Advent 3 (Gaudete) 2014
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 14, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 11;2-10

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

One can imagine that when John’s disciples returned to him he was eager to hear their report on Jesus’ answer to John’s question, Are you the one to come or should we wait for another? And it’s not hard to imagine that as the disciples of John were telling John what Jesus had said John’s anticipation might have grown as he was hearing the words he was eager to hear. The lame walk; the blind see; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the poor have good news preached to them; this is great! These are the signs that are to accompany the Messiah! Jesus is the One! Also, good for those folks. Good for the lame that are walking, the blind that are seeing, the deaf that are hearing; good for the dead that are living. Good for those folks. But did He happen to say anything about loosing bonds or setting captives free? Did He say anything about opening prisons and setting at liberty those who were bound? Did He quote Psalm 146:7, the Lord sets the prisoners free?

No, John; He said nothing like that. Nothing about prisoners being set fee.

He did say, “Tell John that blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Rather tasteless, that. Kinda falls flat on the ears. Like one who is waiting with baited breath to hear his beloved say back to him, “I love you, too.” But for his “I love you,” he receives from her a disappointing, “That’s nice.” But it’s the main point of Jesus’ words. Jesus makes sure John’s disciples get that part right. “Tell John what you see, for that is proof enough of who I am, but make sure to tell John that blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” That’s what John needs to hear. He needs to hear about the lame, the blind, the mute, the deaf, and about the dead being raised – these are the signs that accompany the Christ, the Anointed One of God. But he needs all the more to hear Him say, blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

That’s what we need to hear lest we become offended by Jesus as we wait with baited breath to hear Him address our particular ailment; as we wait for the Lord to solve our problem and fix our situation. We, too, need to hear about the signs and wonders that accompany the Christ. And we hear them like John heard them: from the mouths of others. John was told by his disciples what the Christ did. We are told by Christ’s disciples what He did, that He is the One, for faith comes by hearing. And we too, need to hear the words of the Christ, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

We get impatient with the Lord, don’t we. Lord, if you really loved me you’d … do such and such. No, if I really loved you, and I do, I would bury you with me so that you would live with me. Lord, if you wanted me to be a better Christian you’d make it easier. No, if I really loved you, and I do, I would call you by the gospel and enlighten you with my Spirit.

We love the healings and miracles of the New Testament in part because it shows the glory of the Lord. But also really love them because they give us hope that we’ll get our miracle, too. We also love to be stirred up by the power and majesty of Christ, praising His victorious reign and glory. And we’re a little disappointed when He doesn’t display that power and glory in silencing our enemies or the enemies of His Church. We’re even maybe a little embarrassed that our wonderful, almighty God and Lord who is raised from the dead lets the world walk all over us and mock us and hate us.

Repent. John didn’t make it out of prison alive.

None of us have put in more time or faith or prayers than the Forerunner of the Christ. None of us have lived as John lived; not just a prophet but the prophet, more than a prophet! John is Elijah come to herald the coming of the Lord! John is the one of whom other prophets prophesied saying, “I will send my messenger before my face to prepare the way before you.” Yet for all this John’s ailment was not cured. His trouble was not lifted. Jesus tells John’s disciples to tell John what they see. But it’s what they don’t see that is significant. They don’t see prisoners being set free. Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. That is, don’t reject me and look for another because your troubles remain with you.

But I’d wager that our particular ailments don’t come in the form of legs that don’t work or eyes that don’t see or ears that don’t hear. Our real ailments aren’t sicknesses and diseases. Nor are they really even the lifeless bodies of our loved ones. What ails us is being left alone; abandoned. What ails us is being helpless to help ourselves. What ails us is a broken heart. A heart broken because we live in a fallen, broken world. What ails us is that we know that life is not meant to be a burden but a joy. Only our lives are burdened; burdened by our sins and the sins of others.

Our hearts are broken because our imaged world is not our real world. That’s why we like the holidays, whether it’s Christmastide or the 4th of July; for a moment, at least in theory and imagination, we can have things as they are meant to be. We can have a home full of family and a table full of food. For a moment we can ignore no money, dirty laundry, and a sink full of dishes, or even a terminal illness. We can read the stories of prisoners of war, even in concentration camps and places too horrid even for Hollywood, that for a moment they could pretend to be somewhere else. For a moment they could escape the reality around them and be somewhere, anywhere else. For a moment, even if it’s an unrealized ideal – and it always is – we can have what we yearn for and long for: comfort and peace. Stillness.

That’s what we really want. Comfort and peace. Not the comfort of a Lazy-Boy or the peace of NATO but the comfort of not being condemned and thrown away by others. The comfort of not being forgotten by God. We want the peace of never having to defend ourselves. We want the peace of never having to work for affection; of never having to battle loneliness.

Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God.

John didn’t get what he wanted – what we might suppose he wanted. He didn’t make it out of Herod’s prison. He was beheaded – a reality we are becoming more familiar with these later days – beheaded by the sins of others.

Don’t look for your comfort and peace to be found in the fixing of your troubles and problems, in the alleviation of your ailments. But look to Christ and His promises as your comfort and peace. Anything else is to be offended by Him.

Your comfort is that you are received by the Lord. Your peace is that you are not condemned by Him who is your Judge. Your sins and your shame have been burned away by the light of Christ like the morning frost burned away by the rising of the sun. For the Son has risen with healing in His wings.

For in Him all things are made new. Your diseases and troubles are healed in Him. The enemies of His Church are silenced by his resurrection, even if they don’t know it yet. In Christ you have what you truly long for, what John longed for. In Him you have peace with God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +