December 12, 2021 A+D
St. Matthew 11:2-11
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When John sends His disciples to Jesus we learn beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Christ who comes in the Name of the Lord. The miracles that He performs attest to His restoration of creation and fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. This reality is meant to comfort John and us. Our God is not far away. Risen from the dead, He still comes to us in Word and Sacrament. His presence is closer and more powerful now than it was then.
We also learn that faith must wait. It cannot insist on its own way. Jesus tells John’s disciples to tell him what they hear and see. “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Part of what Jesus is pointing to is written in Isaiah 61. There the Messiah says: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” But John, of course, will not be liberated from Herod’s dungeon until his head is liberated from its shoulders. John must live by faith.
John is the greatest and last of the prophets, but he must be least in the Kingdom of heaven. He must live by faith and trust God’s Word where God sticks him in his decrease.
Whether John sent his disciples to Jesus primarily for their benefit or because he was seeking some encouragement for himself, doesn’t matter. Either way, the source of all comfort is Christ and His Word. When we are afflicted by doubts, assailed by temptation, wearied by the waiting, we, too, must consult God’s Word and ask Christ to comfort us. We must stick to it even when we don’t get what we think we want.
Holy Scripture alone teaches us what to expect of God and what the mission of the Messiah is. And it also teaches us that this creation will end. We must not cling to it. God consoles our consciences by proclaiming the history of salvation and how it is that He forgives sins and satisfies all the accusations against us. He also teaches us to not be offended where and when He doesn’t meet the expectations of the world or where and when we and our brothers and sisters in Christ don’t look like victorious believers, but look and feel instead like John in prison. Blessed is he who is not offended by Jesus or the waiting or the poverty of the Church on earth. Blessed is he who trusts in Christ and judges not by sight or in the ways of men, but who holds fast to the Word of Jesus.
Imprisonment or worse may come for us. Sorrow will come for sure. You can’t live long in this world without being forced to live without someone you love or by being betrayed and hurt by someone you love or by losing someone you love because of your own selfish stupidity. Do not lose heart. Repent. Trust in Christ. His love is the love that you need. It is the love that matters and which does not fail. It is the love grounded in mercy for forgiveness. He is the One who comes for you in Word and Sacrament. He will not and does not forsake you.
In addition to sorrow, persecution also comes and is already here. Demonic forces and their human agents are arrayed against us. Just because we aren’t in prison or haven’t resisted to the point of bloodshed, or because the world and its authorities tolerate a certain amount of our preaching in confined spaces, that is that we keep it behind closed doors or in services with no more than 10, does not mean that is well. All is not well. The world hates the morality of Christ and those who proclaim it. It hates Christ’s insistence that they need His forgiveness and saving and those who proclaim it. It hates His claim that He is God and there is none other and those who proclaim it. We live in the world but are not of the world. Christ is our King. Like John before us we will not be fully free until at last we are relieved of this body of death, either when we stop breathing or when He comes in glory. Either way, for us it will be greatest gain.
Greatness in the eyes of men or the Church Militant or amongst your closest kin doesn’t matter. We certainly want to be faithful, but the degree of faithfulness doesn’t really matter either. What matters is faith. Least in the Kingdom is greater than the greatest of the prophets. Cling to Christ. Trust in His Word. Wait on His promises.
He is the Coming One, then and now. He comes now in Word and Sacrament. He is not absent or forgetful. He is not less present now than He was in Israel when John was in prison or Lazarus was dying in Bethany or Peter was warming his hands in the courtyard of Annas. He is here according to His promise in His exalted state. We receive Him by faith in the promised places: in the reading and preaching of His Word, in the waters of Holy Baptism, in the Absolution, in the mutual consolation of the brethren, and above all, in the Holy Communion. This is where He comes. This is our comfort and cause of rejoicing.
So rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I say: rejoice.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.