Third Sunday in Advent
Third Sunday in Advent “C”
13 December 2009
St. Luke 7:18-28
Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice Sunday! Pink Candle Sunday. The Introit called us to rejoice. The bulletin cover. So did the prophet Zechariah. So did the apostle Paul. Rejoice! Sing! Shout! Be glad and rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice!
John the Baptist is not so sure. He’s really not in any mood to rejoice. And can you blame him? He preached repentance. He baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Prepared the way for the LORD! But now he’s rotting away in prison. He suffers. Doomed to die. This doesn’t seem right. Everything appears to be upside down. “Where’s the judgment Jesus? Where’s the power Jesus? Where’s the kingdom of God Jesus? Where are the Holy Spirit and the fire like I preached? The world is going to hell in a hand basket! Evil reigns. Sinners and their sinning are on the increase. Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford and Bernie Madoff are just the tip of the iceberg. Brood of vipers they are! You’ve got to do something Jesus! Unleash God’s almighty power and wrath on this wicked world chuck full of naughties and nasties! Give sinners what they deserve! This is what we all expected with you Jesus! You’re sure a disappointment to say the least. Are you the one who was to come Jesus? Are you really the Messiah Jesus? Because if you’re not we’ll start looking for someone else.”
How’s your life going? Have your share of heartaches. Problems. Sufferings? Not going so well. What sin or sins have you in shackles? Does it feel like your living in a prison? What’s oppressing you? Making your life miserable? Not much room for rejoicing? Would you like to ask Jesus the same questions? “Are the one who was to come Jesus? Or should we expect someone else?”
Be careful. We should not try to impose our will on Jesus when He doesn’t meet our expectations. Most of the time our will is not God’s will. Our ways are not His ways. And so John the Baptist struggles. So do we. God’s ways are so strange to our ears and our eyes. Our entire experience. Our entire existence.
Be careful. Watch out that you don’t fall away. Don’t have your own matrix of how Jesus should act and how he should be. He doesn’t fit your model of the Messiah. Your pattern of the Christ. If He molded Himself to your template He wouldn’t be the Messiah. “Blessed is the person who does not fall away because of Me,” Jesus says. Seriously. “Blessed are you if you don’t fall away because Jesus doesn’t do or act the way you want!”
Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Savior. He answers John’s question. And yours. To John and all of us who sometimes struggle to understand how Jesus can be the Messiah, He puts His words into our ears and gives proof for our eyes.
Jesus’ answer is this: “Look here John and all you members of Trinity. I’m going to list in ascending order what I’ve been up to. From least to most important. Are you ready? All right. Here goes.”
“I’ve given the blind their sight back. I’ve healed cripples and lepers. I’ve given the deaf their hearing back. I’ve even raised the dead. But the biggest of all — the most important of all — is that I’ve preached. Yes, I’ve been preaching the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to the spiritually impoverished. Folks, I’ve got news for you. I’m here to show mercy. To give grace. To set consciences free! All this is what Isaiah the prophet prophesied. Check it out. Isaiah 29. Isaiah 35. And Isaiah 61. Big time Messianic prophecies! I’m doing them. I’m fulfilling them.”
“John and members of Trinity. I’m here to seek and to save the lost. I’m not here to wreak the vengeance of Almighty God against all the naughties and nasties. Giving sinners what they deserve? No thanks. I’m not into that game. I’m not the Wrath of God Czar. My cup of tea is this: I will absorb God’s wrath against all sinners and against all sin in My body! I will take all its damning punishment. I will suffer the hell all sinners deserve.”
Does Jesus offend you? Bore you? Cause you to fall away? Do you want Jesus to give you what you deserve? I sure hope not. For He’s the Jesus who saves. You, John the Baptist, his disciples, and all. He truly is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as John had preached. Blessed are you if you are not scandalized and fall away by this Jesus. He gives you salvation through the forgiveness of your sins.
And if you thought all this is upside down – there’s even more. Jesus flips everything around some more. Listen. You who believe in Him – who trust Him for your salvation – you are greater than the prophet John who prepared the way for Jesus. Who preached mighty sermons. Who called a spade a spade. The last of all the Old Testament prophets. Who proclaimed the coming of the Christ. Yes, that’s right. It’s what Jesus Himself says. “I tell you, among those born of women there is none greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.”
Least in the kingdom of God are the little ones. The little ones of faith. Who are not offended by Jesus but rather rejoice that all their sins belong to Him. That Jesus answered for all their hellish punishment. Jesus has taken away your punishment. You don’t get what you deserve. God is most pleased with you. Delighted with you. For the King – the Lord Jesus Christ – is with you. Mighty to save! Put His Name on you in Baptism. Gives His Good Friday Body and Blood in the Supper. Given and shed for you. For the forgiveness of all your sin. What joy!
Have a blessed Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.
In the Name of Jesus.