Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.
God is funny; not funny in a ha-ha kind of way, but funny in an ironic way. What I mean is that God does not act in ways that we expect Him to act. As we look at Israel’s history, they found out firsthand just how God did not act they way they wanted Him to act. God chose the least likely to preach and teach of the coming Messiah. All too often, God didn’t choose the biggest and baddest of them all to lead Israel. For instance, when God delivered Israel from slavery, He chose Moses, not when he was the prince of Egypt but rather when he was reduced to working as a shepherd. When Goliath was defeated, it wasn’t at the hands of Israel’s massive army but by a lowly shepherd named David. The greatest display we see is when God would bring ultimate deliverance to His people, and to all people, it would be in a way that many were not expecting.
Israel had expected God to act in certain ways. The people of Israel expected God’s reign to come in a way that irresistible. There was the expectation that God would kick out Roman authority from Jerusalem and restore it to its glory days of old. That’s what the coming Messiah would do; everyone knew that, or at least had hoped that’s what their version of the Messiah would do.
When God sends forth the Messiah into creation, He doesn’t do it according to the will of man but rather to His own will, the will that is perfect. He sends forth a very simple and unkempt man named John the Baptist to herald the coming of the Messiah. While his appearance and attire were odd to say the least, the message that he was proclaiming was spot on according to the words of the prophets of old. He comes, baptizing the people with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of their sins.
Some time later, John hears while in prison the many deeds of Jesus. He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask a single question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
That’s the question on our minds isn’t it? Is Jesus the one who is to come or should we be looking for another individual claiming to be the Messiah? Is Jesus really Messiah-enough for us? For many, the jury is still out. It’s hard to believe that a little baby born to lowly and insignificant parents would be the Messiah. There’s nothing about Him that screams Messiah from an outward appearance. He’s born in a barn of all places! If He truly is a king, then why isn’t He born in a palace somewhere, with servants waiting on Him hand and foot? Where is His mighty army that will kick Roman authority out of Jerusalem? Where is the kingly garb for Him to wear?
Jesus doesn’t fit the mold of the Messiah because it’s the wrong Messiah. He doesn’t come as a great earthly king like the people want. He comes as the heavenly King that the people need! The way that He makes His entrance into creation is how God had ordained it. While He is indeed the King, the King of Creation, He is not meant to be served, for He Himself says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He has no mighty army because the foe that He faces is not of this world. His foe is Satan himself. The kingly garb He wears is the crown of thorns He wears as He takes creations sins upon Himself.
Returning to John’s disciples’ question, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”, Jesus responds by 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. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” This answer isn’t meant to assure John of who Jesus is; John knows that, for he is the herald of the Messiah. The question and answer are meant to assure everyone else of who Jesus is. They need to get out of their minds this messed up and made up notion of the Messiah and accept the Messiah that God sends forth in the person of Jesus Christ.
The question that was asked of Jesus so long ago is still asked today. Well, it’s not really asked so much as an answer is given to Jesus: “We’ll look for another.” We can thank the world for that answer. The world has perfected that answer to the point that Jesus need not even be considered for salvation. The world won’t go so far as to say Jesus is the Messiah because that would assert that there is a single means of salvation and the world doesn’t want that to happen, lest we offend someone.
For as much as the world puts forth that salvation can be found in anyone or anything other than Jesus, the Church should be the one place where you should be able to find the right answer to John’s question, but unfortunately, even that is not always the case. You will get the prosperity preaching that says believe hard enough, have enough faith and God will bless you. But notice who the subject is: it’s not Jesus but it’s you. You are the one doing the work. But as soon as you are the one doing the work, then you have a problem. It has to be, it must be Jesus who does the work and not us.
For all those times when God’s people wonder whether or not God will keep His Word regarding the Messiah, the time is soon to be fulfilled. When we have our doubts, we return to Jesus’ Word. We return to Jesus’ life. From birth to death, there was a singular mission that He was focused on: the redemption of God’s creation. Everything that was done was done with you in mind. He sends people to proclaim the wonders He has done so that we can hear about them. By this proclamation of His deeds, He sends the Holy Spirit to bear us up and strengthen us as we travel through this sinful world, especially as we travel through those darker times of doubt.
Here is the true antidote for doubt: the proclamation that Jesus forgives sins. We may think that we can take comfort and certainty in the many supernatural attributes of God; His power, His knowledge, His wisdom, His holiness, and so forth, but that is not the case. Without forgiveness, those other attributes only serve to terrify us. If there is no forgiveness, then God’s holiness only sets Him apart from sinful people like us. If there is no forgiveness, then God’s total knowledge reveals our every sin. If there is no forgiveness, then God’s power is there to punish our sin. Without forgiveness, God is simply the ultimate terror.
When there is forgiveness, then God is comfort and assurance. When there is forgiveness, God’s holiness is for us. When there is forgiveness, God’s power protects us. With forgiveness, God is the ultimate comfort. He is the ultimate re-assurance.
We celebrate the coming of our Savior in the manger at Bethlehem because it is through Him that our sins are forgiven and the gates of heaven are opened. Through His atoning death He conquered your death, and raises you to a new life. By faith granted through the Holy Spirit, we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to His people, He now comes to you, who are His people by faith, and He will come again, that you would need and expect no other. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.