Are You the One?
Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 11:2–11:15
The Third Sunday in Advent
December 14-15, 2013
“Are You the One?”
In the Gospel lesson for last Sunday, the Second Sunday in Advent (Matthew 3:1-12), John the Baptist was standing on the banks of the River Jordan thundering at the crowds who came to him: “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7b-8). One thing is for sure: you could love John or you could hate him, but you surely could not ignore him. He was a controversial figure and people felt strongly about him. I think it’s safe to say no one was neutral about John. Clothed with camel’s hair and living in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey, John was the embodiment of a prophet of old – a fiery figure sent from God to call his erring people to a restored and right relationship with the Lord. And now in today’s Gospel lesson (Matthew 11:2-15), John is behind bars in prison, put there by Herod because John called him out on his relationship with his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:1-12). And it is from his prison cell that John sends word to Jesus to ask a very important question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). That is a mighty important question then and now. Much hinges on the answer to it. It is this question, “Are you the one?”, that forms the basis of the sermon today on this Third Sunday in Advent. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question put to him by John. What Jesus does do is to tell John’s disciples to share with John what they see and hear: “…the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Based on all of these things, what conclusion would you draw? All of these things – these signs and indicators – point us back to today’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 35:1-10). Sandwiched between judgments against the Gentile nations and against Judah itself, Isaiah 35 is a beautiful hope-filled chapter. It speaks of the flowering of the wilderness and the return of the ransomed. And in clear language, it speaks of how “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped… the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). Who but Jesus did all of these things? And in doing all of these things, the words of Isaiah and all the prophets were fulfilled in Jesus. Scripture doesn’t tell us what John’s response was when his disciples reported back to him, or even if they did. Did John weep tears of joy? Did he shout for gladness and yell out a great big, “Yes!” Did he do a victory dance around his prison cell? Whatever his response may have been, that searching question, “Are you the one?”, now becomes a statement of faith, “Yes, Jesus, you are the one.”
It was one year ago that the terrible massacre of 26 children and adults took place in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And this past Friday yet another school shooting took place in Centennial, Colorado. We look at what is happening in our communities, our nation, and our world – violence and bloodshed, exploitation and manipulation, corruption and greed, and we shake our heads in disbelief and wonderment. Last week, I witnessed a confrontation between drivers stopped in front of me at an intersection right here in Kingstowne. They got out of their cars, coming at each other and shouting profanity. It was bad, and I was afraid someone would pull out a gun. And the drivers involved were all women. Where will it all end? Are we safe anywhere? We look at our own lives where there is disappointment and grief, heavy burdens of worry and care, uncertainty over our situation and our future. When will those closing words of Isaiah 35 find their fulfillment: “… everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10)? In our heart of hearts, we may secretly ask: “Jesus, are you the One? If you are, why does the world remain such a messed up place? Where are you in all of this?”
This messed up world remains the world dearly loved by our Advent Savior Jesus Christ. He is that One to whom John the Baptist pointed the people of his day. He is still that One to whom all the Law and Prophets point people today. John was that messenger who bridged the time of waiting with the time of fulfillment until the coming of kingdom of heaven and the appearing of Jesus. So great is the love of Jesus for this messed up world and our messed up lives that He would shed his own blood on the cross as payment for all our sin and disobedience. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the kingdom of heaven has broken into our sad and troubled world, calling all people to new life. It is in this One – this Jesus – that even in the midst of sorrow and sighing we obtain everlasting joy and gladness. Even in the midst of disappointment, loss and suffering, we see our lives through the life of Jesus who died that we might live. We trust that God in Christ Jesus is working out his plan and purpose for the world and for our lives, and that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, not things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all of creation, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). For now, we walk by faith not yet seeing the full outcome of all that Jesus has done to redeem us. We are called to patient waiting, which is not easy to do, but it is what God calls us to do even as today’s Epistle lesson reminds us: “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). If ever this messed up world needed patient waiting, it is now.
Through that One who has come, even we who are least in the kingdom of heaven are declared greater than John the Baptist. This gives us something to hold on to; something on which we can stand and lift up our heads as we wait and watch for our Advent King. He is the One! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.