Advent 3 - Gaudete
Audio
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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 11, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 11:2-10
Description

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

It’s popular to advance the theory that the Old Testament people weren’t expecting God to become man; that over time the Lord God revealed His plan of salvation in ever-increasing ways until finally, the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

But that theory is bust. From the beginning the Lord promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. It would bruise her Offspring, but He would prevail. When the woman gave birth to her firstborn, she exclaimed, “I have received a man, the Lord!” She understood that her child was given to her and thought that he would be the promised Savior. Of course he wasn’t, but the point is that that’s what she was expecting: the Lord in the flesh.

David also, speaking in the Spirit says of the Messiah, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand.” He understood that his son, David’s son, would be the Lord. The holy prophets of old were expecting God in the flesh. All of God’s faithful people were taught this and were expecting it. Which is how in the gospel account Simeon held the Holy Child in the Temple and declared that now he could depart in peace for his eyes had seen the salvation of all people.

The people of God – the true people of God, those of faith – were always expecting the Lord to come and make His dwelling with them, even in the flesh. St. John the Baptist was no different. God becoming flesh was no secret, even if the timing was; even if it is still so fantastic that reason can’t begin to grasp it. Faith must lay hold of it and say “amen” to Emmanuel. John sat in prison having seen the Promised Offspring of Eve, the Promised Prophet of Moses, David’s Greater Son, Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, even Israel’s Glory and the Hope of the Gentiles.

The evidence of Jesus, as the Lord Himself indicates, is in the work that is being done. The lame walk the blind see the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. What good news? That the Lord God Almighty has come down to earth to save man from sin and death and to open the kingdom of heaven.

It is also popular to advance the theory that the Old Testament people were expecting a Savior to save them from their earthly oppressors; the Romans in Jesus’ day. But that’s not a great theory either. God waited until His people had had more oppressors than any other people to send the Savior to show that He wasn’t doing this to save them from earthly oppressors but from spiritual oppressors. Why not come during the Babylonian captivity? Or in Egypt? Or to fight the Assyrians? Why wait for the Romans? Perhaps the faithless thought that the Messiah would save them from the Romans, but not the faithful. They believed that the Lord would rescue from all their enemies, most especially the enemy of death. So the prophet Job declares: “After my flesh is thus destroyed, this I know, that with my eyes I shall see the Lord.”

The point is this: the people of God – the faithful – were expecting God to visit them in the flesh and that He would save them not merely from a worldly oppressor but would lift them high above all things, raising them even from death. This is what John the Baptist believed.

So he sent his disciples to confirm it and to be confirmed by it. After all, he was sitting in a prison waiting for death to come. What greater need is there to be confirmed by the Life-giver than that? Are You the one or should we wait for another?

One can hear a lot of things in that question. Hope. Expectation. Desperation. As well as God’s people knew the Psalms – something we should know if we prayed them daily – it’s not hard to hear Psalm 25 in John’s words.

“To You, O Lord, I lift up my life, O my God. I trust in You: let me not be put to shame. Let not my enemies laugh at me. For all who wait upon You shall not be ashamed.” If this is you, Lord, then fulfill Your promises. Exalt Your people. Lift them up and carry them forever.

The Lord replies, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The Lord Jesus is the Lord. He is the Promised Offspring of woman. He is the Expected Prophet like unto Moses. He is the Pride of Judah, the Son of David, He is the Root of Jesse. He is the Righteousness of God with healing in His wings. And He is gathering His people from the whole world. He is collecting His flock, calling His sheep out of the crooks and ravines and off the plains and down from the mountains. They hear His voice and are drawn to Him. And they follow Him. So Psalm 25 also says, “Make known Your ways to me, O Lord, and teach me Your paths.”

The way of the Lord is the cross. His path is suffering. Do not be surprised when the fiery trials come upon you, as if something strange were happening to you. The Lord has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. By these you have been given exceeding great and precious promise, that through these promises you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.

In a word, John could sit back and wait. Even if death came to him – and it did – he could put his trust and hope in the Lord. Just as the people of God had been doing for thousands of years and still do today. That is the comfort of God’s people. That is your comfort. The Lord knows where you are and what you are suffering, even as He knew of John in prison. He hasn’t forgotten you. Indeed, He loves you beyond measure just as He loved John and all His holy prophets. Remember, He is the God who called Noah to build the ark and called Abram to leave his father’s land. He is the God who build up Jacob and raised up Moses; who saw His people endure slavery for some 400 years. He is the God who brought them out of Egypt and into the Promise Land. He is the God who defeated the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and all the others. He is the God who raised up Gideon and Sampson and finally David. He is also the God who saw His people be taken into captivity; their cities and country burned and destroyed. All the while He is the God who brought comfort to His people by the Promised Offspring of woman.

Well unto You has been given this Savior; to us a child is born to us a Son is given. He is your hope and your comfort. And at the appointed time, be it today or in another thousands of years, He will restore you and His people, even John the Baptist, giving us the crown of life that will never fade away.

+ In Nomie Iesu +