Are you the One?
Third Sunday in Advent
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
In our politically correct society of today, it seems everybody is bending over backwards so as not to give the slightest offense to any other religion, creed, social or political sub-culture. It seems to have come to the point of absurdity.
As Christians, we are not to give offense to anyone. Everyone is considered our neighbor of whom we should support and love.
In our Catechism, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther wrote an explanation for the Eighth Commandment. This commandment instructs us how we are to speak about our neighbor
The Eighth [Commandment]
You are not to bear false witness against your neighbor.
What is does this mean?
Answer: We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.
This means we do not make fun of them or spread derisive jokes about our neighbors so as not to spread slander, because lies do certainly bring offense. Our words can damage and hurt. But even if we do not speak poorly about our neighbors, we can still give offense. We do this by our behavior, by how we act to them and to each other.
Often we ignore the needs of our brothers & sisters and our neighbors. We don’t want to get involved, or we feel that we have enough trouble of our own and do not need any more drain on our already small resources.
We soon become disenchanted with the very act of spreading the Word of our Lord to the poor in spirit. We find ourselves coming under attack from the very people we seek to help. We begin to doubt our faith – our faith in humanity and, more importantly, our faith in God.
In the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptists sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Coming One, or if they should look for another. Some may look at this as a lack of faith in John the Baptist. Is he doubting the very Savior whom he proclaimed earlier as the “Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world”?
John and his disciples may have been doubting their faith in the truth of Christ because John was being held captive in a dungeon. They might of thought of how this ‘Savior’ could possibly let the man, the embodiment of the prophet Elijah, who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, remain under imprisonment.
John may have been lovingly giving his disciples a way to find the truth without being offended by it. John’s disciples ask Jesus, “John the Baptist wants to know if you are the one we have been waiting for.”
“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.” [Matt 11:4-6]
Jesus is basically saying to them, ‘Why do you doubt? Look about you; do you not see the work of God here in your presence? Who else but the promised Messiah could do such things?’
Jesus continues to say, that not only do you not see me for who I am, but you are even blind to John the Baptist and who he is. You went out into the desert to see and hear a prophet fulfill the Word of God. Does John not fulfill your expectations? If you do not believe he is the one spoken about in the Scriptures who prepares the way of the Messiah, then you surely will not believe in me.
It is as if the people have been given what they waited for, what they wanted and what they needed, but they still wanted more. People were offended by what Jesus was doing, or better yet, they were offended by what he was not doing.
The Messiah was to come into this world as a King. This King was to overthrow the oppressive powers that kept God’s people in captivity. This King was to rule with righteousness and to cast down the wicked. The people did not see this happening and so they began to doubt their beliefs.
Jesus told them not to be offended by the way He was carrying out the salvation of the world. If they believed that their Messiah was to be like other earthly kings, they were certainly mistaken.
Because of Christ’s compassion for the poor in spirit, because of his desire to heal the sick and raise the dead, because he loves his neighbor and helps them in every time of need, he has become the object of ridicule and slander. The people he comes to save mock him, make fun of him, and slander His name.
We all know the end of the story. Our Messiah is tortured and put to death on the cross. When he raises himself up again three days later, people try to cover it up and lie about the truth. When he appears again in the presence of his disciples, one still doubts. Thereafter, many who are told of Christ’s salvation still disbelieve.
It seems that people are offended by the truth of their salvation from sin and eternal death. The death of one man paying the price for every sin of humankind is not politically correct. How dare someone save my eternal soul without asking me? Many refuse this truth. They don’t want to hear about it. To accept the truth about Jesus Christ means a person must accept the truth about themselves. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ means nothing to a person who does not repent of their sin.
It is easy to see how the message of salvation has been twisted and perverted in this world. Our only salvation is through the truth of Christ, yet we hear of the many different truths and the many different paths to the kingdom of God. Even those who still profess their faith in Jesus Christ are offended by the whole truth.
Those who do not accept the truth do not wish to see their own sin. They do not want to admit that their condemning sin and lack of repentance prevents them from eternal life. It is true that Jesus took the sins of the world to the grave and that all who believe will be saved, but that is not all. Sin must be renounced by the sinner and forgiven by God. Without this very important step, a person will not be counted as righteous before God.
This forgiveness of sins by our Lord and Savior is what gives the blind sight, the deaf hearing, and the dead life. Without the forgiveness of sins, we remain helpless and crippled.
Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. [Matt 9:2-7]
This may be offensive to some of you. You may not wish to hear that salvation through Christ can be withheld from you. And, no offense but, you are the only person that can stop you from entering the kingdom of heaven.
This is why we confess our sins before God in prayer and in corporate confession in the presence of the body of Christ. This is why we take Holy Communion, in order that our sins will be forgiven.
Now do not be alarmed that you have sinned so much that you cannot be forgiven, because the grace of God is limitless. Do not be afraid that you may not remember all your sins in this life and therefore not be forgiven, because God knows your heart. Just as Jesus said to the scribes and the Pharisees in Matt 9:4 – But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” If we confess our sins, known and unknown, God who is faithful and just will forgive us.
We await the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To us, he is the promise of our salvation who has already come into the world by the grace of God the Father. We may struggle from day to day with our own sin as we await the next coming or our Lord from heaven. This struggle may seem daunting, yet I encourage you to keep the faith and do not doubt.
As James tells us in chapter 5 verse 7:
Be patient, therefore, [brothers], until the coming of the Lord. …Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another.
As an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. [James 5:7-11a]