December 13th – Are You the One

Sermon – 3rd Advent
13 December 2015
by Rev. Max A. Phillips
@Perry Lutheran Home
Christ Lutheran Church—Bouton, Iowa

“Are You the One??”

Text:  “John’s disciples told him all these things.  Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  …’[Jesus] replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor.” [Luke 7:18-19, 22]

I’m not certain that John could have asked Jesus a better question.  “Are you the one, long promised, the redeemer, the man-God?”  Are you the one? Or should we expect another?

The details of this in-effect long-distance encounter between Jesus and John are peculiar.  John sends others to go and find out.  We know why John didn’t go to Jesus.  He was languishing in prison for calling out the sin of adultery on Herod.  But why didn’t Jesus get up immediately and tell those two messengers to take him to John so he could sit with him and explain it in-person?  And why did John send two men to question Jesus and not one?

I don’t know why the circumstances played out as they did, but that inpsired question and answer lead you and me to important thoughts today!

Is Jesus the one?

This question reverberates throughout history and maybe never more loudly than today.  Statistical studies make it clear that people are searching for something Jesus-like, but not Jesus.  They want someone in whom they can believe and call their own.  They have prophets like Muhammad or philosophers like Plato, they have powerful men like Kings and Presidents to look up to and believe in for the necessary changes this world needs.  Mostly, they look to themselves for the answers to life’s important questions.  It seems to me, that human ‘reason’ and ‘understanding’ is the most sought after Jesus today.  Many hold to an attitude that says, ‘faith shouldn’t be out and about, until I can figure it out.’

Men and women today consider themselves more thoughtful and intelligent than the ancients or even our faithful family members back a generation or two.  We have gotten good at seeking truth’s that come only from mathematics or science where the numbers must always add up, or from culture where the heart joins the head and finds outcomes of goodness and equity and choice.    We’ve gotten good at seeking answers via the internet verses answers from prayer and scripture.  We’ve gotten good at understanding things like the creation of the world and evolution based on computer theory that substitutes for evidence and based on the eye-witness testimony of ….no one.

But are we really?  Are we smarter than those people who turned to Jesus and relied on faith that God planned it, did it, and controlled it still?

In answering John’s question, Jesus gave a dragnet answer… “just the facts.”  The answer was certainly providential and how appropriate that the answer was also evidential.  John had sent two men to hear Jesus’ answer.  The corroboration of two men was required by Jewish law for admissible testimony.  That’s why it took all night for the Sanhedrin to indict Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed.  It took all the hours before dawn to get two men to get their stories the same.

Jesus gives evidence as the answer to John’s Messiah question.  Are you the one?  Jesus pointed to what he had been doing.  His ministry of healing people beyond help was the backdrop for this dialog.  Jesus had just healed the Centurion’s servant with but a spoken promise and raised the dead widow’s son with a gentle touch and a firm command for the young man to get up.  He did!

The evidence was not only conclusive; no one disputed or denied it.  They had seen it and news of the rejoicing of those families and communities had spread far and wide.  This Jesus was real and there was nothing it seemed he couldn’t fix or cure.  But was he the promised one of God to come?  Could he fix sin?

The evidence that Jesus gives leads us deeper into God’s promises through the prophets of old who with God’s voice foretold the signs of the one who Israel recognized could forgive sins, the Messiah.  The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed to Israel that the Messiah was coming into the world and he offered evidence of what was to come.  “The eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.”  [Isaiah 35:5-6a]  And later in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.”    [Isaiah 61:1a]

The proof that Jesus was the promised incarnation of God was not just in what he was doing.  It was also in what had been predicted that the Messiah would do.  It matched perfectly!  And how could it not?  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets and all of scripture.  Based on all the evidence, he is the one!

The Baptist was convinced by the evidence and satisfied by how perfectly Jesus fulfilled the prediction.  Anchored in that truth, faith took hold even more firmly and he proclaimed Jesus all the more up to his execution by Herod.

The world is looking for evidence of Jesus today and before we bemoan the fact that Jesus isn’t here in the flesh to heal somebody or to miraculously raise someone up from the dead let’s not give up on the proof.

The Apostle Paul had been one of the greatest skeptics of all about Jesus.  He didn’t believe in him in the least. He saw him as a cancer of false doctrine eating away at the faithful.  So he acted.  He sought to silence any that had begun to believe in Jesus by whatever means necessary.  That was until Jesus appeared to him on that road to Damascus and gave him the healing he needed.  Saul, a man of the law, was resurrected from his spiritual death and blindness. Isn’t it interesting…Saul who would only be convinced by the most iron-clad, indisputable evidence that Jesus was the Christ, himself becomes the evidence for Christ.  You too!

None of us goes around healing lame people, curing deaf people, or raising dead people.  But we have become the evidence for Christ in this generation.

Had Jesus been telling John and his disciples about this generation he might have said something like, “Go back and tell John what you see and hear:  sinners gather in church, people are in righteous relationship with God and they talk to him through prayer, answers are sought by studying Scripture, the faithful commune on me, the greedy freely give sacrificial offerings and gifts to the Lord’s work, the believers sing melodies of faith and they won’t keep still, the suffering pray for Gods’ will, they are at peace even in chaos, and my people rejoice even at funerals.

That’s our evidence of the Messiah!  That’s the evidence that the world needs to see about Jesus!  That’s the evidence that the world sees through us!

Do you see it?  Do you live your life like Jesus was, is and always will be your Messiah?

Of course not.  We do exactly what Paul predicted, we fall short of the glory of God and in too many ways to count.  But what happens next is perhaps the most powerful evidence of Jesus the Messiah and his Lordship in our lives.  Even when we are weak, or when we fall away, or when, like John, we doubt, we come back.  Not because we are smart enough to figure that we were better off before, but rather because the Holy Spirit throws a rope and leads us back through confession and forgiveness and restoral. And here’s a great miracle… that cycle of evidence for Jesus as Messiah is seen in each of you again and again.

Are you the one to come?  Or are we to expect another?

Dear friends of Jesus, there are things today in you or around you that wish to attack your faith and rob your joy.  Based on reason, there is a lot to be afraid of in this world and not much good to expect down the road.  Certainly nothing good to expect in suffering or death which visits all of us.

But here’s the thing, Jesus has overcome the world and confounded reason and he is on the offensive.  Just as many think Christianity is on the ropes, our witness of the Christ as the world’s Messiah gets better.  For we have seen what Jesus the Messiah can do, because we’ve seen him do it for us.

When we are away from him by doubt or weak faith or even by our sin, we can feel the burn and we can feel the Holy Spirit pulling us back.  We miss him because he makes us more than we ever could be and then he makes us hands and feet and puts us together in his body in the church where He makes us more than any one of us could be.  And from here he sends us out!  Not with questions, like John sent his disciples, but rather with answers and kindnesses, every one rooted in the evidence of Christ the Messiah come to me and seeking after the world.

Are you the one who was to come?  The answer based on the evidence of Holy Scripture, the testimony of many witnesses and the transformation in you, is emphatically yes!

Jesus is the one.  And based on the overwhelming evidence we easily follow St. Paul and rejoice in the Lord.  “I will say it again, rejoice!”

Christ is the Messiah, you are part of the proof!

In Jesus Name!  Amen!

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