Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Gaudete – Advent III (December 13, 2009)
For an audio MP3 you may click here:
TITLE: “The Coming One”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read.
John sends His disciples to Jesus with the question, Are you the Coming one, or shall I look for another?
In our text, John the Baptist is sitting in jail, waiting to be executed. He is sitting in jail because he dared to claim that living together outside of marriage is a sin and breaking the Sixth Commandment against adultery. Of course, he also made this basic claim of God’s Word to King Herod. So there John sits, in prison because he has preached God’s Law to the wrong person at the wrong time.
So while he sits there, waiting to die, he sends his disciples to Jesus with that all-important question, are you the Coming One, or do we look for another? John and his disciples know the prophecies. They know that the Messiah would come and would turn everything around, would right the wrongs and reverse the work that Satan has done in destroying the world. They know these prophecies very well. So why did John send his disciples if he already knew the answer? There are three possibilities.
The first possibility is that John himself is having doubts about Jesus. I mean, John is sitting in prison. He is waiting to die. He might very well have been desperate for redemption and vindication. He sent his disciples to Jesus in order to get a straight answer from his cousin. ARE YOU IT OR NOT? HAVE I JUST WASTED MY LIFE OR NOT?
We of course in our dark moments have such fears. Going to church, receiving the Sacrament, teaching, hearing, confessing, praying, all of these things can have a sense of repetition that does nothing. Here we are, another Christmas and things are no better than last time. Let’s get on with it. Are you there, God? You aren’t alone in your dark feelings and fears.
The second possibility is that John is asking what we might call a “teacher question.” He himself knows the answer, but he wants to pass his disciples off to Jesus. He wants them to know and understand that Jesus is the Messiah. “He must become great, but I must become less,” that is the message John sends to his disciples.
Now as a parent one of the most significant things that you can do is pass the faith on to your children. That divine handoff, giving the traditions of the Gospel to our children, could hardly be more important. We are at the beginning of a year of prayer here at Messiah. One of the things that I have noticed as I pray for our members each day is that there are a lot of people I pray for that I don’t see nearly as much as I would like. Have we as a congregation done everything we can to pray for and take care of these sheep within our fold? Have we passed on the faith as we ought? Yes, we can understand John’s concern for his disciples. Passing on the faith is central for us, and it is easy to look around and see the possibility of failure, at least from our perspective. True for him, true for us.
But there is a third interpretation that sort of encompasses those first two. What if the news Jesus brought was so good, so impossibly wonderful, that John himself could hardly believe it, even though he knew it to be true? What if in the middle of John darkest night, he knew a secret that changed everything?
The secret, of course, is Jesus Himself. Jesus’ coming means that I don’t have to wonder about the future. Jesus’ coming means that things will get better. They will, because Jesus isn’t just better. He is the best, the greatest, and the most wonderful gift you could ever imagine. Jesus is not just a neat idea or a philosophy or a thought in a song on the radio. Jesus pointed John to the works He had done: the blind could see and the deaf hear, lepers cleansed and the dead raised up, and the poor had the good news preached to them. He said those words to strengthen John’s faith and yours.
Every son and daughter of Adam and Eve is weak in faith at one point or another. We all have those dark nights of doubt and sorrow, fear and wondering if God is really here, and if He really cares about us. What John this Adventtide invites you to is to abandon all of your thoughts that your faith is your doing. Release them! Let them go. Sweep them away, because God has something far greater in store for you.
What He has in store for you is His Son, given to you this day by word and deed, Body and Blood, forgiveness and absolution. No matter how weak your faith is, God gives Himself to you today to strengthen you, to forgive you, and to draw you into Himself. Our Lutheran forefathers put it this way:
“We believe, teach, and confess that no true believer—as long as he has living faith, however weak he may be—receives the Holy Supper to his judgment. For the Supper was instituted especially for Christians weak in faith, yet repentant. It was instituted for their consolation and to strengthen their weak faith [Matthew 9:12; 11:5, 28].”
Comfort, comfort, ye my people, said Isaiah to many years ago. Be comforted, dearly baptized. God is here, in your midst. Jesus has come, is coming, and will come again. Things really can get better. No, things won’t just get better. They will become greater than you can possibly dream or hope for. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.