Maybe it's because I keep getting older. Or maybe because I am getting more cynical. Or maybe it's just because I get tired of looking out at the world and seeing everything it throws back at the church. For example, some atheists are putting up billboards for Christmas that say, "Go ahead and skip church." You just look at the world and it despises religion so much that you wonder what good religion actually does. Do you really need it? And while the world seems to get along OK without Jesus, at least so it thinks, I look at my own life. And if you're like me, you might wonder how it is that you bear the name Christian but can't seem to become a better person. Maybe you struggle with some sin or habit or disagreement with someone. Maybe you can't forgive. Maybe you feel trapped by your situation in life. And it just makes you finally ask the question John asks. "Jesus, are you the One who is coming or do we look for another?" Seriously. Jesus. Is He really the Guy? Or isn't he? Is He the One who can save us or not? Is He even doing anything? John preached about Jesus like He was going to show up to kick butt and take names! Axe laid at the root of the tree and the chaff getting thrown into the fire and all that! But when Jesus finally shows up, what happens to John? Thrown in jail for preaching God's Word. It'll get worse. He'll die a stupid death. Beheaded because Herodias hates him and Herod is a loud mouthed wimp. Where's all the axe and fire stuff now, Jesus? Maybe you ask that too. When the cancer hits. When your struggle with sin intensifies. When the world looks at you and rolls its eyes because you claim to be a believer in this Jesus. So how about it, Jesus? Are you really it? Or do we look for somebody else?
And how does Jesus answer? Go, tell John what you see and hear. The blind can see, the deaf can hear, the lame can walk, the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. It's all the stuff the prophets promised the Messiah would do. Jesus is telling John, "You know what's in the prophets. The Scriptures. The Bible. Is that what I'm doing? Then there's your answer." Yes, this Jesus IS the Coming One. How about you and me. I guess there's the answer: What do you see and hear? Well, we hear from the eyewitnesses who wrote the New Testament all those things Jesus did: healing and raising the dead and all that. But we hear even more. Stuff even John didn't live to see. Jesus being betrayed, handed over, mocked and beaten, scourged and crucified. We heard what Jesus did: hung on the cross, bleeding and then dying. We heard what happened. Laid in the tomb. We heard even more: Raised from the dead. Alive. Seen by lots and lots of disciples. Seen alive! And there's still more. What else do you see? People are baptized. The water and Word are put upon them. Sinners are absolved of their sins in the name of Jesus. People hear the Good News preached to them: Jesus died and rose FOR YOU. God's people eat and drink Christ's Body and Blood. What do we see? The sick are comforted. Those who struggle with their sins are encouraged in Christ by His Word. Martyrs give their lives around the world with Jesus' name on heir lips. It's happening. All over. Jesus Christ is at work all around the world, and right here in His church. He is right here and at work in His Word delivering the comfort that Isaiah prophesied, giving out the mysteries of which Paul and all preachers are stewards. Giving reassurance to John and me and to you and to all His people that, yes, He is the One. The One who comes to save you.
Now, this is not how it goes down: The disciples of John don't come back and say, "Here's all the stuff Jesus is doing and also He's on His way to bust you out of prison!" No, John dies a stupid death at the hands of those who couldn't care less about God and His Word and promises. Yet John died knowing that Jesus was for Him. He pointed to Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus was for John. And Jesus is for you. I don't know how long you'll live. I don't know when and how you'll die. I don't know when and how I'll die. It might be a long time. It might be something quick and stupid. It might be from disease or old age or at the hands of the enemies of Christ. None of that changes what Christ has done. And if He has raised the dead, and He Himself been raised, then believe it: He can and will raise you too! So like I said, maybe you're like me. Maybe you sometimes wonder with John whether Jesus is the real deal. Repent of taking offense at Jesus! His death and resurrection declare that He is indeed the real deals. The fact that He continues to wash, preach to, and feed Christians also proves that He is. The devil, the world, and our sinful natures try to get us to doubt these gifts and what Jesus is doing. But His Word is stronger. His death and resurrection are stronger. Your baptism is stronger. His flesh and blood are stronger. And now you, who are least in the kingdom of God, are even greater than John, for you know the whole story: Jesus crucified and raised. The holy church preserved through all the ages until Jesus comes again. And when he does, then you and I and John and all His saints will have all the words of Jesus and the prophets that say, "Told you so. It's just as He said. His Word is certain." In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Matthew