Sermon Transcript - Wednesday, December 18
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Matthew 11:2-11 ~ Wednesday, December 18, 2019
“It's the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle-belling And everyone telling you 'Be of good cheer.' It's the most wonderful time of the year” (by Andy Williams, see ) Or is it?
Yes, this time to celebrate, this time to be with family, this time to remember our Savior's birth is wonderful. Yet along with it comes frenzy and stress, unmet expectations, loneliness -- at times even a hopelessness.
It seems that John was struggling with some of those same feelings. Just how hard can things get as we wait for Christ’s second coming? Look at John the Baptizer. He proclaimed Christ as the Coming One. In fact, he preached the whole counsel of God, which included God’s design for marriage. He preached openly against King Herod, who had unlawfully taken his brother’s wife to be his own. John did the right thing, calling Herod on his adultery for sleeping with a woman not his wife and calling him to repent of it. But Herod, instead of doing as God desires and removing the tension of his guilt through confession and absolution, Herod attempted to make his guilt go away by putting away the messenger who had both the courage and the compassion to try and turn him back to God! Because of it, John was arrested and thrown into prison. And the Son of God, the Christ the Coming One wasn’t doing a thing to intervene in this injustice.
The fact is, Christ’s first coming hadn’t solved the world’s problems, nor had it solved the earthly problems of His faithful ones. On the contrary, things had gotten worse for John, not better. Death loomed before his eyes as he sat, behind bars, waiting to be executed.
How could this be God's plan? Why weren't God's promises working out the way he expected? How long would his suffering go on? Jesus had to be the One because he saw the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus as God had promised. But where were those acts of judgment? Was maybe another one coming to fulfill that?
Can you empathize with this struggle of faith, his spiritual questions, even his doubts and confusion? Like John, do you find yourself questioning why God isn’t working out his promises the way you thought He would? Do you, like John, find yourself suffering in some unexpected, even unjust way and find yourself wondering how long God is going to let this go on? How long before He steps in and does something about it? We expect Jesus to do one thing, but he does the opposite -- sort of like John's struggle.
So John, sitting in prison, sent some of his disciples to press Jesus with the question, Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another? It was an honest question, but a question teetering on unbelief. So Jesus gave John’s disciples what he needed to hear to pull him back from the brink of despair: Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.
Jesus helps to correct the misunderstanding of John’s disciples, still without explaining everything in detail. He tells them, stop focusing on the things I’m not doing that you think I should be doing. Focus on what you see Me doing. You see Me doing the very miraculous signs that are predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. You hear Me preaching the Gospel to the poor—not the Gospel of riches here on earth, or the Gospel of a reasonably comfortable middle-class life, but the Gospel of the riches of God’s love for poor, miserable sinners, love that is personified in Jesus Himself, who came in humility that He might live under the Law in our place, be perfect in place of all our imperfections before the Father, and suffer the Law’s condemnation. And He did it all so we by faith can stand in the presence of God, as his dearly loved children, heirs of everlasting riches in the new creation, when Christ comes again.
Oh. But that makes it sound like this life could still be rough. Like this life could still be filled with pain and loss, even though Christ has come, even though Christ reigns at God’s right hand. Sure enough. Christian life here on earth doesn’t involve getting rid of the bad stuff. It calls for deeper trust in the midst of the bad stuff. It produces a willingness to work through whatever comes our way, believing that God can and will find ways to bring his blessings in spite of and even because of, as a result of the tough stuff.
So Jesus calls out to John the Baptist, Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. Some people are offended because of Jesus. They stumble over Jesus, because what they really want is a Savior from earthly loss, from earthly struggles, earthly pain, whereas He came to be our Savior from sin and its never-ending consequences and from the devil and living as his eternal slaves and from the torture of living forever in that place described as a lake of fire. That’s why Jesus gives this gentle and somewhat humble and unpretentious appeal not to look for another.
It’s human logic that wants to convince me that if Jesus is the all-powerful God and if he really loves me, then my life should be pretty top-notched, or at least above average. But faith enables me to take Christ at His Word, accepting whatever my Savior gives me, trusting him and his mercy to work greater good than I could ever plan out myself.
That means to take his word seriously. Are you doing that? In all circumstances? Jesus wants people to really think on this. It’s why he asked the crowds to contemplate how seriously they took to heart the word of God proclaimed by John.
Many of them had gone out to those uninhabited areas along the Jordan. Why had they done that? To see a reed swayed by the wind? To see someone who turned like a weather vane based on popular opinion polls and focus group findings? No, John wasn't that at all. He stood firm on God's Word, unmoved.
Did they go out to see someone dressed in fine, soft clothes, influenced by where the money is? Such people are found in palaces -- and not in the dungeon prison robed in rough camel’s hair as John was!
What did they go out to see? A prophet, a spokesman proclaiming the word of the Lord, heralding God's message? Yes, indeed, and even more so. You didn’t listen to him because he was cool, or relatable, or because he told you nice things. No, you went out to hear him, even though he was “strange,” even though he spoke harshly and seriously, because his words had the ring of a true prophet of God. And he was! In fact, he was the very prophet about whom the prophet Malachi had prophesied as the messenger who would prepare the way for THE Messenger, the Christ.
In the same way, you shouldn’t expect the Christ to offer you earthly prosperity or the removal of life’s burdens or nice-sounding things. He’s already told you that He didn’t come at His first Advent to offer those things. What you should expect from Him is the truth, and compassion and sympathy in dealing with the losses of this life, because He came to share in those losses in order to purchase you for God. He died so that you might live—not live a trouble-free or even a typical middle-class lifestyle on this earth, but live in God’s grace and favor in the midst of the troubles, and then live in God’s presence in the trouble-free life that Christ’s second Advent will usher in.
In fact, the losses of this life are designed, in part, to keep you looking up and longing for that Advent and for the joy that awaits when Christ finally comes. Think of John. But follow Jesus, nonetheless, with your faith focused on his word. Take to heart the Good News he proclaims to your poor soul. For his word reveals to you the wonderful Savior that baby is. It reveals to you the wonderful paradise of heaven he came to prepare for you who persevere in faith. May there be no doubt: He truly is the One we are waiting for! Amen.