Matthew 11:2-11/Advent3-07 - EARLY
John sends some disciples to Jesus and asks: "Are you the coming one?"
Why do you think John would do that?
For one, look at the cover of our bulletin today! Kind of a strange picture for the Third Sunday in Advent; a day we call Gaudete, which is the first Latin word beginning today’s Introit!
And then we get the picture of John in prison!
John had been preaching the coming of Christ. Then, Jesus came. He was baptized by John in the Jordan. Then, John began to point people away from Himself! As he put it, “I must decrease, but He must increase.”
Only, maybe that’s easier said than done – like most things!
Jesus says this morning that John was the greatest prophet born of a woman. He is the high mark of Old Testament prophesy, because he is the one who comes just before Jesus.
And as Lent comes before Easter and Advent before Christmas, John’s is a ministry of preaching repentance. He preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He preaches Law and Gospel. The Law to tear everything away from us. To DECREASE us. And the Gospel to load us up with Christ. To INCREASE us in Jesus, with the forgiveness of sins!
Jesus says that John is great; no one’s greater. And yet, “the ONE who is LEAST in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he!”
Now, who is LEAST in the Kingdom of heaven?
Well, Who submitted himself to John, in order to fulfill His Father’s will?
Who submitted Himself to that Father’s Will, even when it
meant laying His own desires aside, and dying for people like us?
Who submitted Himself to the hands of sinful men, who abused Him, lied about Him, and He never opened His mouth to reveal their sin? Instead, He let Himself be crucified for them, and then He prayed for them, even as He was shedding His blood. For them!
Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! Who is the LEAST in the Kingdom of heaven!
Jesus says today what John himself had uttered years before. John – as great as he was – must decrease. Jesus must increase, and become all there is!
Dear Christians, let this teach you your Advent repentance.
John was having a hard time in prison. It’s one thing to know that you must decrease. It’s another thing when it happens.
[Our good brother Melvin isn’t in this service today. He’ll be in the service later. He almost always is. He heard this week that he will decrease. No news in that. We all are sinners, and the wages of sin is death. But this week he heard he has leukemia. It’s hard to hear that your decreasing is on the fast-track now. Who knows? You need to remember Melvin in this prison, which is the same one we all have. You need to remember Donna too. It’s hard to decrease, even when we’ve known that it was coming all along.]
The Lord comforts John this morning by reminding him of all the things that Christ was doing. They were all what God had said through prophets that preceded John.
You know, I try to get people in this Church to give themselves over to learning what those prophets have said. Some take me up on that and learn. When it comes your time to decrease, when the bars are in front of your face and the axe you once heard is set to the root of the tree is now aiming at your neck – will you know what I am saying - when I tell you of the things that Christ has done? How they fulfill what the prophets have spoken?
Dear Christian, don’t waste your time on this earth.
On the day you look at life behind a set of bars – or from behind a doctor’s diagnosis - I will tell you: “Rejoice!” The only way you will, is if you’ve been trained by God’s Word!
I will point you back to the Baptism that is greater than John’s, because it was given you by Christ Himself.
I will remind you of the Greater Voice than John’s, which says your sins are all forgiven, in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I will point you to the Supper which brings JOY today. Joy even to people in prison.
You know, John couldn’t have that Supper in this life. His earthly ministry was a kind of sermon illustration, pointing to the waiting that preceded Jesus’ coming.
John didn’t wear fine clothes or live in front of a big screen TV with a cushy sofa underneath his seat.
John didn’t grow fat on Christmas goodies that are out of season. He lived in Advent, in Lent. He lived waiting, looking for, pointing to, the Promise.
Then it came. And John died. Because his earthly life was leading up to Jesus. And John DID live from Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who took away JOHN’S sins as well.
Today, Jesus points preachers back to John for His comfort. They preached all that Jesus was doing.
But John couldn’t eat from the Table that you do. Oh, he’ll eat and drink from it in the Kingdom of Heaven! On earth, he got locusts and wild honey. When Jesus raises his body out of the prison of death, John will eat the Bread and New Wine of the Kingdom. Which we are getting this morning.
Jesus said that He is greater than John, and greater are those who are Baptized in Jesus. Greater are YOU than John the Baptist. That’s why Jesus gives HIS disciples Bread and Wine by which to eat and drink His Body and His Blood. And these, says Jesus, will raise you up one day.
“Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, HAS eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.”
You know I’ll be reminding Melvin of that!
All of this is for your comfort, no matter how the bars may stripe your vision; how the trials and tribulations of this life may make you wonder, doubt, even despair.
Whatever Christ has given me to do amongst you, it finally all comes down to here, as St. Paul says this morning: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God.”
On this Third Sunday in Advent, remember that you’ve come out to One Greater than John. You’ve come to Jesus. And He has set His Table for you. At this Table, the Lord rescues people from their false belief. That’s why He’s put a steward here – to warn some and keep them from this place, and to welcome others.
This is healing for Life. It is God’s Chemo Therapy – His judgment poured out on Jesus – now given to sinners to guarantee we live. What Melvin will be getting will be good for Melvin, Lord willing. But no doctor in his right mind would give it to anyone who doesn’t have leukemia.
Most people aren’t convinced that they are really sinners, that they REALLY need Baptism, Absolution, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and this Supper. Look how people stay away! People even come in unrepentance.
But you? Well, you’ve heard that you’re decreasing. Who knows? You may be on the fast track! Rejoice!
You’ve heard that you are sinners! Rejoice!
Because you’ve also heard that you have Jesus, Who has your sins; Who died your death; Who was least in the Kingdom to make you greater than John. So you are. In Jesus’ Name, amen!