Sunday, December 14, 2008

One You Do Not Know

Third Sunday in Advent
December 14, 2008
John 1:6-8, 19-28

“among you stands one you do not know”

The murder mysteries where everyone is in a mansion and no one can leave are fascinating. Everyone knows that one among them is the murderer, but no one knows who it is. John the Baptist said to the religious leaders that they did not know the one among them he was pointing them to. It was mystery. A mystery that was about to be revealed. We know who He is. They didn’t. But that’s why John the Baptist was there.

How do we know who Jesus is? The way we know is that He comes among us. No one can know who Jesus is apart from Him being among them. It is impossible for you to know Jesus apart from Him coming to you in His Word and Sacraments.

John the Baptist’s interaction with the religious leaders raises questions about Jesus, even though we who know who He is. How do we know who He is? Is there anything about what John the Baptist says to the religious leaders—who didn’t know who Jesus was—that applies to us? If so, how? What do we need to do in order for us to fully know Him?

Reason won’t help here. There is no proof that Jesus is who He says He is. Many people heard John’s proclamation and repented and were Baptized. Many did not. Both groups, though, did not know who Jesus was. John was the one who came to tell them. To point the way. John the apostle says that John the Baptist was “a man sent from God.” For all the crowds knew, he was just another eccentric preacher. For all the religious leaders knew, he was just another pretender.

There was nothing about John that made him special as the Messenger of Jesus Christ, the voice crying in the wilderness. It’s not that he was a powerful preacher, or that he was different, or that he had the credentials. No, it was nothing like that. It was simply that he was sent from God. It was nothing more than that he preached the Word of God. It was nothing else than that he pointed the way to Jesus.

John the Baptist is sent from God. He might have been tempted to think highly of himself for that fact. But being sent from God he realized that it really wasn’t important who he was. It was all-important who the Christ was that he came to point to. The religious leaders wanted him to talk about himself, they wanted to know who he was. But, nope, that’s not what he wanted to talk about. That’s not why he was sent. I’ll tell you who I’m not. And I’ll tell you about another person you do not know.

When John came on the scene no one knew who Jesus was. What does it mean to know Jesus? We cannot know Jesus apart from His revealing Himself to us. That is why He has come among us. We celebrate His birth at Bethlehem for the reason He was born at Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary knew their son. But did they really know Him? Did they look down at their cute little baby and see God? Did they know He was the Promised Savior who would suffer for the sin of the world?

We can’t get into the minds of those people back then. What we know is what we know. And we know who Jesus is. But do we look at the things He’s given us and shrug them off as insignificant? Do we hear His Word as simply a nice message? Do we treat our Baptism as something that happened to us so long ago—and we’re glad it did—but we’re not sure what impact it has on our lives day to day? Do we take the Lord’s Supper for granted, much the way we take many of our meals?

If you are staying away from the Gospel, if you are ignoring your Baptism, if you pass off the Sacrament as merely a ritual, you do not know Christ. These are the only ways you can know Him because these are the only ways He is among you. The religious leaders questioning John not only didn’t know Jesus, but when they were met with Him in the flesh they rejected Him.

What about us? We can handle the baby Jesus in the manger, the healing and preaching Jesus, the suffering Jesus on the cross, and certainly the Jesus who rose from the dead —but what do we make of the Jesus who comes among us in words and water and bread and wine? Is it really Him? It is really the Incarnate God, Jesus, coming to us in those simple ways? Is He really delivering to us in that Word and those Sacraments forgiveness of our sin and eternal salvation? Is He actually coming among us in those means, uniting Himself with us in those ways?

John would say yes. The one he pointed to would say yes. God’s Word says yes. All who point to Jesus say yes, who preach that very same Gospel of one among you who is your Savior. And, yes, you do know Him. You know Him because He is among you. Because He dwells among you in the flesh in His Word and in His Sacraments. You know Him because He knows you and dwells among you. You know Him because He has claimed you as His own in His Gospel, coming to you in your Baptism, coming to you in the Supper He prepares for you. You know Him because you have come to see as John the Baptist did that it’s not about you but always about the one he pointed to.

Jesus knew that when He came He would be rejected by many. That didn’t stop Him from coming. John stayed the course when they tried to steer him off course. There’s a reason God sent John. To show people the among-you-ness of the Gospel. That God sends people in the flesh to bring about salvation. John, coming to people to point them to the One. The One Himself coming in flesh, among us, to be the Gospel incarnate. Coming in the flesh to suffer in the flesh—His body sacrificed, His blood shed. Coming in the flesh in your very life, as you live and breathe by every Word that comes from the mouth of God; the flowing water of life in your Baptism; the Body of Christ sustaining you, His Blood coursing through your veins. He is among you and knows you, even as you know Him. The one among you will come again in glory that you may be with Him in glory forever. Amen.


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