Summary: Advent... John the Baptist is concerned...maybe even filled with doubt about Jesus Where was the 'wrath of God, the fire and brimstone...but Jesus was preaching God's love, mercy and forgiveness. Includes quotes from Ravi Zacharius, People still doubt tod
In Jesus Holy Name December 12, 2010
Text: Matthew 11:1-4 Advent II Redeemer
“Checking Out the Stories”
Our gospel lesson begins with John the Baptizer in prison. John was not afraid to proclaim his message to religious leaders who had come down to the river to investigate his preaching. They wanted to know why he was drawing such great crowds. We know that he was calling for people to repent, to reform their lives in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah. He had publicly called for King Herod to repent. That’s why he was in jail. He challenged authority…. He lost his freedom. His words were silenced. He was placed in prison by King Herod Antipas. John’s preaching had few favorites in the royal palace.
John was doing what God had called him to do. He was the prophetic voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Repent”. Reform your behavior. The judgment of God, the Day of Wrath is coming. By the hundreds, by the thousands they came to the river. They stepped into the water, asking for forgiveness. But not Herod. Not the religious Pharisees and Sadducees.
This was not the King Herod who was the ruler at the time of the birth of Jesus; this was his son, Herod Antipas, who turned out to be just as bad as his father. Herod Antipas had traveled to Rome taking his sister-in-law along. They had an affair. Upon returning to Jerusalem he had his brother Philip killed; then married his sister-in-law. The nation was in shock. John the Baptist condemned the king’s behavior and was placed in prison.
No trial. No charges. Month after month he found himself waiting. His public words were silenced.
John knew his prophetic career was over. There is one thing John wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt about Jesus. Was Jesus, his cousin, the long expected Messiah? Yes, John remembered the baptism of Jesus and the words from heaven which proclaimed: “This is my beloved son.” But John wanted to know for sure.
John knows the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. He has heard the stories. The miracles. The preaching. The crowds. The casting out of demons. The raising of Jarius’ daughter from death. He knew about the new beating heart in the body of the boy who had lived and died in the village of Nain. His body was on the way to the cemetery until Jesus met the funeral procession at the village gate.
John knew the prophecy of Isaiah 11:4 “…the coming Messiah would strike the earth with a rod and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.” He knew Isaiah 61:2 “The anointed one would proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.” So, why is Jesus preaching love and mercy and forgiveness? John sent his disciples to ask: “Are you the one? Or should we expect someone else?”
It’s a fair question still today. There are literally thousands of religions to choose from. Have you picked the right one? Is the cross of Jesus the only bridge that spans the gulf of sin which separates lost human beings from God’s perfect holiness?
Just this past week end I was making a hospital visit on a good friend and member. Her sister was there visiting from Tennessee. We naturally struck up a conversation while her sister was sleeping. During the conversation she mentioned that “Well, I’m glad that my sister is comfortable in her faith. It gives her a lot of comfort as she fights cancer.” I said, “Well, what about you? “Oh, I believe in a little bit of everything. A little of this, a little of that, a blend of Buddha and Jesus. I lived most of my life in Berkley…you know that’s how it is there…and now in Tennessee there is a church on every corner, but I don’t go to any of them. I’m comfortable with what I have.”
I said, “Really,… what about the day you find yourself in your sister’s situation? We all will come face to face with God some day.” To which she responded. ‘Well, my husband and I are beginning to evaluate various long term medical home insurance.” I said, “You know that’s not what we are talking about. You know…not even Lazarus is alive today even though Jesus raised him from the dead.” She said, “Yes, I know that story.” I said: “Well, you know then that there is only one way to heaven…. Jesus.”
She then repeated the phrase “I’m comfortable with my belief.” I could have said… Well, when trouble comes… which theology do you use? To whom do you pray? But I didn’t because I could see….she was just playing the verbal banter game…and she was not that comfortable with the end of life issues. So now it is up to the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to her heart.