Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Our Ministry continues that which Isaiah Prophecies.

Concordia Lutheran Church

The Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2009

Prepare the Way…

Matthew 11:2-10

May the gifts of love and mercy be yours, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why go see John?

We are in the midst of the world’s mad rush towards Christmas. In the midst of all the marketing, all the “extra events” both secular and sacred, from parties, to advent services, this Sunday, the third of Advent, stands out different.

You may have noticed that the gospel reading isn’t about Mary and Joseph, nor the times before the birth of Jesus. It isn’t about angels, or wise men. The reading tells of a scene from the middle of Jesus’ life, and the discussion he has with two of John the Baptist’s disciples.

Odd, don’t you think?

Why do we have to hear of John’s doubt and questioning? Why do we hear an odd question about why people would journey for a day or two, to go see what some might think an eccentric, radical, seemingly anti-establishment prophet out in the middle of nowhere?

I mean, shouldn’t we be more concerned with the manger about to be filled? It seems scandalous to consider the prophet, when we could be looking at the babe in the manger.

It is scandalous, even offensive. Yet to those that get past the scandal, the offense, there is a blessing

The World’s Answers

Location, Location, Location?

Power and Prestige?

Why did the people go see and hear John the Baptist preach? Why did he draw such crowds?

Think about it for a moment. Back in Jerusalem they had all the experts, like Gamaliel, a rabbi who is quoted to this day. They had the priests, and the temple, gloriously re-built – a testimony to those who had built it. They had “it” all.

The location,

The people,

The place,

So why did people go hear John? Was it because he gave a very encouraging message that built up their self-esteem and enabled them to conquer the battles of life? Did he make them feel good, and give them purpose to life? Not really. He called them on their sins, pointing our their hatred, and adultery, and coveting, and stealing from each other. He pointed out their rebellion from God, and called them vipers and snakes. Fire and Brimstone preachers use John as their model, with far less success.

He didn’t have the looks, or the clothes to warrant the image of success. No silken suits and Armani loafers. Gordon Ramsey didn’t cook for him, he ate the grasshoppers and things he found on the ground.

If he didn’t baptize so many people one might even wonder what he smelled like, in his simple rough clothes, living in the wilderness.

So why did they come? What did they want to see? Why did they return to hear more from this radical prophet?

And why, do we hear of his doubt, as he sends disciples to check out Jesus?

When do you need a radical prophet?

Radical versus Fanatic

The point is simple – people don’t go and hear a radical young prophet, unless there is something wrong in life. Unless the struggles are such, that you are looking for an answer, some way to make things work, some way to deal with the confusion, the doubt, the hypocrisy that we recognize in ourselves. It was out of a desperation for life that had more than “the daily grind” and more than the life we live, afraid that others will see us, and our failures.

The difference between John’s preaching and the fire and brimstone types is simple – John was showing them what they already knew and kept hid, so that they might be healed.

You see, I used radical intentionally – as opposed to words that sound similar – like fanatic, or mystic, or religious freak. Contrary to what most people thing, radical comes from the same root word as radish – it means rooted and grounded. It calls for the kind of simple completeness that ensures health and vitality and life.

And John was a radical prophet, in the manner of a surgeon doing a radical procedure. It was to remove all the crud, all the pretense, all the doubt, and leave people ready for the healing that would come in the advent of the Messiah. His message didn’t cure, but it proclaimed that there was the hope of the cure….

And people gathered in crowds…

The prophet points Him out… who can help

That is why Jesus pointed out what the disciples should tell John – what they saw and heard was that John’s radical actions resulted in people being made whole and indeed, more than that – made holy.

For John, this answer would fulfill his hopes – and prove his role had meaning. For us, it means so much more.

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