Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shall We Look for Another?

Third Sunday in Advent
December 13, 2009
Luke 7:18-28

John sends his disciples to Jesus with a question. But he sends them to Jesus. The question he sends them with: “Are You the one or should we be looking for another?” But, he is sending them to Jesus. He’s sending them to the right one.

John was the one who came for this purpose. To send people to Jesus. To point them to Him as the One. Now he finds himself in prison, never to be out again. Never to be out there, paving the way, pointing people to Jesus. He is there, in fact, only to wait for the day when he will lose his head for being a prophet.

And yet, there in prison he continues to do the very thing he was sent to do. Doing the thing he had always done. Sending people to Jesus. Pointing the way to him.

There were plenty who wondered. Many who wondered if Jesus was the one, or if they should look for another. Not everyone believed in Jesus. Not everyone believed He was the one. Many were looking for another. John sent his disciples to the source. To the One. Jesus doesn’t immediately respond to the question of John’s disciples. At least, not with words. Rather, He acts. He accomplished those things in the Old Testament reading that had been promised that the Savior would do: “Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise.”

Then come the words: Tell John what you have seen. Tell him what you have heard. What you have seen and heard will tell you who I am. These things will tell you not to look for another.

John’s action here in prison tells us what we need to know for our own lives. For our own difficulties we find ourselves in. For our own struggles with sin. Our own questions; even doubts. He’s in prison, he can’t do much preaching there. He can’t do much of anything there. But he can do one thing. And that is send people to Jesus. What he does there in prison is what we ought to do in our lives, whether we find ourselves in prison or any situation we’re in.

When you look at Jesus what do you see? Do you see the one, or are you looking for another? When you’re lying sleepless at night after hearing the doctor tell you that you have a tumor, who are you looking to? Are you looking for God to come in between you and the doctor and remove that tumor before it gets a hold of you? When you’re with your spouse or your child or your parent and you feel alone because you’ve spoken hastily rather than patiently and lovingly, are you looking to Christ, or a way to change the other person so that you don’t have to repent yourself? When you’re looking in the mirror and wondering why it is you made a stand for Christ when all it has brought you is broken friendships and the dragging of your reputation through the mud are you looking to Christ or for an easier life as a follower of Christ?

John points others to Jesus. Jesus points to the things He has done. The things He has spoken. Then He says something that goes to the heart of our problem: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” Isn’t this our problem? Isn’t this why we continue to sin? Isn’t this why we hold on to our grudges, our lusts, our covetous desires, our doubts, our laziness? We’re offended by Jesus. We’re constantly looking elsewhere. We’re looking for another to bring us the peace we desire, the fulfillment we crave, the swift end to our problems we think we deserve.

We’re offended by the one who has come in such a way that He doesn’t appear to be much help at all in our struggles, our trials, our needs, certainly our wants. We appear weak when we’re holding out hope for God to help us in our fight against terminal illness, our financial struggles, our constant battle against temptation. When we’re struggling it doesn’t seem like Christ is the One and that there is no other. Too often our response is to look for another. We too often search for a more emotionally fulfilling spirituality. We can so easily give in to our temptations.

What would you have done if you were Mary or Joseph? Or the shepherds who came to the baby Jesus? What would you have done if you were told that this baby born in a stable was God? Oh, and not only that, the only one who could save everyone from their sins and eternal damnation.

Would you have believed it if someone told you that your neighbor down the street, you know, the teenager who was taking up the trade of his father Joseph as a carpenter, was God? What would you have said to the ridiculous claim that this teenager had never committed any sins; that He, in fact, would deliver people from their sins?

What would you have thought of those people, like, say, John, who in prison, was pointing people to this man, who, admittedly was doing some spectacular things, and yet was not delivering everyone from their illnesses, everyone from their blindness, everyone from their problems? Would you have looked to that one also, or would you have looked for another?

Would you have been where everyone else was when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane? In other words, not with Jesus. Getting as far away from Him as you could, leaving Him alone, to be delivered over to be crucified? What would you have thought of Him if you looked at Him as He hung on the cross like a common criminal, among common criminals? Would you have seen God, or a man who was a tragic figure? Would you have seen your Savior, or a man who meant well and indeed did many wonderful things, setting an example for us all?

How would you have handled it if you had seen Him as He had risen from the grave, taught once again, showed Himself this time in glory, and then suddenly ascended into heaven, no longer being present in that state, walking among you, talking with you, being with you? What do you really think of the one who says that He is present with you through a Baptismal washing you underwent at one point in your life and because of that you are united with Him fully? Is your real hunger for His very Body and His very Blood in His Holy Supper, or do you look elsewhere to satisfy your desires and meet your needs?

Maybe the best thing that could have happened to John was to be locked up in a cell. Because it was there that he still saw that something he could do was send people to the One. The one in whom is the answer to all of our struggles, our problems, our sins. Maybe the reason John found himself holed up in prison was not just for his sake, but for ours as well. So that Jesus could be the focus of our lives.

He said that “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.” Maybe in all of the stuff going on in your life you feel like you’re the least. And not just in the eyes of the world or even yourself. But even in the eyes of God. Maybe it seems like He doesn’t care or isn’t doing much for you. Well, what Jesus is saying here is that you’re exactly in the right place. The least is the greatest of all. Your Lord lifts you up to the highest place. And how does He do this? He who is the greatest of all became the least. He came not to be served but to serve. He lifts you up because He comes down to you right where you are.

Should you look for another? No, there’s no need. He’s right where He said He would be, coming right to you to save you and keep you in His eternal care. The one who came at Bethlehem and worked alongside His dad, and healed the sick and raised the dead, and who Himself suffered, died and rose, has come to you in your Baptism and offers Himself to you in His Holy Supper. Hear what He has done. Receive what He does. What He gives you for your salvation. Amen.


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