“What Did You Go Out to See?”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” This is a very important question that Jesus asks the crowds. In fact, He asks it three times. What is Jesus asking? Simply put, He’s asking, “Why did you go out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness? What did you hope to accomplish? What was in it for you?” So let me pose for you the same questions. Why did you come here today? What did you expect to see here? What were you hoping to get out of it? What’s in it for you? Did you come to see the handsome and well-spoken pastor with the well-shaped cranium and the short sermon? Did you come to hang out with your friends? Are you killing time before your football team plays? If these are your answers, I urge you to repent.
I hope you came this morning to hear about Christ and His work of salvation for you. I hope you came this morning to receive forgiveness for your sins, which returns you to the waters of Holy Baptism. I hope you came this morning to receive the body and blood of Jesus, hidden in bread and wine. Understand this: the Church is not a social club; it is a hospital. This is the place to receive Jesus. This is the place to receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. You come here as a beggar: a poor, miserable sinner in need of the mercy and grace Christ died to bring to you. The troubles of this life—the devil and all of his temptations, the world, your own sinful flesh—all these things wear you down. You grow weary in hearing the world preach against everything you believe and hold dear. You need to hear the promise of God again, even for one bitter hour: Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly in your place; He has offered up His life as the ransom for you. Simply said, you have come because you need the Gospel.
This is why John the Baptist was preaching. John needed to hear it that day; he needed his disciples to hear it: Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament, came to be the Savior. “The blind to see 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.” This is why you come here: to receive healing for your soul. And if this is not why you are here, you are wasting your time, for Jesus came to save sinners. This is the comfort God speaks through Isaiah the prophet: “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” This is the comfort you receive when you confess your sins to God and hear the word of Holy Absolution from your pastor as from Christ Himself—“not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”
Sadly, we will continue to have our doubts, even though we have heard this glorious forgiveness of sins from our Lord Jesus. We will doubt whether any of this standing and sitting and kneeling, this praying and singing and listening, this preaching and communing will do us any good. We will continue to desire the snooze button on Sunday mornings. There will be days when we would rather be somewhere else. Even John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater,” asked the question.
But when those doubts arise in you, look up. See your Jesus, the one who heals the blind and lame, the one who opens your ears to hear His Word, who raises you from death in the waters of Holy Baptism, who feeds you with His own body and blood. Poor, miserable sinners, beggars all: Behold your God! Christ has redeemed you with His innocent blood, and His suffering and death. Christ made Himself to be the least in the kingdom of heaven for you. He has forgiven you all your sin. And He is coming soon. 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.