Summary: Advent Sermon Year A...John the Baptist and his doubt of faith
Have you ever found your self in a position, where you were certain you were doing the right thing? And then suddenly it seemed everything went to all wrong?
Well that is the kind of situation we see John the Baptist faced in our reading from Matthew. Remember John was at the height of his ministry. He had a group of followers, he was causing the king to notice him. Then bang he finds himself locked in prison.
Now he sits in a prison cell wondering what he had done. He is even doubting his faith, and his calling. He wonders if his cousin really is the Messiah. So what does John do? He does what we all do when we question our decisions. He looks for an answer.
John sent out one of his followers to Jesus to ask him, “Are you sure you’re the one we are to follow? Or is their somebody else?”
I like Jesus’ reply. Or at least the way he replied he didn’t grumble, or question John’s faith instead he reassured by telling John’s messenger the following, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew11: 4-6 NIV)
He wanted the messenger to report back to John on all that Jesus was doing. Jesus knew John was very familiar with passages from Isaiah especially our Old Testament reading from Isaiah:
"Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy… (Isaiah 35:4-6 NIV).
You see in essence Jesus was telling John to be strong, you are about to see the fruits of your labors come true. He wanted John to know that all he had been doing and saying was not in vain. Moreover the Kingdom was near.
So how about in our own lives? How about when we find ourselves wondering if what we have been working on was worth it all. Do we ask for reassurance? Do we seek out somebody to tell us that what we have done has been worth the effort?
One has to wonder how many times the president probably goes over and over a decision he has made. Wondering whether or not it was the right one. Wondering if the end result has been justified in the means to getting to the goal.
How many of us have ever worked in a job, where what you did seemed but a small part of the whole? Think about farming for instance. A farmer spends six months out of the year growing a crop such as corn, soybeans, or wheat. On the surface, those kernels or seeds may seem insignificant. However that farmer can go to the supermarket and see the “fruits” of his labors at work.
In fact that farmer can be reassured in the fact that all sorts of products would not be in existence. If it were not for the work he had done in the previous six months.
Try and imagine if John was the farmer and Jesus was an agribusiness manager…He might say to John… the blind have received Bauch and Lomb soft contacts, the pedestrians ethanol for their cars, medicine for the ill, and so on …..
The point to be made here is that, unless we look beyond our own boundaries we won’t see the full purpose of our mission.
John also represents what many of us get like in ministry. John was an evangelizer. He had a large following. However until he was locked up, he probably had not spent much time looking into deeper purpose of his faith.
Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe God gave John this opportunity in his incarceration. God used Herod to get John to look deeper within his self. To allow John to see and fully understand his purpose in the announcing of the Messiah.
Does this sound like something God would do? Think of all those prophets and patriarchs from the Old Testament. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah just to name a few. All men of strong faith right?
And what about in the New Testament? Can you name anybody he might have done this too? Paul and Silas? Peter and John? Just to name a few. So why not John the Baptist as well?
So if he would put all of these famous people from history in positions of self doubt in their purpose, do you think God might do the same thing with us as a church, as a family, as individual Christians?