:1-11
BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO IS NOT OFFENDED BY ME!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: A voice cries in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Mountains leveled – valleys lifted – rough places smoothed! All these testify to the need for sin forgiven – for turning from sin - for life recreated by God’s grace! This painful scraping and filling and leveling you need! A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. Profound - sobering theology! No one is made alive without this voice! Yet this voice first heralds death and judgment. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows on it…The best and most beautiful that man can offer will not stand before God’s holiness. Before God’s breath - the flower fades. We fading sinners need rescue and comfort. Since comfort means nothing to those who do not sense their withering malady – A voice cries…make straight…a highway for our God.


Dear Christian – repent! Turn from yourself! Turn from this decaying world! All flesh is grass including yours – including mine - withering – fading! Turn from the futile hopes of man-made heaven on earth - for there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing new - except for the Son of God who makes you a new creation! He is the one John the Baptist came proclaiming!

 

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? No, John did not bend with popular opinion. He stood against all the prevailing winds of power – the proud Pharisees, the elite Sadducees, - even King Herod in his adultery. John was not politically correct among the power brokers of his day. Nor was he religiously correct in the “god and country” climate of his day.


What did you go out…to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? No that would have been King Herod – in whose prison John was diminishing. Yet, it is John’s camel-hair garment we still know of millennia after he wore it. What did you go out to see...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.


Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! With laser-like precision the voice of John prepares the way – pointing to the Lamb of God in the flesh. In the ministry of John the Baptist God did a new thing! God chose him to prepare for the Messiah’s immediate presence. God called John to proclaim that the Messianic age had fully dawned! In the decisive moment in the history of the world God sent John to center stage - standing astride the ages! With one foot in the Old Testament (The Elijah who was to come – Mt. 11:14) and with one foot in the New Testament – “Behold I will send my messenger before your face…” John preached Christ in the wilderness.


That is until Herod forcefully put a roof over his head. Not only John’s thrilling voice and John’s clothing but also John’s question from that confinement reaches us today. It is a probing, unsettling question. It hints not at a reed blowing in the wind. Rather it signals a loyal servant searching for certainty in the stagnant air of imprisonment. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” John is the way-preparer, the forerunner, the herald, the voice! His very person and presence is included in end-time prophecy! “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Then how can this setting be right? How can it be that John sits in the prison of an adulterous, vacillating, political puppet of Rome? How can it be that opposition to Jesus the Messiah is escalating – that there is increasing refusal of His person and work in Israel?


“Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Earlier John was confounded when Jesus came to receive his baptism of repentance (Mt. 3:13-15) for the forgiveness of sins. Now he struggles as judgment is delayed and the power of evil men remains so strong. It seems illogical - nearly irreconcilable that such should be the case! The one who saves His people from their sins teaches His followers to expect hostility and hatred (10:24-39). “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”


Dear Christians – doubts come also among the strongly committed. One should not be silent about one’s doubts and genuine struggles before God. The Psalms often voice lament and uncertainty and faint-heartedness. Doubting John – questioning John - is not an unbeliever. Imprisoned, declining, soon-to-be executed John is in a life and death struggle. He was called and put in place by God - but consider now his place and his prospects. God’s promised salvation has come in the flesh – yet John in the flesh is in deep distress. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”


Last week in Adult Bible Study we considered the three components that Dr. Luther identifies as part of the Christian life. In Latin they are oratio, meditatio, and tentatio. They mean prayer based on God’s promises, meditation on God’s word, and affliction or suffering in godly living. John was in the midst of intense affliction and suffering for godly living – for faithfulness to the Word of God. In that distress he laid bare his doubts. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”


Doubts about Christ cannot be conquered through careful human reasoning or endless speculations or rah-rah cheerleading. Doubts about Christ cannot be conquered through what is seen – in earthly success or hoped for results. Doubts about Christ can be conquered only by Christ Himself. Jesus did not disown His way-preparer John in his misery. Jesus did not respond in anger to John’s 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 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. In such manner Jesus responds to John.


“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. Nothing greater than that - is there? Old Testament promises are fulfilled in Christ one after another – to the very raising of the dead to more earthly life. Nothing greater than that – is there? In answering John - Jesus points to something far greater! The deaf hear and dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”


The ultimate gift that Jesus proclaims to His forerunner is the Gospel – the good news of sins forgiven for the spiritually poor! The poor have the good news preached to them. This is good news for the truly poor - those of anxious or uneasy heart – those distressed because of the sin that clings to them. According to Jesus’ comforting answer - John’s laser-like pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was a direct hit! What was now happening to John in no way negated or lessened that central Messianic treasure. John’s voice had been beautifully true! The greatest need of the human race was met by Jesus – The poor have the good news preached to them. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”


To be offended by Christ is the opposite of believing in Him. We think of being offended as being irritated or feeling hurt by a harmful word and or deed. This Greek word used in context, however, means religious offense so deep as to deny and reject Jesus. To be offended by Jesus is to take a fall over His person and His preaching in the absolute sense – the loss of faith. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”


Fellow-redeemed, the blessed one in our text is John himself! His questions in suffering were not a denial and rejection of the Holy One of God. His questions were asked in faith that lived from the Word of God and trusted the work of God in the flesh of Jesus. Jesus, in effect, said to John – “Blessed are you John – for the Gospel – the good news is also for you in your poverty.


What beautiful Gospel! Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! There is hope in Christ in the deepest struggle, even when you are afraid of falling! Jesus does not hit John with a theology of glory – “blessed are you John, if you’d just get it all together and smile and buck up every minute and have no doubts.” Rather Jesus, in effect, says ‘blessed are you, John, even in prison – receiving my Word in your extreme poverty. Blessed are you John, for the good news you prepared for – the Gospel you pointed to - is also for you and it will not be taken away from you.”


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! God means you also - in your current and future prisons? In sickness, in debt, in disappointment, in loneliness, in lingering pain, in uncertainty, in recognition that your flesh is grass and is fading away – Rejoice in the Lord! 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. It is for these very real struggles in our impoverished sinful world that Jesus Advents (comes) among us in the flesh. He 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. He speaks to your heart! Let the one who has ears – hear! (Mt. 11:14)


Amen, 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. That is the status you as a Christian enjoy – greater than John the Baptist. This is not because your faith is stronger than John’s or your doubts less than John’s. This is because of Jesus. From the standpoint of those who lived in the Old Testament promises – no one is greater than John. There is, however, no greater identity than belonging to the kingdom under the blessing of the King incarnate! That is the status you enjoy as a Christian – here and hereafter! This status is even greater than John the Baptist had upon this earth.


Remember when John said to Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry – I should be baptized by you!? Beloved that is the gift you have received at the command of the risen Christ - given at the end of His visible public ministry. You have been baptized by Him – the risen Christ – baptized into his death – into the once-for-all sacrifice He made for all sin. You are now clothed in Him – that’s your status. He now invites you to His altar to eat and drink the body and blood He has because He was born of the blessed Virgin Mary. In this heavenly food He speaks tenderly to you. He speaks to your heart of the forgiveness of all your sins.


“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. When the Holy Spirit caused the prophet Malachi to record his prophecy, the pronoun was first person - “me” – not second person “you” and ‘your”. John brings into history that promise found in Malachi. The “me” of Malachi – is fulfilled with the “you” recorded by St. Matthew. As Jesus spoke of Himself to John He makes clear that He is the God of the Old Testament, “Behold I will send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. With John, we are to look for no one else because Jesus is “Immanuel” God with us in the flesh (Mt. 1:23).


In this fading world He makes you a new creation. Clothed in Him you are free to Rejoice in the Lord always. Comforted by Him you are also free to witness Christ – confessing the good news He preaches to the poor. Concerning that good news, there is something far greater than being raised from the dead for more years of earthly life where all flesh is grass. Jesus rose in flesh that did not wither – immortal – incorruptible. So also He who banquets you will raise your body – immortal – incorruptible – for life that does not fade or wither in the new heavens and the new earth. In Christ, that is how fully The poor have the good news preached to them. Even now He speaks tenderly to you. He speaks to your heart. “Let the one who has ears –hear!” 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