He’s Making His Lists III: An Advent Sermon based on Matthew 11:2-15
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the love revealed in the lists they made about Jesus’ work—2000 years ago, and today.
Intro: Don’t turn away…
I want you, for a moment, to put yourselves in the place of John the Baptist, as he awaits the return of his disciples. He was in prison, and like many of the prophets of old, it was for living the life he was called to live, a life walking as God directed. In prison he find himself deep in thought, he begins to wonder, and to doubt…
Before you ever say you wouldn’t…consider John the Baptist, and the reading tonight.
Here is the greatest of the prophets, the first one to recognize Jesus, even while they were both in the womb. I can’t even imagine the conversations they would have had while they were teens…
And at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.. and proclaimed that He is the Lamb of God, who would take away our sin…
Yeah–the Agnus Dei comes from this guy…
And while in prison, he struggled. So much he had to send his followers to ask Jesus… are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting… or should we keep looking?
It almost sounds like John was the unfaithful, broken, weak and unstable one that needs to be invited to come see that Christ was born.
Jesus responds in a unique way, not challenging John’s doubts, but giving them a list to pass on to John.
He didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith—He ministered to him, even though he wasn’t right there.
Jesus sent a list to him… a list?
If I were John, I would want a miracle. I would demand one.
I can hear him saying, “Jesus—we’re family, I’ve given it all for you—why don’t you help? Why don’t you get me out of here? If you are the Messiah….why aren’t you…”
Jesus helps him focus and gives him a list that matches the list in Isaiah we saw Sunday.
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Matthew 11:4-5 (NLT2)
In other words, tell John, whose father was a priest, and studied the Old Testament deeply, that the prophecies are coming true. Jesus wanted him to know what was happening, that all pointed to not only John being saved, but all the world would have the blessing of salvation opened to them!
Just take the Isaiah’s checklist – John I am doing all that and more…the news that God is saving the Jews and the Gentiles is being preached – and it will be preached until the end of time!
This is what John knew was supposed to happen, but life Got in the way…
Instead of a lecture, or being mocked for his lack of faith, Jesus reaches out to John, and assures him with words John knew well. He recalls the promises made in the Old Testament, so that John can be re-focused on the ministry.
Don’t turn away… because of me.
I think this is where we need to go back to the beginning. And hear the words that sound shocking at first,
‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’
I think I hear those words at first as judgment – you blessed if you don’t turn away when you realize who Jesus is. A lot of translations make it sound that way….
But it is just as likely that it means that we don’t turn away because we are in Christ.
Try reading it this way,
God blesses those who do not turn away—because of me.’
You see, on our own, our faith struggles and fails. But when we remember He was born, he died for us, that is something quite different, far more powerful, far more precious.
When I say the closing blessing of a sermon, it is always based on this concept – that you know you dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, for your hearts and minds are kept in that peace by Jesus, – this is what John needed to know it is what we need to know.
We don’t fall away and get condemned by Jesus, for it is His responsibility to keep us in Him, and in knowing that we are truly blessed!.
Whether we are grieving, broken, struggling, in prison.
John kept ministering…
In fact, it is after his disciples return that John does significant ministry, instead of with the crowds, with the leaders of Israel, including Herod. So much so, that Herod is grieved by having to kill John, tricked by his new wife and daughter.
Jesus didn’t blast him, didn’t deny him the opportunity to minister. He reached out to him, showed him what God promised to do, and that it was getting done.
And lifted John back up off his feet, and reminded him of the ministry God had called John to..
And if you are struggling tonight, if things seem rough, God will do that for you as well.
That is what Advent is about – being there with John, and hearing that God is with you…that He is saving you – for that is what He promised, and that is what the lists in scripture show. AMEN!
And may you see revealed this peace of Christ in which you live, as Christ keeps your heart and mind in it. Amen!