Patience: The Lord is Compassionate & Merciful
Third Sunday in Advent Trinity Lutheran Church
11 December 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Patience. Do you have any? I don’t. Just ask my wife. Good grief. I’m horrible. No patience with the little things in life. Don’t like to wait in lines. Don’t like to get behind the tractor or combine on Church Road. If the Internet or the dish connection goes out for one second, it’s like the end of the world! Imagine then how impatient I am with the big things. The most important things. Like God’s promises. God’s Word. God’s ways. Especially during times of suffering! Or when things don’t go the way I want with God!
Whether it’s impatience with the little or big things I’m very hard to live with. Irritable. Touchy. Short-tempered. Petulant. Cantankerous. Grouchy. Grumbly. In other words I treat everyone poorly. Because all I live for is me!
And I’ll wager you’re all just like me to a certain extent. In fact, let’s bet on that because that’s a sure thing. That would be a big payday. And then perhaps I could retire in pleasure at a golf resort in Arizona or Florida! Any takers? Of course not! Because you all know you’re just like me and I am just like you. No patience. Especially with God and His Word and especially in times when things don’t go your way!
So too with John the Baptist. He’s a magnificent preacher of God’s Word. God’s “messenger.” Steadfastly preparing sinners for the first coming of the Christ, Jesus. He was no pantywaist preacher! Jesus even says that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” And what does that get him? Just the opposite of what he and you would think. It’s scandalous. Shocking. He’s arrested and jailed. He suffers behind bars. Shackled. Treated like some kind of reprobate criminal. Really? Yes. But why? It is because He preached the coming of Jesus with great power and might. He was the Christ preacher par excellence!
But there doesn’t seem to be much power and great might with this Jesus. So he sends his disciples with this question: “Are you the Christ? Well, are you? You sure don’t look like it. You sure don’t act like it. Where’s all the Holy Spirit and fire? Where’s the judgment? You’re not meeting my expectations Jesus! My felt needs. If you’re going to have a kingdom of heaven on the earth, you better get it cranked up the way I imagine it and do it ASAP! My patience is running on empty Jesus. So tell me straight up. No spin. Help me please. Tell me if you are the Christ. Or should we look for someone else?”
Jesus answers John. He deals with his impatience and a call to faith. First a warning, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Incredible! John, the preeminent preacher of repentance, needs to be repented. Then, Jesus answers the question. He calls John to faith. “I am the Christ! Let there be no doubt about that. John, let go of your impatience that leads to doubt and despair.” Jesus’ answer is couched in the language of the prophet Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; and 61:1. His point is that His words and deeds truly reveal that He is the Christ — that He is the kingdom of heaven on the earth. He is the promised Messiah! “So trust Me, John. Die to your impatience. Repent of trying to master Me. Repent of trying to impose your will on Me. Trust me!”
You are like John the Baptist. As he suffered for preaching the coming of the Christ he was impatient with the Lord’s first coming. As you suffer various trials and afflictions in this life for confessing Jesus as Lord – Jesus as Savior — you are very impatient with the Lord’s second coming. Jesus doesn’t seem to meet your expectations or your time frames. You want to impose your words, will and timetables on Him. You’re not willing to trust Jesus in your suffering. Your impatience and doubt is your way of calling Him a liar. And that’s very dangerous spiritual game to play!
So the Lord Jesus sends you a preacher today. That’s always the Lord’s cup of tea, isn’t it? Always sending men to preach His Word. This time it is James. He is the brother of Jesus. He is one of the theologians that presided over the Jerusalem council described by St. Luke in Acts 15. St. Paul called Pastor James “a pillar” of the church (Gal 2:19). Today you are given his high pastoral care. His call is for your repentance and faith.
The first words out of his mouth are: “be patient … until the coming of the Lord.” And this promise: “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Therefore, James exhorts you to turn from the impatience of a wavering heart that leads you to “grumble against” your fellow believers in your family and congregation.
Turn, instead, to the patience of the farmer that waits. After all the farmer knows why he must wait and what he waits for – the autumn and spring rains that produce a precious harvest that crowns his year with festal joy. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient.” This is what James expects! And he should. After all you are redeemed by the Lord. You are His new creations – believers – spelled:
Turn also to the comforting knowledge of the Lord’s way given you in the examples of the Old Testament. Establish the trust of your hearts in the Lord like the prophets did. “As an example of suffering and patience … take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” The prophets spoke God’s Word faithfully and suffered for it. They confessed and preached Christ. Steadfastly. Resolutely. They endured much persecution for that.
So do you. For the same reasons! Being a faithful Christian brings about opposition, mockery and harassment. Even attacks from Satan to tempt you to doubt and then forsake trusting in Jesus. Learn from the prophets James preaches. Emulate them as examples on how to live. They suffered with a patient endurance as they waited for the first coming of Jesus. You are to do the same. “Establish your hearts” James says with persevering perseverance as you anticipate the second coming of Jesus. It “is at hand.” “We consider those blessed who remained steadfast,” James says.
Pastor James also reminds you of the patriarch Job. Wow did he suffer! Big time! For being faithful — for trusting the Lord Satan took away all of Job’s earthly possessions and property and he murdered all his children in one fell swoop with a tornado! He doesn’t curse God. He doesn’t despair. He “remained steadfast.” Job, then, is a classic OT example for you to teach you to wait patiently on the Lord and trust His promises no matter what you suffer.
In addition, Job shows you very clearly what the Lord’s purpose – what the Lord’s bottom line is in all that you suffer. The Lord has something up His sleeve and it is for your good. Your eternal good. Your salvational good. You learn to trust that no matter what He is “compassionate and merciful.” Proof of that is the Lord Jesus Himself. He suffered all – Satan’s attacks, unbelief, your sin’s damnation and God’s wrath – in His life and death on the cross. He endured it steadfastly. Patiently. Staying put on the tree. Refusing to come down. Bearing all that immense suffering FOR YOU. For your salvation. Now that’s compassion! That’s mercy!
And now today the very Good Friday-all-atoning-for-sin compassion and mercy are given to you in the Lord’s Supper. The very Body and Blood that He offered on the cross for your salvation He now gives to you with the bread and wine. Hooked with this compassionate and merciful promise: “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Here in the Sacrament of the Altar the Lord exquisitely teaches you and gives you the patience needed “until [His Last Day] coming.” Every week He comes and plants in you His body and blood with His promissory word of forgiveness. It will bear fruit. Precious fruit. A wonderful harvest. The resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
So, “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Hiddenly in the Lord’s Supper. Visibly on the Last Day. Either way you know what you’re waiting for and why with both. It is this: “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Or as Isaiah preached it, “He will come and save you.”
In the Name of Jesus.