Expecting Jesus / Matthew 11:2–19 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 11th 2022 / Season Of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday Dec 11th 2022: Season of Advent / Matthew 11:2–19 "Expecting Jesus"
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at Him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Now when John [the Baptiser] heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, [John] sent word by his disciples and said to [Jesus], “Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” What is this question about? And why is John asking it?
There had been some other men who had made the claim in the past so John asks, ‘are You the One or are you like the others?’ John’s question comes before the events of Holy week and Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection from the dead and ascension to His Father’s right hand and yet even later after these events this was still a question some had. Remember in the Acts of the Apostles how in the Sanhedrin — the legislature of the Jewish political and religious leaders — we are provided a history lesson from one of the Jewish teachers, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who recounted how “before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.” So John’s question is a question on mind of the people when it came to this Jesus, people wanted to know is Jesus ‘the one, or is He like the others?’ Essentially should we truly place our hope in Him or not? And what does that mean for them? What does it mean for us?
Let’s dig a little deeper: what might prompt this kind of question from John? Well history, but in addition to the events of history there would be things like trouble, and hardship, illness, sin that people face in the present moment of that time; then there’s the general darkness of the world, and a desperate need for rescue from all these things. John the Baptiser was to be the prophet of the Most High, he was to go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to the people of the Lord in the forgiveness of their sins, John was to do this because of the tender mercy of God, he was to be the herald of the sunrise that was to visit the people from on high, to be the one who would point out the true Light from the false lights for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, that their feet would be guided into the way of peace. If Jesus was ‘the one who was to come’ then John’s work was complete and he could face death with joy; if Jesus was not the one then John would need to be sprung from prison because John the Baptiser’s work would not be complete and necessity would dictate that there would be another one for whom he would need to be the herald, the prophet of the Most High.
This is a peculiar state of affairs, because we know from Scripture that John had very good evidence that Jesus was in fact the one. So on the one hand being rounded up and put in prison facing execution has a way of getting a guy to think, so it may be that the temptations of doubt were playing on John, ‘was I right in what I witnessed?’; on the other hand knowing that he was not long for this world perhaps John the Baptiser sent his disciples to Jesus so they could hear from ‘the horse’s mouth’ as it were, or see with their own eyes as the case would be, that Jesus was in fact “the one who is to come” and therefore at the point of John’s death these disciples of his would become disciples of Jesus, as John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Maybe John didn’t want them to hang on to John after John died, rather John would have it that their hope and joy would be in this Christ Jesus. And what was the very good evidence John the Baptiser had concerning whether Jesus was “the one who is to come?” John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ [Then John says] and I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” With this testimony of Scripture personally it looks like John knew full well that Jesus was indeed, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” and as a result while his question to Jesus might include a desire for some reassurance, it ultimately served to provide first hand assurance for John’s disciples. And due to the nature of Scripture and of God’s love for you it also provides you with this same assurance today, so you like they can have your hope and joy in this one who was to come, who did come and will come again, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
So Jesus doesn’t leave John’s disciples hanging, He hears their question and He provides that needed reassurance pointing to what was happening around Him and quoting to them, in part, the passage we heard from the Old Testament book of Isaiah saying, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” To which Jesus adds, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” In our Gospel reading as John the Baptiser’s disciples departed with their answer Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” All of this is boiled down to expectations, finally immediately after our Gospel reading Jesus puts and even finer point on the subject saying, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
What do you expect of Jesus? In a world that seems more and more offended by Jesus and His Holy Word, what do you expect? An example that you can emulate publicly to feel better about yourself as a person in society, the sort of Jesus who sets the bar low enough to trip over? A motivational speaker to pat you on the back and says, ‘there, there you’re not that bad, you’re not like those sinners out there, just keep going; you’ll keep getting better if you apply yourself?’ A Jesus that says, ‘work harder, believe harder, live better, drop and give me 20 push-ups and I’ll give you the things you want most in this life?’ Do you want a transactional Jesus? Where there’s give and take between you and Him? You give Him your best and He rewards you! That’s not the Jesus of Scripture. The truth is that you do give Jesus something, you give Him your sin and He takes it away and gives you in return forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation in Him. He gives you His righteousness not based on your best but on your need to be rescued from your worst. The Jesus we find in Scripture, the Jesus we find in our Gospel reading today is honest and forthright.
When your prison bars are sickness, poverty, pain, grief, loss you want the Jesus who doesn’t cast you aside for the popular, glamorous, and successful people of the World, you want the Jesus who stays with you in your suffering the one who has come to save you and who will make “all things new” on The Last Day. John’s disciples, Jesus’ disciples, everyone around Him during those three years leading to His crucifixion and death, leading to His resurrection from the dead, leading to His ascension to the Father’s right hand had a glimpse, a foretaste of The Last Day where the blind once and for all will receive their sight, where the lame once and for all will walk, where once and for all the lepers will be cleansed and the deaf will hear, on That Day when once and for all the dead will be raised up, on That Day the rich, the poor, all people will have good news preached to them and all those who are not offended by Christ Jesus will be blessed for eternity. This will be Justice. Of course those who hate Jesus will also receive justice on That Day … it just might not be the sort of justice they envisioned. Consider what comes in the Old Testament from Isaiah just before the part Jesus gives as answer to John the Baptiser’s disciples, consider that part that you heard earlier today where the LORD says to Isaiah,
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
John sends his disciples to Jesus from prison; Jesus Himself would be put in a prison cell. John faced execution; Jesus Himself would face execution. John’s death didn’t bring you the forgiveness of your sins; Jesus’ death was the once for all sacrifice for sin, all sin, even every one of your sins. John’s job was to point to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World; Jesus is that Lamb of God in the flesh. John remained dead, where he today still awaits his personal resurrection on The Last Day; when Jesus was dead and buried He didn’t stay dead and buried, He was raised and now we who have been buried with Him by baptism into death, have the promise that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we will have the same, that we are united with Him, not just in a death like His by our death — where we like He breath our last — but also in a resurrection like His. Knowing this today, having this today, means we are now free to walk in newness of life. So whether your time is long or short, whether you have many day or few days ahead of you, whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God. Help your neighbour to the glory of God, repent of your sins to the glory of God, live to the glory of God no matter what comes at you and joy will be yours.
What do you expect of Jesus? Expect the Jesus who will ‘walk through hell and back’ with you, expect the Jesus who will carry you through the troubles of life and never let you go. The Jesus who will say, “I died for that sin too,” every time you come to Him for forgiveness. John the Baptiser sits in prison and can have joy knowing that his work is complete, did his disciples have that same joy as they walked the long road to ask Jesus the question they were sent to ask? Did they expect Jesus to saddle up and come in riding on a white horse with His twelve disciples in tow, swords drawn, to mount a jail break so that their beloved John and this Jesus could bring the vengeance and recompense of God against the wicked? If that was their hope in their heart of hearts for that day then their heart of hearts would need to be washed clean. What did James say in our Epistle reading? “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord … Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand … As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
We hear these words today knowing how the Lord came to us as the baby born in Bethlehem to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the one who came humble and mounted on a donkey that first Palm Sunday, the one who by the end of that week was stripped bare, beaten and mocked, nailed to a cross in His crucifixion for our sins. James says look to the suffering and patience of the prophets, Jesus confirms in our Gospel today that John the Baptiser is one of those prophets; however as Christians we know that the suffering and patience of the prophets pointed forward to the faultless suffering and patience of Christ Jesus Himself. When you are at your most challenged, most vulnerable, most weakened sate remember Christ Jesus knows your suffering and as Saint James says, “The Lord is compassionate and merciful,” and so we, even in our sufferings, have joy open to us as Christians for the Lord promises to be with us in all circumstances and with Him at our side we are free to have that joy of knowing the end from the beginning; so whatever prison you find yourself wrapping your fingers around the bars of, you can be sure in Christ Jesus that you are not at the end of your story, indeed nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With your eyes on Jesus you need look for no other. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Acts 5:34
 Acts 5:36–37
 Luke 1:76–79
 John 3:30
 John 1:32–34
 John 1:29
 Matthew 11:4–6
 Matthew 11:7–9
 Matthew 11:16–19
 Revelation 21:5
 Isaiah 35:4
 Romans 6:4-5
 1 Corinthians 10:31
 That Day will come at God the Father’s command at The End of time, Revelation 19:11-21
 James 5:7–10
 Luke 2:1-21
 Luke 19:28-40; 22:47-23:49
 James 5:11
 Romans 8:39
Photo Credits: Main Photo of prison cell with window from pixabay; detail Jesus building exterior from pexels; detail candel in the dark from pixabay; detail of Jesus baptism window from pexels; detail of Jesus baptism window from pexels; detail mosaic of Jesus from pixabay; detail of hands holding prison bars from pexels; Bird on a wire from pixabay; detail of sky in puddle from pixabay