December 13, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant us hearts of faith and joy.
And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxuries, are in palaces. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
- Today we light the pink or rose colored candle on our Advent Wreath. Purple is the symbol of repentance, a reminder of John the Baptist calling the people to repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. In Advent the Lord calls us to mourn over our sins, repent and bear fruit in keeping with our repentance. Advent is the church preparing for the Lord’s return. Rose is the color of rejoicing reflected in the words of our Introit: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In the midst of repentance there is joy, just as the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents (Lu. 15:7, 10). We rejoice because Christmas is coming soon, the return of Christ is near and our redemption draweth nigh. God calls us to rejoice even though for a time we have to endure affliction, trials, aches, pains, sickness, and sadness. We rejoice though the world around us is often perplexing. I imagine many of the families of those killed in San Bernardino in the terrorist attacks are wondering how in the world this could have happened? Where was God when this was going on? John the Baptist had a similar question for our Lord. God had chosen John to be the forerunner of Christ to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight. He was sent to call the people of Israel back to God’s covenant through repentance and baptism. He came in the spirit of Elijah (Mt. 11:14), proclaiming the salvation of God’s people and judgment against the wicked.
- The multitudes who came to be baptized by John had never seen nor heard anyone like him. He proclaimed God’s judgment against the wicked: the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Lu. 3:9). God was going to chop down the high and mighty, burn the proud and defiant in the fires of Hell, and save the humble and repentant. John was not afraid of anyone, not the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, not even King Herod whom he rebuked for committing adultery with his brother’s wife. But what happened to John? In the middle of a successful ministry, Herod had him arrested and put in prison. John no doubt wondered, was this God’s plan? After all, King Herod was still sitting on his throne, rebelling against God’s Law and no one opposed him. Why didn’t the Lord do something? John had preached exactly what the Lord had told him, that when the Messiah came He would overthrow the wicked and deliver the righteous. But now John was sitting in prison and King Herod was living in luxury. Nothing had changed. Finally John decided to send two of his disciples to ask Jesus a question. Are you the one or should we look for another? He was asking: I’ve heard about your ministry and the miracles you perform, but where is the judgment I’ve been preaching about? When is God going to overthrow the wicked? Jesus answered John’s question.
- Jesus took the judgment of sin upon Himself. Christ came to accomplish a much greater judgment than mere earthly kings. The wicked would one day be judged and destroyed just as John had predicted, but first another judgment had to take place, God’s judgment against sin. John heard Christ’s message of forgiveness, reconciliation, love, and peace and wondered, had he gotten it wrong? Had he placed his confidence in the wrong person? God established the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world in the person of His Son Jesus Christ who would judge sin and the devil once and for all. Paul wrote: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Cor.5:21). Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself so that now God the Father could declare sinners righteous and by faith personally justify them in His sight. Years ago people used to have accounts at local stores which allowed them to buy things on credit. This was long before credit cards were invented. If you had a debt with the local shopkeeper and someone came into the store and paid the debt for you, the storeowner would stamp your account paid in full. This meant he had no further right to collect the debt from you for it was gone and could no longer be charged to your account. The debt was paid and you were no longer bound by it. The same is true of the debt of our sins we have with God. Sins are often described in the Bible as debts we owe to God.
- Because of Christ’s death on the cross God no longer charges or imputes our sins to us. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:19). If the owner of the store met you on the street and demanded payment for your debt you could tell him to go jump in the lake. Your debt has been satisfied, full payment was made. The devil loves to accuse us of our sins. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His Name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also. (Luther). We are no longer under the judgment and condemnation of God, our sins were judged 2,000 years ago on the cross, and confirmed by the resurrection of Christ. He that believeth on him is not condemned (judged): but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (Jn. 5:24). We will one day stand with confidence before God in the Day of Judgment because of Christ. Our good works will be evidences of saving faith.
- Christ died for sin once for all and we can add nothing. The axe of divine judgment was laid at the root of sin, the world, and Satan. On the cross Satan was judged and his claim on us was broken. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die (Jn. 12:31-33). The cross satisfied the wrath of God and reconciled the world to God. The satisfaction Christ made for sin was applied to us in Holy Baptism. When we were baptized into Christ the guilt and power of sin were broken in our lives. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). Now in Christ sin and death no longer have dominion over us. We still sin, but we are not slaves of sin. We have been pardoned, our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, and the devil can no longer accuse us. When Christ laid down His life on the cross the powers of hell were disarmed and rendered powerless (Col. 2:15). Jesus Christ our conquering Savior made a public spectacle of Satan and all his hosts just as ancient generals would often lead a defeated king through the streets of the city in chains to openly display his shame.
- Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. John was perplexed. What he was hearing about Jesus just didn’t fit with his thinking. Perhaps you share some of his bewilderment by what you see in the world. When you read about Muslim terrorists gunning down innocent people and cutting people’s heads off over in the Middle East you might ask, where is God? Why doesn’t He do something? Perhaps you are watching a loved one slowly dying before your eyes or seeing friends or family going through a tragedy where it seems like evil is winning. You may wonder if God cares and if He does, is He powerful enough to do something about it. And the problem isn’t just out there for when I look inside my own heart it doesn’t get much better. If we are honest when we look into our heart we see sin and that same old sorry, failing, pathetic excuse for a Christian, with the same weaknesses and confusion we’ve had for years. We may ask, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I live up to my commitments? Why do I fail so often? Like John we are tempted to ask: How long O Lord will I have to wait to see your deliverance and the final judgment against sin? This is one of the oldest questions in the world, how can we explain the existence of evil? It is also a question about the return of Christ when God promises to make everything right once and for all. But waiting for our Lord’s return can be difficult. It was for John the Baptist and it is for us.
- Jesus answered John’s question by quoting the Prophet Isaiah’s description of the Messiah in Is 35:5-6; 61:1. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Jesus was telling John, I understand your confusion because evil seems to be winning and divine judgment seems slow in coming, but that day will come. And you can be sure of God’s judgment because the Word of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness was being fulfilled at that very moment. Jesus said to John: Look at what I am doing? I’m healing the sick the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf and raising the dead, all of the signs that Isaiah said the Messiah would do. The miracles of Jesus were a foretaste of what is waiting for all who place their trust in Christ. Jesus was preaching the Gospel of grace to all who are poor in spirit, to all who recognize their need of a Savior, and believe on Him. His promise is given to people like John the Baptist and to everyone here. If Jesus was really doing the things Isaiah prophesied, then John could be sure He would do everything else the Old Testament had promised. All of the promises about Jesus Christ are going to come to pass and the Word of the Lord would endure for eternity.
- There was a day 2,000 years ago when it seemed as though evil was triumphant, a day when Jesus prayed from the cross: My God my God, why hast Thou forsaken me. It was on this day that Jesus cried out: It is finished. These words revealed our salvation was complete. It was on that dark day the world had the greatest cause for joy for on that day God was saving the world from sin, Satan, and evil, saving us in the only way possible, by the death of His Son. Jesus took our sins and burdens upon Himself, to give us divine comfort, peace, and joy. The death and resurrection of Christ is our strength, comfort, and rejoicing in the perplexities and troubles of life. Christ offers divine rest and forgiveness to us through the promises in His Word and in His Holy Sacrament where we receive His true Body and Blood under the bread and wine for the remission of sins. God has dealt with our sins completely and when we trust in Christ we share in His victory over sin, death, and hell. We look forward to the day of resurrection and eternal life as we live in a world of sorrow and death. Do you see now why the Christian is able to rejoice on this day of joy? Our joy is based on the finished work of Christ for us. He has forgiven our sins and promises to preserve us in the true faith until the end. Christmas is coming soon! The day of Christ’s return is getting nearer every day! For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Rom. 13:11b). Therefore: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Amen.