Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sermon for 12/16/12--Third Sunday in Advent

Pointing to Jesus
Matthew 11:2-10 (11)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It’s hard not to be a little envious of John the Baptist. If ever there was a man who knew his place in the Kingdom of God, it was John. Scripture had told him what he was to be. Even before he was born he leaped in the womb in the presence of Jesus, doing what he was supposed to be doing: pointing to Christ and saying, “There He is! He's the one!” His entire life was spent in preparation for his role as the final prophet of the Old Testament Church. With all that in mind, it might seem a little odd when he sends his disciples ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?

Things had been going well for John. He had been preaching up a storm, chastising religious leaders for their faithlessness, baptizing for repentance, baptizing Jesus, in fact, and witnessing the show of divine favor Jesus received from His Father. He pointed all the time to Jesus. And Jesus, of course, was doing what He was supposed to do. But then John’s faithful preaching landed him in prison. Where was the Lord with His mighty deliverance for John? It seems like everything Jesus has done has been for everyone except John! So…is John doubting? Are his disciples? Matthew doesn’t say. Either way, John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask the question. Jesus answered by pointing to the Old Testament prophecies which said what the Messiah will do: things Jesus was doing, things only God can do, things that proved Jesus is the Christ.

Even if John had doubts, even if his own disciples weren’t sure, John still did what he was supposed to do: He pointed to Jesus. That’s why John came. John was the greatest and last prophet of the Old Testament. He was the last prophet to preach that the Savior was coming. And then when Jesus shows up, John becomes the first preacher of the New Testament, pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That’s what preachers are supposed to do. They point to Jesus. They say that the Savior is for you. And the answer Jesus gives to John is also for you. How do you know that Jesus is the Messiah, the One promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to all the Old Testament faithful? Look at what Jesus says and does. He heals the blind and lame and deaf. He raises the dead. He preaches the good news. How do you know that Jesus is the One? You know because Jesus was nailed to a cross and was raised on the third day.
Today is “Gaudete” Sunday. “Gaudete” means rejoice! The answer Jesus gives is meant to give you joy. Rejoice—even when faithfulness to the Word of God causes you to suffer. Rejoice—even when you have doubts. Rejoice—even when the world shows us how ugly it can be, even when we see innocent children suffer evil. Rejoice, for Jesus continues to do exactly what He came to do. He continues to heal the sick. He continues to give life in the place of death. He continues to deliver good news to poor miserable sinners. Jesus proved by His words and actions that He is indeed the Son of God. But everything He has done led to His greatest work and proof that He’s the Savior: His death on the cross to win forgiveness for you and His resurrection which raises you with Him. Despite your doubts, despite your failings, despite your sins—and, in fact, because your sins, and to get rid of your sins—Jesus does what He does: He saves sinners. Even today He baptizes sinners, raising them from the death of sin to eternal life. He speaks His Word of absolution to them. He preaches His Gospel. He feeds His bride with His body and blood! Is God still at work among us? Is Jesus still the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Absolutely! The Lord doesn’t prove Himself to be the Lord by doing things your way. He proves Himself to be the Lord by doing what the Lord does: He saves sinners. Look to the coming Savior who reveals Himself to you in His Word, and your questions and doubts will be answered.

What about John? John the Baptist is a big deal, and yet he’s also not a big deal. When he points people to Jesus, he’s a big deal. Even in his martyr death at the hands of Herod he points to Jesus. But on His own he is nothing. That’s the way it is with all the preachers the Lord sends. The big deal is that they preach Christ crucified for sinners and point God’s people to the font, the altar, and the Word, where Christ is for you. In and of themselves they are nothing. But their job is to point you to Christ. And where you have Christ, you have overcome sin and death, and you have eternal life. Rejoice—for not even the princes of this world can take that away from you. 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.

No comments: