“Should We Expect Another?”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Without a doubt, John the Baptist is the strangest figure in the New Testament. Outfitted in a suit of camel hair and living off a diet of grasshoppers dipped in honey, nothing was ordinary about John the Baptist. Even his birth was unusual. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were well past the age of parenting. They had prayed for a child but none had been given. Then one day, when Zechariah was taking his turn performing his priestly liturgy in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. Like Elijah of old, the son that was to be born to this old couple would be filled with the Holy Spirit and he would turn many to the way of the Lord. In time this angelic word was fulfilled as Elizabeth gave birth to a little boy named John.
John would grow into manhood, and in time, in God's time, he would appear in the wilderness surrounding the Jordan River preaching and baptizing, calling all Israel to repentance and faith in the Messiah whose coming he announced. John the Baptist was a servant of a Christ, a faithful steward of the mysteries of God. As Paul says of preachers in today's epistle, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." John was faithful in the task that the Lord God had given him. He preached a sermon that was not popular. It can be summed up in a single sentence: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." John did not flinch in this preaching. To preach repentance is to name sin for what it. John proclaimed the law of God that calls the Pharisee, the Sadducee, even Herod—and you—to repentance. It was politically incorrect for John to expose Herod's adultery and ultimately it would cost him his life. Nevertheless, John the Baptist preached that Word to high and low alike. That was his calling, his office.
For John, as for all genuine preachers, the law was preached in service of the gospel. The law was preached to lead sinners to repentance, that is, to kill in them any thought that they could right themselves before God. John was a gospel preacher. He proclaimed the Christ, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. John's whole life was spent in the service of this Christ. Of Him, John said, "He must increase and I must decrease." So it was that as the brightness of Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, dawned on this sin-darkened world, John the Baptist faded into the shadows. He was not the light. He came only to bear witness to the light. That was fine for John. He had no need to call attention to himself, to gain any kind of personal prestige or prominence. He was willing to be spent and consumed for the sake of making Christ known. And soon he was consumed. John's faithfulness landed him in jail. Soon he would be put to death for his faithful service to Christ.
John sent his disciples to question Jesus: "Are You the Coming One, or should we expect another?" In response, our Lord points to the messianic signs. "Go and tell John the things that you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." John’s preaching has not been in vain. Jesus is the Messiah. There is no other.
Is this the Jesus you’ve come here to seek this morning? Are you here because this Jesus can cure your depression, your poverty, your cancer, your humiliation? Jesus can do all these things. But is that all you want from him? John sent his disciples to Jesus to calm them of their doubts and fears. They had not followed John in vain, for John led them to Jesus. But look at how Jesus builds it up for them: the blind see, the lame walk—He cures the body. The lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear—He cleanses the body of things that make it spiritually unclean. The dead are raised, and the poor hear the Gospel—He gives life. This is the Jesus who comes to you this day. Not only does He remove your physical ailments—for those are but the wages of sin. He also cures your spiritual ailments, and in the waters of Baptism He raises you to new and eternal life with Him.
Jesus says, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." Those words spoken by our Lord to John are also for you. Your blessedness comes not by way of human approval, but through faith in Jesus Christ. He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to Father but by Me." The world judges that truth claim to be the highest form of intolerance. So Christians are branded as narrow-minded bigots. Those who claim to be so tolerant become very intolerant of the confession of Jesus. Jesus Christ is still the cause of offense.
"Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." You who were dead in your sin have been raised with Christ through Holy Baptism to new life, eternal life in Christ. By the faith you were given in Holy Baptism, you cling to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. You who were silent before the Lord have been given the words to confess His holy name and to sing His praises. Your blind eyes have been opened to see your Lord, present in this holy meal. You who in sin were lame, unable to approach the Father, have been healed so that you may approach this altar. Expect no one else, for in this meal you receive the Christ who comes to you in His body and blood. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.