Great Expectations / Luke 7:18–35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 12th 2021 / Season of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday Dec 12th 2021: Season of Advent / Luke 7:18–35 "Great Expectations"
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind He bestowed sight. And He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
When John’s messengers had gone, 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 are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 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.’
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at Him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
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. When John’s messengers had gone, 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 are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
One of the themes of the season of Advent is expectation. Expectation is closely connected to joy. Each year on the third Sunday of Advent we light the rose coloured candle in the Advent Wreath and we contemplate joy; often though this contemplation is a contemplation of joy in the face of adversity. This is why we hear about John the Baptiser who had been locked up in prison sending his disciples to Jesus asking if Jesus is truly the long expected messiah. This is why we also have our epistle reading from St. Paul who around 20 years following the events of the Gospel today is likewise in prison writing, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
St. Paul can write about Joy from his prison cell because Paul knows that Jesus is the Messiah and St. John’s disciples can return to John as John sits in prison with Joy to confirm that they have witnessed Jesus doing the very things that Isaiah in the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would be doing. Even though John the Baptiser is locked up they can return to him with joy because of the Good News they carry. You are ones who carry Good News. You carry the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah, the Saviour, and not just in an abstract sense, Jesus has saved you and His birth which we are about to celebrate this month at Christmas ushered in that salvation: the path that lead to the cross of His crucifixion and death in your place and through the empty tomb of His resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven.
In our Gospel Reading today we have a division: Some who witnessed this, some to whom this was being preached and taught, believed that Jesus was indeed the long expected Messiah and some did not believe. For some, like John the Baptiser’s disciples, Jesus fit what was expected of the coming Messiah, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them,” for others like the Pharisees and the lawyers who had not gone to the Jordan to receive the baptism John the baptiser had been providing before his incarceration, these ones, for them Jesus did not meet their expectations of what the Messiah was supposed to be. Even though they had undoubtedly studied the prophetic writings of Isaiah and knew well the many promises of God from Scripture even the one from Zephaniah that we heard this morning in our Old Testament Reading. For these their expectations got in the way of seeing Jesus for who Jesus truly was. Jesus wasn’t enough like them. In their estimation the Messiah, the Saviour, wouldn’t eat with sinners or associate with tax collectors. They had for gotten what Psalm 51 says,
“O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
You will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
The sinner, even the tax collector, the man locked up in prison who has a contrite heart and a broken spirit, who has the praise of God on their lips is exactly the kind of person, exactly the kind of people the Messiah, the Saviour would be expected to care for. In fact Jesus had already tried to teach this to the Pharisees when the Pharisees and their scribes [the lawyers] grumbled at [Jesus] disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees had the Temple, they had the sacrifices, they had their personal study of Scripture, they had their good works by their careful keeping of the law as they understood it, they had their spirituality they didn’t think they needed this Jesus.
The one who thinks they are well, who believes they are in no need of being saved, who think that the things they do are not sins and that they do not require forgiveness for them is very unlikely to come to Jesus for forgiveness, even if they are just as downtrodden and in need as everyone else. Expectations, personal or otherwise when misguided, run interference in the face of salvation and whatever joy they think they have will be ash in their mouths when the truth of Christ Jesus is revealed on The Last Day.
Briefly what do you think people expect of Jesus today? What do you think people in general expect of the Church today? Often it is permission to engage in sinful lives, acceptance for the sins they indulge in based on the vague general goodness of their daily life, and if it ever comes to forgiveness it is forgiveness for everything in their life except their pet sins which remains unrepentantly and proudly displayed on the end of a leash for all the World to see and praise. But beware without repentance and forgiveness found only in Jesus the pet sin on the leash will soon be the one holding the leash and the collar will not be on the pet sin it will rather be fixed around the neck of the person who thought they had everything under control on their own without God. Do you think people expect Jesus to speak the law of God to them? Do you think they expect Jesus’ bride the Church to do the same? Jesus embodies Law and Gospel, as does His Church … not long after the events of our Gospel today as Jesus sends out the Seventy Jesus says to them, “The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” When a person’s expectations get in the way of their acceptance of the Church, they are clearly in danger of having their expectations get in the way of their faith in the Jesus’ of Scripture. And when a Church lets the World and what is popular in the culture or society get in the way between them and the Jesus’ of Scripture they then become a Church in danger of being cut off from the vine. Remember what St. James says, “friendship with the World is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the World makes himself an enemy of God.”
This is why Jesus says: “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ This was true then, and it is still true. You’ve heard the saying “he who pays the piper calls the tune!” This is what the World expects. But John the Baptiser and Jesus did not come to the World the way the World expected; Not the way the Pharisees expected, not the way many people today expect.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ the World prepares to celebrate “the Holidays” but what you expect to celebrate and what the rest of the Western World expects to celebrate are very different. We enjoy spending time with family but our joy is made complete in our faith because it bubbles up from Christ Jesus and His birth. The World fixated on tinsel and bobbles, finds joy in family and togetherness but if it is not built on the foundation of Jesus Christ it is a false joy, a joy that will only fade and tarnish over time, it will not be lasting.
John the baptiser doesn’t get out of prison, (That’s a spoiler by the way) he is martyred for his faith in Jesus and some 30 years later St. Paul is likewise marked for death and is martyred for his faith in Jesus yet they are both men who are also marked with joy, joy in Christ Jesus regardless of the bleak circumstances they find themselves in.
How do you expect your life to end? I don’t expect my life to end. Oh I expect to die, not sure how that’s going to go, I don’t know if it’s going to be like St. Paul or St. John the Baptiser, I don’t know how it’s going to go but I don’t expect my life to end, even though I expect to die, because my life is in Christ Jesus and He is eternal and He has promised me eternal life in Him. I am baptised into Christ. Remember if you dace to the music played by the World, to the tune called by the World and not the one called by the Word of God, you will find yourself dancing not into a wedding reception but into a graveyard, into the second death, eternal death. Jesus has paid the piper with His blood and the tune He calls leads into eternal life. Because of this I can have joy in the face of discouragement, because of this I can have joy in the face of whatever comes my way. This is yours in Christ Jesus. Because of this you can have joy even through the bars of a prison cell, or from the edge of a hospital bed, maybe even if you can’t even get to the edge of the hospital bed just laid out flat in it you can still have joy, you can have joy in the face of any trouble or pressure, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Jesus is the long expected Messiah, the long expected Saviour, He is the one who was promised and for us, for you, for me, He is now the long expected Messiah, the long expected Saviour all over again as we now wait for His Second Advent on The Last Day.
Dear ones, it may be tempting to say ‘who cares what the World expects this “holiday season,” keep your expectations firmly centred on Jesus, firmly centred on Jesus as you find Him in Holy Scripture: It’s ok to care what the Word thinks and what the World expects, because if they expect wrongly and you happen to be there to tell them the truth of who Jesus is, how wonderful it will be for them if they hear the Good News and believe it. Remember God’s Word will not fail you: remember “the Word of the Lord endures forever.” And this Word is the Good News that was preached to you. Share it with others. 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,
 Philippians 4:4
 Zephaniah 3:14-20
 Psalm 51:15–17
 Luke 5:30–32
 Luke 10:16
 James 4:4
 Luke 7:31-34
 Matthew 6:19-20
 Revelation 20:14
 1 Peter 1:25
Photo Credits: Main Photo Leaf in Fence from pexels; Reeds from pexels; Jail Bars from pexels; Lock and Key from pexels; Detail Jesus Window from pexels; Jesus Crowd from upsplash; Pet on Leash from pexels; Detail Flute from pexels; Detail Tinsel Decoration from pexels; Detail Jesus Crucified from unsplash; Baptism Font from schultzphotographic.