The Third Sunday in Advent 2017
The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
The Gospel – St. Matthew 11:2-10
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
During the time of Advent, the lessons in particular give us this sense of waiting…of expecting…of longing.
In the first week we had for the Gospel lesson a snapshot of Jesus’ life but not from the perspective of this time of year.
It was not a Christmas lesson. Or …it was not in the order of events in the life of Jesus as we would expect at this time.
If we follow the calendar we try to trace the life of Jesus …the highlights of His life in one year.
Advent brings in the New Year for Christians…not January 1st. So if we are starting over, it's sort of out of the ordinary to be celebrating Christ’s birth and then hearing a lesson about him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey….one week before His death.
Yet we find out why this is an Advent lesson when we see that here is Jesus making an appearance….an Advent of sorts…riding into the city as the conquering King.
As Christians we can see the symbolism of it being appropriate for Advent.
Then last week, we shifted a bit to the end of the story. We had Jesus predicting the coming destruction of the Temple.
An apocalyptic passage. Jesus closing with the words “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words will not pass away.”
So Advent is a time when we peek into the eternal nature of Christ in his predicting things that would come to pass and His uttering words that He says are eternal.
Today we are back to hearing about something in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist is locked up in prison.
John sends some of his men over to speak to Jesus and to ask Him … “Are you the one we are expecting or should we be looking for another?”
Now first we should note that this is Advent related in that Jesus came into the world as the Messiah. But He was not quite what the people expected….or wanted…in a Messiah.
He was baptized by John in the Jordan. Now, John at that point seemed to be on board. He says as Jesus approaches, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
John acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah. He seems there to have a good understanding of who Jesus is.
By John’s words we believe him to actually understand Jesus’ fuller and deeper reason why He came. To be the Messiah, for sure, but a greater one than what they immediately expected.
Not just one to remove Rome and restore Israel but one who would bring ultimate and final salvation for all those who would embrace Him as Lord and God.
The Messiah was the expected savior of the people of God.
But here He is wandering around…preaching…teaching…doing miracles.
But where is the coming liberation? Is he ever going to get on with it?
John is in prison. Things aren't going the way they are supposed to.
It is assumed that John, by his reaction is thinking along the same lines as most other people of the time. Messiah was supposed to be some sort of mighty king, wasn't he?
He was supposed to get rid of the Romans and bring to pass a kingdom where God would reign and rule….not Caesar!!
Since teacher R.C. Sproul is on the mind of so many these days because of his popularity and his teaching, we might add some of his commentary here.
He says, “One of the great tragedies of human history is that the vast majority of the Jewish people at that time thought they had this question answered. They were quite sure Jesus was not the One who was to come, and so they were determined to wait for another.
John writes, ‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him’ (John 1:11).
Today, two thousand years later, Jews are still waiting for the Messiah.
No one has yet met their expectations. They missed the One who did come.”
When it comes to Christ, or to God or the Christian faith, there is really no give. You take it as it is or you don't.
You take Jesus’ words as the truth or you don't.
You believe the Scriptures the way they present Jesus or you don't.
Jesus made exclusive claims about Himself and He never allowed any compromise.
He spoke of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood and when He was done and people started to walk away because they could not handle what He was saying.
He didn't call them to come back for negotiation or a softening of the message.
He turns to His disciples and says to them… “Are you leaving too?”
Fortunately Peter gave the correct answer. “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
And the same holds true for Advent for Christians. The message of Advent is Jesus has come and He will come again.
Are any of us here going to leave or give up on the faith because we haven’t seen Him come back yet? I hope not.
Remember last week? By patience and comfort of God’s word, we await. We embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
Jesus is never deterred. Listen to the response Jesus gave to John’s men who came to ask Jesus this question.
“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.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (ESV)
Jesus does not back down at all. He lets the men know without any ambiguity.
Tell John about what I'm doing.
I'm giving sight to the blind.
I'm giving hearing to the deaf.
I'm making lame people walk.
I'm healing people of diseases.
I'm raising the dead!!
Is this not enough? Or is this not what you expected?
And of course, it's not quite what John and most others expected.
Notice Jesus never says directly with the words we always want him to use.
“Yes I'm the Messiah.”
“Yes I'm God the Son.”
“Yes, I'm the second person of the Trinity….a word which you will develop later on to describe me.”
His answers were exactly true. By listing all of the things He was doing, He was answering the question as to whether He was the Messiah. He was answering in the affirmative.
His listing of all that He was accomplishing was a ‘yes’ answer.
This is where many cults and unbelievers miss the message of Scripture.
They want Jesus to say something specific or they wont believe…or they will get it wrong.
When Jesus says these kinds of things, He is saying so much more.
But we always want exact wording. Were Jesus to have used more direct language when answering questions put to Him, we would be clear about those…. but we would most likely find other places to misunderstand Him and argue about Him and what He meant.
Jesus is telling John the Baptist, remember what you read over and over in the Scriptures?
Remember Isaiah? Lived a long time ago, John.
He wrote a long time ago, but remember he wrote, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy…(Isaiah 35:5–6, ESV)
John, remember also, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (Isaiah 61:1–2, ESV)
Jesus was saying, look at all that you hear about me and read about me and now know that I am fulfilling it.
Think about this connection that is being made and then you won’t need to ask me any more.
I have come to proclaim liberty to the captives, and this is something you should be embracing since you are wrongly imprisoned….but knowing further that my liberty is even greater than any earthly prison release.
When Jesus got up that day in the synagogue and it was an Isaiah passage that was slated to be read, Jesus said to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Everyone in the synagogue that day knew exactly what Jesus meant. He meant that what they just heard read was written about Him and He was its fulfillment.
He was the one the Bible was talking about. They knew Jesus was applying this passage to Himself.
This is one of the things that got Jesus into more and more trouble as His ministry went along.
He was applying the prophecies in the Bible to Himself…making Himself out to be God.
It's not that anyone misunderstood Jesus and He was wrongfully crucified….He was wrongly crucified precisely because they knew exactly what He was saying.
They knew that He was either totally crazy and blasphemous or he was telling the truth.
They just could not believe that He was telling the truth, so the only other option was to shut Him up. Get rid of Him so He would stop making these absurd claims.
John was seeking. The religious leaders of the day were not. They were completely shut off to anything Jesus had to say.
The veil was still over their hearts.
Jesus, today, after He lists all of His accomplishments and His ongoing work, He says, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (ESV)
Sproul again – “It was as if Jesus was giving John a mild rebuke, saying, ‘John, be careful that you don’t let your improper expectations cause you to question Me.’ That is good advice for us today. We need to guard against dissatisfaction with what Jesus accomplished in His work of redemption. He has done everything necessary to save us and to secure for us eternal blessedness, but we often resent His ‘failure’ to meet some other expectation we have of Him.
We must remember that He is under no obligation to do anything for us. If He were to take our lives today, we would have no reason to do anything but praise Him forever for what He has done for us. Let us take care not to be “offended” because of Him.”
So as Advent continues for us, let us think about Jesus’ words today that were taken back to John.
Let them help us in our preparation to meet the Lord when He comes again.
We are privileged to be hearing news that was at one time not given to men. The Messiah was much more of an obscure figure to those who lived before Christ.
But when He came the mystery was revealed…and it was preached to men. It has been passed down to us and now the unsearchable riches of His grace and mercy….and His sure coming again should fill our hearts at this time with joy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.