Summary: Advent 3(A) - What do you expect to see and hear this Christmas? The question of John the Baptist or an answer from Jesus.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT (TO SEE/HEAR)?
December 17, 2006 - ADVENT 3 - Matthew 11:2-11
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Dearest Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
Advent is a season of expectation. Today we want to look at what you and I expect out of this Advent season and what we might expect from the coming Christmas celebration that is hardly a week away. We know the expectations concerning Christmas in this world. These worldly expectations are to get the best gift, the most gifts, and the perfect gift. Yet, the reality is that you and I with only our worldly expectations will always be sorely disappointed. There is no gift or present in this world that will truly satisfy. So it is that we come to the gift that really matters--the gift of Christ our Savior.
Jesus had sent out the 72 disciples and gave them the authority and power to do miracles in his name. The disciples return with great joy because even demons submitted to God’s powerful name. Then Jesus spoke these words: "Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ’Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Luke 10:23,24). If Jesus were here today, he would say the same thing, "Blessed are your eyes that you have seen and heard God’s powerful, miraculous gospel." We gather together and we ask the Lord to open our ears to hear, our eyes to see the glory of God, our Savior, born at Bethlehem. Our theme is from the question that Jesus asks three times, "What do you expect to see?" We could also say, "What do you expect to hear?"
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT (TO SEE/HEAR)?
I. The question of John or
II. An answer from Jesus.
I. THE QUESTION OF JOHN
We heard in our Gospel lesson (Luke 3:7-18) a continuation of what we heard last week in the sermon. John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness. In today’s text (Matthew 11), the times and circumstances had changed for John the Baptist. We are told he is in prison. He is also nearing the end of his life. John had preached against Herod and his sexual sins. Herod did not like that so he threw John into prison. Because John was in prison, no longer was he out among the people. Because John was in prison, no longer did the crowds come to him that they might be baptized. No longer could John openly and freely preach to the crowds, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is near."
So it is no wonder that we hear John asking a question. "When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, (the parallel account in Luke’s gospel reveals that John heard about Christ raising the son of the widow of Nain) he sent his disciples to ask him, ’Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’" Strange question! We wouldn’t ever think that John would ask such a question. Time and again, we have in our Gospel and in the other Gospels John testimony. John proclaimed this Jesus as the Lamb of God. Time and again, John testified that this Jesus is the Savior, the Light for the world. Yet, now you have to remember John in prison all alone. John is wondering about his preaching, wondering if truly the message that he preached was the message that God wanted preached.
We have here the testimony of Jesus. John’s disciples come and ask the question. When the disciples of John leave, they go back to report to John what Jesus told them, what they saw and heard. Then Jesus addresses the crowd to speak to them about John, Certainly the problem was there when they heard this question from John’s disciples when they came to say, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" They were wondering the same things you and I would wonder--why is John asking such a question. So Jesus gives to this crowd his testimony about John the Baptist. Jesus asked them: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?" Reeds were common along the River Jordan where John was baptizing. They moved quite easily back and forth by the wind. Here is that strange word what did you go out to see? In a sense they went to see the John the Baptist, but in the end is what they heard that mattered.
Jesus continues: "If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces." John was not a king. He worked and lived in the wilderness. John didn’t go into the city very much at all. So finally, Jesus asks one more time: "Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet." Again, that strange word use, "What did you go out to see?" Jesus uses see rather than who did you go out to hear?" You won’t necessarily see a prophet, but you will hear a prophet. You can see people who might call themselves prophets. In the end it will be a prophet of God that one will hear.