Advent 3 (2013) - Gaudete
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 15, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 11:2-10

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus put to voice the cry of all men when He cried out to God on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” then John has also put to voice the question of all men when he sent his disciples to ask the Lord Jesus, “Are you the one to come, or shall we wait for another?”

We all ask this because we all have problems and troubles that Jesus hasn’t solved, that He hasn’t saved us from. And that is, after all, what saviors do: they save people from their troubles. John’s problem and trouble was that he sat in the darkness of prison and in the shadow of death. Ours might be different, but they are no less devastating to us. And we all sit in the shadow of death; either ours or the death of a loved one.

There are always hurts and fears. There is always loneliness. There are always money trouble and family feuds. There is always sin and shame. There is always smeared reputations and lies. There are always nights of ill-repute and dawns of regret. Yet these are the very things from which our Lord has promised to free us.

So we go to Him with our troubles and woes just as John did. For we are a people belonging to the Lord, just as John was. John knew the prophets and psalms. He knew the prophecies about the Christ, the Savior; that He would cause the blind to see and the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, that He would cleanse lepers and raise the dead and that He would preach good news to the poor. John knew this. But he also knew the verses that Jesus left out and didn’t say. Verses tat said that the Lord would hear the groans of prisoners and come to open the prison doors and set them free. John wasn’t looking for Jesus to do something that wasn’t written about Him. He was longing for the One that has come to do what was said of Him.

And so are we. We are waiting for the Lord to do what is said of Him that He will do: that He would comfort the broken hearted and bind up the wounds of those ravaged by sin and shame; that He would shelter and protect those under the curse of death; that He would care for us and cause blessing and goodness to follow us all the days of our lives. We are waiting for Him to free us from the bondage of sin and to let His face shine upon us.

It is good that we long for this. It was good that John longed for it. It means we are looking toward the Lord for all good and for His blessing. We are waiting upon the Lord to renew our strength and to strengthen our weak knees. We are waiting upon the Lord to bring recompense and to shine on us and to burn away our sin and shame, our troubles and fears.

But Jesus didn’t open the prison doors for John, except to lead him to the executioner’s sword. Jesus didn’t ride in at the last moment like some determined superhero to save the day. Not, anyway, the way John would have preferred. For Jesus, too, waits. He waits for the will of the Father. Jesus does nothing on His own but only what the Father tells Him. And the will of the Father is to save sinners and to gather into His storehouses the elect of all nations. So that is what Jesus is waiting for. He waited for the fullness of time to be sent by the Father to redeem mankind from sin and death on the cross, and now He waits for the time of the Father to come again to reveal the children of God to all creation and to usher in His eternal kingdom.

And in the meantime, we suffer, just as John suffered. But so, too, does Jesus suffer with us. That is the great stumbling block of Christianity; that our God suffers with us. All the world looks for a savior, but the savior the world wants – that we so often want – isn’t the Savior sent by the Father. The savior the world so often wants – that we so often want – would bring glory to man by shaming others. The savior we so often want is the savior that doesn’t need to save us, but only needs to point out to everyone else how good we are, how well-intentioned we are, how generous and kind we are. Sinners always want a savior that doesn’t save, but boasts in the sinner and exalts him far above all others. For in our hearts we are the children of Adam and we desire to be like God; not good and holy, but worshiped and adored.

Which is why we happily and eagerly tear one another down and point out all the foibles and idiotic things we do, and how we wouldn’t have done it that way. We are after our own glory. And there’s nothing glorious about sitting in prison or about suffering divorce or about being taken advantage of. There’s nothing glorious about doing the dishes or giving a tithe or serving others without recognition. There’s nothing glorious about suffering because of the sins of others or because of our own sins.

But Jesus answers John and us with a warning and a blessing: blessed is one that is not scandalized by me. Blessed is the one that is not offended by the way the Lord does things. For the Son is seeking the glory of the Father, which will be revealed on the Last Day.

So what did you come out to see? Full pews? A met budget? A well-dressed, well-groomed congregation? What do you think to see when you think to see the Lord? A stress-free life? A little bit of a happy ending? If these are things you think to see then you have not the things of God in mind but the things of men.

I will tell you what you see. You see the kingdom of heaven breaking forth into creation. You see sinners reconciled to God. You see the risen Lord making known the ways of God in bread and wine. You see the kingdom of the Christ being established in the hearts of men by igniting a light that looks for the coming of the Lord and the freedom He brings from sin and death.

Do not be scandalized by the way the Lord does things.

+In Nomine Iesu+