Prepare the Way!
Prepare the Way! It’s All About Jesus
John 1:6-8, 19-28
† IHS †
May You Realize That Life is All About Christ, and As You Do, May You Realize His Life Is All About You!
The New Pastor
I’ve heard the story a number of times, there’s even a pastor who did something similar and posted it on youtube. No matter who did it, it is a great object lesson. It went something like this.
A church was waiting expectantly to hear a pastor they were thinking of calling. He was supposed to come to town in time to preach at their evening service. He was reputed to be an incredible preacher, a great pastor, and one who led churches through times of great blessing.
He wrote them ahead of time, telling them the message would be one to encourage them to love their neighbors. Everyone was looking forward to it.
That morning, a man was sitting outside the church, with a piece of cardboard with the words Leviticus 19:18b written on it. He was unshaven, His clothes were filthy, his hair was messed, the letters on the sign were crooked.
Some people didn’t even look at him, as they passed by. Others looks, and muttered under their breath, A few walked up and tried to hand him a dollar bill, one man even tried to threaten him with calling the police – trying to scare him off the property. He stayed there all morning – and ever as people drove by later in the afternoon, he was there.
That night though, to almost everyone’s relief, he wasn’t there. The new pastor wouldn’t have to see him, and they wouldn’t have to feel guilty about treating him badly.
They were waiting for the message about caring for their neighbors. There was excitement in the air…. But wait, up by the altar, the man they thought was deranged talking to the elders…..and his sign was leaning against the altar…. One person looked it up – Leviticus 19:18B….
Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord (NLT)
They had seen his message all morning – but they didn’t see it. They heard this amazing pastor speak, but they didn’t hear him.
They would repent, ashamed and shocked by the message, and perhaps they were only more surprised, when they heard the pastor announce that he would take their call, that together they would learn to love God and their neighbor
it is a story not unlike the story of John the Baptist that we heard this morning. For he too was not listened too by some, and we see that in the gospel today.
Why Couldn’t They See or Hear His Message.
Who are you the Priests and Levites ask John, not once, but five times.
Who are you, why do you act like a messenger from God, these messengers from the leaders of Israel ask. Men who most likely grew up with John, for his father was a priest as well.
Every time I see this passage, I wonder, why they couldn’t realize who John is.
Why couldn’t they get it? Why didn’t they hear his message? Was it the odd clothes?
We look at them, and ask those questions, but would we treat the odd looking guy in different clothes, whose life was very different from ours any better?
Would we try to drive off a pastor who was dressed like a bum and acted a little weird when we first met him?
Or might we check out the Bible passage on the cardboard sign he held?
Why Didn’t John Answer Them?
As odd as it is that they didn’t recognize John, John’s blunt refusal to consider their question is even odder. Jesus would tell people that John was Elijah. Did John lie? Did Jesus?
Why doesn’t he just say yes, I am Elijah, and over here – the Messiah, the Prophet you’ve been looking for? That’s my cousin Jesus from Nazareth.
Why not just make it easy on them?
Why not just slap them upside the head, and say, “look – the answer to your question is here, right here, right before your very eyes?
I think we find the answer in the reaction of the crowds when they do realize that Jesus claims to be the Messiah. They either try to kill Him, they try to make Him a king that will provide everything on their time schedule, when God is doing something far greater, far more eternal.
But God is about something else – about redeeming mankind, of reconciling everything together.
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT)
Surely they wouldn’t have killed Jesus, if they truly knew He was the Messiah, they wouldn’t have sacrificed Him, and he wouldn’t have borne our sin. They would have honored him, praised him, expected him to lead them in glorious battles, but that isn’t why he was born of Mary, that’ isn’t why he emptied Himself, and lived under the weight of being human.
That is what John means when he says he is the one who cries out get ready for God to come! A cry of despair, a cry of last resort, a cry for God to act, for only God can make the changes needed for people to be ready to in His presence.
if John admits to being Elijah, then the attention is on him again, and not on the message, the message people need to hear.
Are you ready for God to be part of your life? Are you ready to be part of His?
John’s message has to be about our need for Jesus. It can’t be, “look at me, I am Elijah!”
It has to be about Christ.
Without His Incarnation, His Birth, His life, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension, we won’t be ready when it is time for us to be before the throne of God. We simply can’t do the miracle of reconciling every relationship we’ve broken, every hurt we caused others, every time we’ve betrayed others, and been betrayed by them.
Yet that is why He came. That is the ministry of Christ! That is the work He accomplished, to make our lives, as bruised and battered as they can be, lives that are masterpieces because of what He does…
We know of Him, and His work, and that it was all planned…..
For John testified of his work, as we do, with our words and our lives.
For when we trust God at His promises, the promise of a Messiah, of a Prophet, of our Savior, and what He would do to save us… everything changes, and it begins to make sense.
What changes the most? We go from darkness to light, we go from questioning God to reveling in His presence, we know Him… He’s the pastor, who sees us at our worst, at the moments we aren’t loving, and says, I’ll stay, let’s walk together.
Therefore, knowing why He came, knowing He will come again, trust in Him, count on the promises He has made us, and live in His incredible peace…. AMEN!
Posted on December 15, 2014, in Sermons and tagged Advent, Coming of Christ, concordia sermons, Eschatology, John the Baptist, ministry of Christ, prepare the way, PRomises of God. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.