Summary: The people of Jesus’ day, like people of our own time, often stumble because of Jesus’ claims and his call to discipleship.
Stumbling Over Jesus Matthew 11__2-10 Advent3
Sun, Dec 16, 2007 Third Sunday in Advent
Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples, and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me."
And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces. But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ’BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’
Stumbling Over Jesus
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me. That is what Jesus said.
Who is Jesus? That was what John sent his disciples to ask. "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?"
Jesus might have answered with a question. "Who are you expecting?", and second, "Do I match the promises about the One expected to come?"
The answer Jesus gave John answered the second question. Jesus was very clearly the One promised. The first question is the less certain one, "Who are you looking for?"
So our question this morning is, who are you looking for? Our theme is, Stumbling over Jesus.
Most of the world throughout history has been stumbling over Jesus. They just cannot deal with the reality, they insist on something else - or someone else. At the time of Jesus, they were looking for a great leader who would be both a religious leader and a political leader, someone to take Israel back to the top and put all of their enemies under their feet once and for all. They were looking for a Messiah who would not offend their sensibilities, who would make their lives measurably better by the comfort standard, who would give them a reason to hold their heads up in pride again, and who would be personally pious according to their dreams of the perfectly pious man - the model pharisee, so to speak.
Jesus just didn’t fit the bill for many of them. He wasn’t ambitious in the political way. He wasn’t their kind of religious either. He kept doing things they did not expect and did not honor all of the traditions the Pharisees held dear.
Some of the things He said were likely to irritate the Romans, or at least the Jewish leaders of the time liked to think so. Worst of all, He just wasn’t pious enough. He was a good guy, but attended parties frequented by the wrong sort.
He was politically incorrect, any way you looked at him. The Saduccees who ruled the temple and attempted to enforce the Pax Romana thought him subversive and were the object of his wrath when he drove the moneychangers mand concessionaires out of the temple.
The Pharisees didn’t like him because he wasn’t pious enough and didn’t follow their traditions in all things.
The Essenes would not have liked him either because he didn’t insist on their extremes of fasting, and living apart from the rest of the community.
There was no national liberation in this man! He went around talking about humility, not pride, and forgiveness more that obedience. It wasn’t that He didn’t fulfill the prophecies. He did, in His own way. He was the wrong kind of guy, from the wrong sort of family and the wrong town, and He didn’t even try to stir up an army. The various factions, the political parties were so busy looking for the kind of Messiah that they wanted that they overlooked - stumbled over - the Messiah God sent.
Of course, there were those others who did not even want to see a Messiah. He would just get things stirred up and cause a lot of trouble. They liked things the way they were: manageable, politically manipulable, and with themselves sitting in the catbird seat. Jesus was just going to make waves and upset the status quo. He might fit the prophecies, but if He actually came to power, He would prove them wrong - and rightfully take their place, and they could not afford to allow that to happen. So, they stumbled over Jesus, too. He was too much, or He was too little, or He was the wrong sort of Messiah, or He was there at the wrong time. Except for those poor deluded souls and those sinners that followed Him, everyone seemed to be stumbling over Jesus.