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What Do You Expect?

December 15, 2013

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Third Sunday in Advent                                                                    Trinity Lutheran Church

15 December 2013                                                                                                     Murdock, NE


+Jesu Juva +

Matthew 11:2-15


You know, after a while, you have a hard time enduring what you’re going through as a Christian.  The patience wears a bit thin to say the least.  You get perplexed.  Maybe a little frustrated as a disciple of Jesus.


Just ask John the Baptist.  He powerfully preached Jesus as the stronger one that would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  That Jesus would bring heaven’s judgment by gathering the wheat into the barn but burning the chaff with a fire that would never go out.


The Baptist spoke truth to power.  Would you have had the guts to call the religious big wigs a brood of vipers? He did — without hesitation!  Would you have had the … backbone to tell the king that his marriage to his brother’s wife was not God pleasing?  He did — without blinking an eye! And his ministry was hugely successful.  He baptized people by the hundreds if not thousands!  Huge crowds followed him.  His First Congregation of the Wilderness by the Jordan was busting at the seams!


Good grief!  You don’t get anyone more faithful than the Baptist!  Or anyone more zealous and hardworking for the Lord!  Now look where he lives.  His address is 111 Penitentiary Lane in Jerusalem.  He’s rotting in a prison cell with all the low life losers, hardcore felons and radical revolutionaries!  Baked grasshoppers covered with wild honey was a wilderness feast compared to the spoiled, rotten and maggot-infested “bread” served behind bars that the jail rats won’t even touch.  If only he still had that camel hair coat to give him a little warmth at night.


This isn’t supposed to happen, is it?  Really Jesus?  Where’s the power of your kingdom?  Where’s the glory of your Messianic reign?  Why is John suffering so?  Why is this faithful servant helpless and imprisoned?  Are you going to send the apostles as your posse to bust him out of jail?  You’d better hurry!  He’s not doing to well in case you haven’t heard.  He may even lose his head if you delay.  You’re not looking or acting like the Messiah we expect or the Christ that we want.  You’d better get your act together.  A little help here Jesus!  We’re just a tad bit confused here.


So is the Baptist.  He sends a few of his disciples to Jesus with an urgent question:  “Jesus, are you the Christ?  Or should we expect someone else? Really puzzled by you Jesus. I’m not so sure about you anymore.  Not sure I want you to be my Messiah anymore.  You’re just not doing it for me.”


Does Jesus meet your expectations?  What do you expect?  In the hyper-religious “Real Life Preachers of L.A.” American scene that you can watch on the Oxygen channel it goes like this:  get Jesus and you’ll be healthy.  Make Jesus the Lord of your life and you’ll be wealthy.  Millionaire wealthy! Get Jesus and your life will be turned around.  All problems solved the very second you decide to make Him the Lord and Master of your life.


But here we all sit.  Like John in prison to a certain degree.  Things in life don’t turn out like we planned.  Our lives seem to be rotting on the vine.  Family and marriage breakdowns.  Rebellious children.  Loss of a job.  Depression.  Failing test after test.  A disease ravages the body.  A friend dies.  Your body grows weaker, gets older, and death comes knocking on your door.  We thought being a Christian would solve all our problems.  And here we are.  Life isn’t so happy.  Jesus doesn’t seem to produce the life we want or the life we expect.  And so we’re just like John in prison.  Life isn’t supposed to be like this.  And we begin to have our doubts.  The endurance tank of being a Christian is about empty.


“Are you the Expected One Jesus?  Are you the Savior or not?  If so, then let’s see some action!  Get involved in our lives!  Get things turned around!  No offense Jesus.  But if you don’t want to be the Savior, then we can certainly start shopping around for another!  No skin off our nose.  We’re really starting to have doubts about you Jesus.” 


His answer to John’s disciples and you is this:  “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.”    


That answer is a quote from the Bible.  From the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 29:18-19.  Isaiah 35:5-6.  Isaiah 61:1.  Jesus gives doubting and soon to be beheaded John the Baptist God’s Word of promise!  The very promise of the Messianic Age.  The very pledge of God coming to rescue His people.  The self-same guarantee of the Savior.  And Jesus’ answer is:  “It’s all right before your very eyes John!  The time has come.  The kingdom of heaven is here!  I’m it!  Just watch me.  I’m just getting started.  The best is yet to come.  Just wait until I make one final trip to Jerusalem.”


Then Jesus praises and extols John as the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  John wasn’t a mere sideshow act or just a great man.  The Baptist rotting away in prison is the promised prophet of the last days.  The promised Elijah to prepare people for the great and terrible Day of the Lord.  John is the greatest among anyone born of women.  Why?  Because he stood between the Old and New Testaments and preached the coming of Jesus to and for sinners.


And here Jesus is.  Doesn’t meet John’s expectations.  Doesn’t meet ours.  And we doubt.


That’s because Jesus does the Messiah job His way.  He comes humbly.  In servant form.  Compared with John, Jesus is the least.  Jesus becomes a nothing.  He allows Himself to be rejected.  He suffers.  He dies.


Where’s the great and terrible Day of the Lord?  Where’s the wrath of God against an evil world and evil people?  On Jesus.  As He hangs on the Cross.  The Suffering Servant.


See how the kingdom of heaven suffers violence!  King Jesus crucified!  Violent men take matters into their own hands.  Judas betrays Him.  Peter denies Him.  Pilate issues the death sentence.  The soldiers beat Him.  They hammer spikes into His hands and feet.  They hang His Body on the Cross.  King Jesus suffers.  King of heaven Jesus dies.  He is the Messiah.  He is the Savior.  For you.  For your salvation.


Scandalous?  Outrageous?  Of course.  But like John’s preaching, all I can do is offer you a bigger dose of Jesus and His Word of Promise.  Here goes.


You are died for.  Your sins answered for.  Forgiven.  In Jesus, the violently crucified Savior.  The kingdom of heaven has come to you in your Baptism.  You bear the Name of the crucified on your bodies.  Your bodies are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit because of that washing of regeneration.


The crucified but now risen and ascended Jesus brings the kingdom of heaven to you in His Supper.  You have forgiveness, life, and salvation with the Body and Blood that He gives you to consume.


Blessed are you.  Yes.  Blessed are you.  For the time of doubting is over.  Now is the time of believing.  And enduring – to the day of your death or to the Last Day whichever comes first.  No more bumbling and stumbling over Jesus.  He’s come for you.


I know that’s not what you expected.  But He is what He is.  He is what you get.  And you belong to Him.  Look at His scars.  Eat and drink His Body and His Blood. He is the Promised One.  He is the Messiah.  He is the Savior.  There is no other.


Happy enduring as His disciple until the end.  You will be saved!


In Jesus’ Name.

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