Third Sunday in Advent – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Matthew 11:2-10 “Go and Tell what You Hear and See”
December 17, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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O gracious and merciful Lord Jesus Christ, who by countless signs and wonders showed Yourself to be the true Messiah that was to come, in whom alone we trust and do not look for another, we give You thanks for the true knowledge of You, and humbly ask You, keep us steadfast in Your Word, lest, being offended in You, we be led to depart from You; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Lutheran Liturgy, companion altar book for The Lutheran Hymnal, p.53)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 11th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:
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.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
In Christ Jesus, who came in the form of a humble servant living under the law, so that you may give thanks and rejoice as He takes care of your spiritual and physical needs, dear fellow redeemed:
Have you had anything happen in your life that you were looking forward to and it didn’t pan out. Maybe it was your favorite musician, they were going to release an Album and the music wasn’t that good. Maybe you went on a family vacation, and it wasn’t that relaxing. Maybe all the conditions were perfect out in the woods and on the lake, and you didn’t get anything or catch anything. It is never a fun feeling when you are thinking about something with the hope that it will happen or be fun and then it ends up failing your expectations. No one wants to miss out. We live in a time where everything is posted online. We want people to see that we are enjoying life. In our text, we see someone important is double checking if Jesus is the One who is expected. Is He really the right person? Jesus doesn’t just hold up to expectations, He shatters them. We can hear and see that Jesus is the promised Christ.
Like John and His disciples, there are many who want evidence that Jesus is who He says He is. To get the answer, John went right to the source. “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?'” How did John end up in prison? Wasn’t He the one who was preparing the way for Jesus? As Jesus ministry began, John’s ministry began to decrease. Even with this happening, John was still very vocal with his message. John challenged someone of importance. “For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her'” (Matthew 14:3-4). Herod liked to flaunt his Jewish heritage, but he clearly was not following the laws of God and John let him know.
Now as John sat in prison, like anyone sitting in prison, there is a lot of time to think. Why would John send his disciples to question Jesus? Well John was preaching about repentance, and he did not shy away from it. He preached, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire'” (Matthew 3:10-12). Jesus began with a message of repentance, and He never changed His message. Yet while Jesus did preach repent for the kingdom of heaven is near, Jesus also brought forgiveness because He is the way of salvation. After sitting in prison for a year, it doesn’t look like Jesus is playing the part, so John is curious.
While John will get an answer from His disciples, Jesus also wants to make a point with the crowd. “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.'” John and his disciples had a question about Jesus being the One. Now if the people were focused on what they saw instead of what they heard, they would have the same questions. The point of John and Jesus is what they have to say. They have the message of eternal life.
Instead of hearing the message, people focus on looks. That is exactly what happened, and it still happens today. Instead of the world rejoicing in the message brought to them from God, a message of His gracious mercy, the world will turn its back. Why is it so easy for us, no matter how hard we try not to, to ignore this gracious message? It is because we are tempted with how we compare ourselves to others and our expectations of them. The devil wants us to believe this is what matters. These are some of the easiest and safest sins to commit. Israel wanted to look like the other nations. The Pharisees were worried about the laws that they created, and the crowds tried to make Jesus an earthly king. When He wouldn’t they later chanted crucify Him. Once we commit these sins, it is hard to go back. The focus changes from what Jesus is preaching and teaching, to Jesus should do as I want. When we bark demands, we forget the message of John, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). There won’t be any rejoicing for those who don’t listen to the message of repentance.
While the world focuses on what John and Jesus look like, Jesus has an answer to John and his disciples. 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.” While John was in prison, decreasing, His Savior was increasing and doing the work that He was sent to do. There were those who had heard John’s and Jesus message loud and clear. As they looked on, waiting for the One who would come and save them, He came to them humbly. His appearance had nothing special to it. In the form of a servant, God the Son reveals His mercy, by curing the sick and diseased, raising up those who died, telling them all that their sins are forgiven.
This message of repentance and forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel. This is what it means for the world to have a Savior. Jesus tells them to “Go and tell what you hear and see,” because this is the job of the Savior. The prophets foretold this kind of work. Jesus humble form brings comfort and joy because He came down and became man. The sins of man cause these problems and they put man’s relationship at odds with God. Mankind doesn’t have to look at the outside appearance any longer, because the outside appearance has its relationship restored with God in the Man, Christ Jesus. Born of flesh and born to die.
John was given such a great gift to see the Savior born of flesh. The prophets prophesied what the Savior would do but, all they could do was wonder what He would look like and who He would be. God would come down and perform all these signs. He would take care of mankind’s infirmities. The prophets of the Old Testament wondered, and John witnessed it before his eyes. He even baptized the Savior to start His ministry. This work of Christ and this message is the reason that as John’s life came to an end and he would die, he will be raised from death on the last day. It is this message of comfort and restoration that heals your spiritual and physical wounds. Jesus didn’t worry about what He looked like; He looked in mercy on how you look. A sinner in need of a Savior. Scripture then tells you to hear and see your Savior’s work. He became a man, was innocent and looked on like a criminal, and He died on the cross so that you wouldn’t hear and see the fires of the pit of destruction.
As you rejoice in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you have the joy to hear this message repeatedly. This is why Jesus came into the world. It was always a message to be heard and be seen by all. The world continually needs to hear and see what Christ has done. Jesus points out that it must be the message that is the priority. “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.’” John looked like no one special out in the wilderness and Jesus calls him more than a prophet because He was able to be the forerunner of Christ. He prepared the world and Jesus saved it. The world will attempt to silence you. Jesus tells you to not be worried. His message will never be destroyed. You can continue to tell others about what you have heard and seen today. You hear Christ in His Word; you see Him come to you in His Sacraments. And when you falter and the temptations of comparison of others and expectations of Christ creep back in, you go right back to what you hear and see, Jesus taking away your sins.
This message brings Christ to the forefront. He is exactly who He says He is. If He would have come the way He was expected to come, if Jesus would have come as the ruler, that would mean judgement. He would bring the judgement of God for He is God. Jesus is the promised King of the line of David, but instead of coming with the scepter, He arrived as a servant. He came with a message for the world to hear and see. That He is the promised Savior of all as He brings healing in His wings for 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.” Rejoice, rejoice, you are saved by Christ Jesus your Lord. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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