Saturday, December 13, 2008
December 14, 2008 Advent III Matthew 11:2-10
And John, having heard in the prison the works of the Christ, having sent through his disciples, he said to Him, "Are You Yourself the One coming, or will we wait for another?" And He answered: Jesus said to them, "Having gone, announce to John what you are hearing and seeing; blind receive sight and lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf are hearing, and dead are being raised up, and the beggarly are being evangelized; and blessed is whoever does not fall into a death trap on account of me. And as these were going, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John, "Why did you go out into the desert? To see a reed by the wind shaken? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed soft & fancy? Look, those wearing what is soft & fancy are in the houses of kings! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes I say to you, and much more than a prophet! This it is, concerning whom has been written, "Look, I Myself send on a mission my angel before your face, who will prepare Your way before You. Amen, I say to you: there has not arisen among those born of women greater than John the Baptizer; but the one lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.
What is going on with John the Baptizer?!. He was the one who boldly confessed Jesus, as the Lamb of God Who came to take away the sins of the world! John knew Who Jesus was, compared to him. He boldly confessed that he was not worthy to even untie the strap of Jesus' sandals! He willingly became lesser & lesser, knowing Jesus would become greater and greater. Now, he seems to question just who Jesus really is. Has being in prison begun to get the best of him?
From our view, we might assume that John must be having a crisis of faith, or that doubt is beginning to creep in. But we ought not jump too quickly to such a conclusion. For John is a master teacher, one who knows how to use questions wisely. Your teachers in school didn't ask you questions because they didn't know the answers, did they? They posed questions to you for your benefit, so that you could learn something, and that's just what John was doing for his disciples.
John asks a question through these disciples for a reason. Is Jesus the coming one whose advent believers await? Of course he is. Then why have these disciples of John not realized yet that the Baptizer has now grown lesser and lesser, and that they ought to be following the one Who is growing greater & greater? So John cleverly sends them to Jesus to see for themselves, and their Savior does not disappoint them. They actually witness the miracles Jesus describes.
In John becoming lesser and lesser, therein Jesus points out the Baptizer's greatness. No greater man has been born than John was. But his greatness was in humbly stepping out of the way so that Jesus could walk in the way the Baptizer prepared. John knew that it wasn't all about him. It was all about God, Who had taken upon human flesh to tabernacle among men. Jesus was the One Who was to come, and John has successfully pointed his clingy disciples toward Him.
Jesus speaks another thing which causes us to ask, "What's up with John the Baptizer?" The Lord declares that the lesser ones in God's kingdom are greater than John! Does this mean we won't see John one day in heaven? Of course not. Jesus is simply pointing out John's greatness found in his humility. For John was a lowly slave to God's people. His humble service was preaching God's gift of repentance and administering God's baptism to bring others into God's kingdom! Boy can we learn a lot from John the Baptizer.
First, it is not about all of the things we do for the church that's most important, rather what God provides us which we receive that matters most. Your greatness is not all about holding a church office, or pitching in to help out in cleaning, decorating and maintaining your church. Those are but opportunities for humble service, anonymous if possible, so that even your left hand does not know what your right hand has done in the end .
Greatness in the God's kingdom of heaven down here, known as the church, is all about what God does. First & foremost it is in the healing, in the restoration, and in the resurrection Jesus brings to sick, forsaken, dead-in-our-sins folk like you and me. Jesus' word proclaims your illness of sin cured from lectern and pulpit. Your adoption into God's family through Baptism restores your relationship with your heavenly Father. And the body and blood of Jesus, which died & rose on high for you forgives your sins, and bestows to you eternal life and everlasting salvation.
So what's up with John the Baptizer? Simply, once again, directing us to our Savior, Christ Jesus.