Sermon on the 3. Advent
2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples
3 to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
4 Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see:
5 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.
6. "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.
9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
10 This is the one about whom it is written: "`I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'
1. In today's Gospel text we find two parts: firstly, we see how John the Baptist, already imprisoned, sends his disciples to Christ, so that they would listen to Him from now on, and watch His signs, and accept Him as Messiah and Christ. Also it challenges us to pay attention to His Word and to regard the Word of Christ as the most precious treasure there is on earth. Secondly, the it opens our eyes to the importance of not only paying attention to the Word of God, but that we also would put the Word of God into practice. That's why the Lord Christ greatly praises John the Baptist. John the Baptist lived according to the Word of God and also he challenged the Jews to do the same. For his preaching according to the Word of God he was thrown into prison. From John the Baptist's example we should learn to also live according to the Word of God, and not despise as so many do these days.
2. John the Baptist, already in jail, heard of Christ's miracles and sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He is the one the prophets and Moses have talked about. John wondered if He is the Messiah of whom it is written that from the time His coming onward the temple service and the Laws regarding this service shall be abolished and a new doctrine and church service shall be set up – not only among the Jews but among the heathen around the whole world as well.
3. In the Scriptures the coming Messiah was depicted very clearly. Around the same time that John was thrown into prison, Christ started His public ministry. Since John the Baptist had heard about Christ and the miracles He performed, he sent his disciples to Christ in order that they see the miracles with their own eyes, and hear Christ preaching with their own ears. Since John knew the prophecies of old it was crystal clear to him that Jesus was the Messiah.
4. John the Baptist sent his disciples to the Lord Christ because he knew that Jesus is the Messiah, but the people of Israel didn't know it. And so he sent his followers to the Lord Christ in order that they would see and hear Him, come to faith into Him, and eventually leave Judaism and follow Him instead.
5. As they approached Christ and asked Him who He is, He doesn't answer with 'yes' or 'no', but points them to what He did, answering, “You see it, you hear it, now accept it that I am the Messiah. Remember how Isaiah and the other prophets have prophesied about Me. They foretold that the coming Messiah would make the blind see and how he would make the lame walk. Isn't this already answering your question? Just study the scriptures, the Holy Word of God, and you will find out that I am the Christ!”
6. Beautiful words of Christ these are; they teach us what and who Christ is: He is the King of Kings, in His Kingdom are blind, lame, leprous, deaf, and even dead people; and most of all we find in His Kingdom poor sinners, but also everything what poor sinners need. We need to pay attention to this sermon of Christ and His Kingdom and always remember that Christ the King, in His Kingdom, wants to help us poor and miserable sinners. He wants to help our body and soul. When the world and their learned and studied doctors can't help anymore He is still here, ready to help us. Never before has such great doctor as Christ is walked on earth, which was able to heal the sick, make the lame walk, and make the blind see. Also there has never before been such a prophet as Christ is who preached such comforting words to the poor, miserable, fearful and lost souls; and who lifted up the fearful hearts, which were almost drowned in depression, and worry, and made them, laugh again.
7. So far Moses had been the greatest prophet of Israel, but there was one thing, though, he was unable to accomplish: he was unable to comfort the poor sinners. All he could say, was: keep the Law! What a misery, it is simply not possible for man to keep the Law. And so man feels downcast and miserable. The saints of Israel had enough of the Law and longed for Messiah to come. In Psalm 14:7 we read how the saints of God longed for the Messiah to come and redeem His enslaved people.” In Psalm 102:14 the psalmist expresses his longing for the Messiah, too. He asks Him to come and show him His mercy. On the other side, the hypocrites think that as long as they keep the outward Law they do not lack anything and that God would receive them into heaven because of all their fasting, praying, and alms giving. These are the rich, secure people, who think that they do not need the Lord God and His mercy and grace.
8. There is no doubt that we need the Law of Moses, too, because with it the people are warned to live an honest, and upright life. In the secular world we need police, judges, and even the hangman to prosecute and punish those, who do not obey to the law, but are adulterers, thieves, misers, greedy. However, when your final hour comes, you have to leave this world and die: does the Law of Moses help you any? You will have to call on God's Grace by saying, “Dear God in heaven, I know that I have not been an adulterer, thief, or murderer, but still I need your grace, otherwise I am going to despair otherwise I despair even though I have lots of good works to show for.
9. Read the story “Live of the Fathers.” In it the main character stood for three days on the same place lifting up his hands to heaven. He sighed and wailed all the time. His disciples came to him and asked what's the matter with him. He answered them: “I am afraid to die.” His disciples then began to tell him what a good person he has been all his life and how he had fasted a lot, prayed a lot, led a strict life, and how he had kept to the commandments of God. He answered them, “I am very afraid of dying. I spent my life in trying to do God's will, but still I fear death, because I know that God's judgements are different from man's judgement.” That man knew that God judges differently and that God is holy and just and that we can't fool him with our outward behaviour and that our own holiness and good works don't account before God.
10. You see, even though one preaches the Word of God and lives according to it, when the end comes one has to admit, “Lord God, where do I find help?” This old man was so miserable, he didn't know what to do. He lacks what Christ talks about when He says, “The Gospel will be preached to the poor.” Since he only has the Law to live by his consciousness plagues him, he is in great pain and fear and nothing is able to comfort him.
11. Christ says, “My Son, I comfort if you come to Me for comfort. Be cheery not downcast. My message to you is that you do not need to be afraid if you regard yourself as poor and naked before Me. I came to comfort the miserable, downcast hearts. I want to purge you from all your sin. I want to forgive you your sin and you will be cleansed for all eternity. You will have peace.” That's what I call the Mercy of God. Do not doubt His Grace and Mercy.
12.That is the reason why the Gospel is called a merciful, blessed, and comforting Good News. It is as if a rich man freely offers a million Dollars to a beggar. This would be “Good News” to this beggar, wouldn't it? However, what is this large amount of money compared to Christ caring for sinners? Compared to Christ offering the forgiveness of sin and eternal life to mankind who is caught under the Law?
13. Christ tells us that His Kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world. In the world the strong receive the most help. The law of the world is: the strong win over the weak. The world rules with the sharp edge of the sword. It must do that and punish through the hangman's rope, beatings, sword, water, and fire.
14. In the Kingdom of Christ it is different, though. It doesn't deal with strong and holy people. No, the Kingdom of Christ is concerned about the weak, the poor sinners, who suffer from their sin. It is exactly as Christ says, “The blind see again and the dead come back to live again.” It is a miracle to make the dead live again, but it is an even greater miracle that God loves this rotten world and even before the world was created ordained His Son to be King of the sinners and to preach the Good News to them. The Law does not speak of such a King and such a Gospel. Moses says that the sinner belongs into the kingdom of the devil and death. That sounds as if God would only be King of the saints and the pious, who have greater piety than we do, and what the secular government asks their subjects. You see, even the worldly government is part of God's Kingdom. God wants us to be obedient to our secular government. But the secular government is only second in place. It consists of the father and mother, the emperor, the king, judges, and even the hangman.
15. However, His true Kingdom is the Kingdom where He Himself reigns and where His Gospel is being preached to the poor. In His Gospel we learn that our piety does not help us the least. All we can do is say, “Lord, I did whatever I was able to do. I loyally served my master, I obeyed my father, did not betray anyone, did not complain, but I taught my household, my children and my neighbours in the ways of he Lord; I did not steal, have not been unfaithful in marriage. Some might add that they reigned according to God's Word and did not even wrong the least of their subjects. Now what? All of what I just mentioned does not help at the last judgement. These things do not open the door to heaven for you. Still, Lord, I will not despair because I heard in the Gospel how your dear Son and my dear Lord Christ has worked six different signs. Among these is his Word that the Gospel will be preached to the poor, yes, you even ordained Him to comfort the fearful hearts. I will take His Gospel to heart. The Lord Christ preached His Gospel to me because I am poor and miserable in the spirit and because it is simply not possible to find any other help in this world.
16. Already the prophet Isaiah prophesies about the Lord Christ, “The Lord God gave me (meaning Jesus Christ) a wise tongue to comfort the worn out and to talk to them at the right time.” The Evangelist takes up this verse and states that the Lord Christ preaches the Gospel to the poor. This is the reason for Him being King: to comfort and to strengthen the poor, miserable souls. His Kingdom is the Kingdom of comfort and help from God. No one need to despair who is citizen of this Kingdom instead the citizens of this Kingdom can be cheery and happy that their sin is paid for and that they are saved from eternal death. Over and over the Lord Christ states that he came to visit these kinds of people. He did not come for the great saints, who are not even sinners anymore. He did not come for these “holier than thou saints” who despise the Gospel saying it is heretical, and accuse pious Christians that they would be against good works and the Law of Moses.
17. That's why the Lord Christ says, “Blessed the ones, who are not irritated by what I say.” It is true though, the whole world feels irritated by what this King says. In the Gospels we see how the Pharisees, the Scribes, the High Priest, priests, Levites, and everyone else who felt high and mighty think that Christ is a seducer, and how they think that His doctrine is false and heretical. Whatever He says is wrong in their eyes. It seems to them that He pushes the pious and righteous into hell and lifts up into heaven the sinners. And as the Pharisees of then did nowadays the Catholics do; they accuse us of the same things.
18. Again, it says in the Scriptures, “Blessed are the ones who are not irritated by what I say!” Now, if you listen to Christ and accept His Word, then will be admitted into His Kingdom and you will find out that Christ does not teach that good works are worthless, as the Catholics accuse us. No, Christ admonishes the Christians to do good works, to pay attention to His Word, to be obedient to the government, emperor, etc. The Gospel even teaches that the hangman has to use his sword, or rope. Why then do you get offended by the Gospel, and run it down. The Gospel does not prohibit doing good works. What the Gospel prohibits is the thought that we can rest our salvation on the good works we have done. We only are to trust our salvation in what the Lord Christ has done for us, on His grace and mercy. It is not possible for us to earn our salvation, and eternal life by committing good works.
19. God gave us a body with good, usable limbs so that while here on earth we can work with our own hands, talk with our mouth, and see with our own eyes. He also gave us the Ten Commandments so that we pattern our lives according to them. However, that is not enough; once we will depart from this earth and will have to appear before the throne of God. Then our only hope is in Christ and not in our own good works.
20. It is wonderful if you lived a good, pious life here on earth, thank God for this; but don’t set your hopes for eternity on that alone. If you do this you will be lost; instead hold on to the Lord Christ, who makes the blind see, the lame walk again, and who is able to heal the leprous, who makes the deaf hear again, and who can raise the dead, and who preaches salvation to the poor, miserable, and despairing. The Father in heaven did not send Christ to earth that He condemns us; instead He come down to earth to comfort the sinners, and to help them into all eternity.
21. However, those who despise Him and His Word, and feel offended by His Word and who do not set all their hope for salvation into Him –as the Jews did then and as the present hypocrites still do – will be judged according to His Word. It is a major insult to God that the people of the world trust into their own goodness and call the Holy Gospel of Christ seduction, which prohibits good works and makes the people wild and evil.
22. The world is also offended by the fact that Christ is so very poor ands that He carries the cross and lets Himself nailed onto it. He admonishes all the Christians to also take up their cross and be willing to suffer affliction and shame. The world does not like to do that and so they fiercely oppose that. If we are willing to suffer the consequences for standing up for the Gospel we will experience how they will fall to earth just like the maggoty fruit falls of the trees.
23. Also it is a constant irritation to God if we focus more on our own experiences and feelings than on the grace and mercy of our dear Lord Christ and His Word. However, this irritation is not as bad as the others because only the true Christians experience this kind of temptation, it hurts, though. Without the help and the assistance of the Holy Spirit no one would be able to survive these temptations, or afflictions we have to endure all too often.
24. No wonder the Lord Christ offends a lot of people with His kind of doctrine. People hate the Gospel, want to get rid of it and call it a sectarian and heretical doctrine. The world will be judged for such a kind of behaviour. The towns of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida found that out. The Lord Jesus seems to say, “John, the Baptist, was a serious prophet, he only ate wild honey and grasshoppers, drank nothing but water, and lived a pious life. What was the result of all of this? He was accused of being the devil's servant. I eat and drink with everyone, and you call me a debaucher and drunkard, who parties with the publicans and the whores. Whatever one does these “holier than thou saints”, these vipers, and hypocrites find a way to run it down. If someone enjoys the company of people it is wrong and if someone lives a hard and strict life it is wrong also. These “holy” hypocrites only agree to a life style of their own.”
25. Christians always will have to suffer condemnation. Even then, when Christ walked the earth doing His miracles healing people from all kind of diseases and afflictions, and even raised the dead. What did He get for it? The Gospel was condemned and He was eventually nailed to the cross. Even the Apostles who also did miraculous healings were condemned and driven from their home country.
26. We need to get used to this kind of reaction of the world. The world will always have nothing but contempt for the Gospel. The Gospel is a constant irritation for people from all kinds of walk of life. Not only the poor have nothing but contempt for it, but also the “saints” of this world, and the high and mighty, too. Blessed are the ones who accept the truth of the Gospel, and who accept the Gospel as the Word of God. They will be strengthened and comforted by His Word. The puffed up, self righteous and self proclaimed saints of this world only feel offended and exceedingly irritated by it. We only can feel sorry for them. You cannot help the world by preaching the Gospel to them. They do not want to be sinners and they do not want to be comforted when they feel sorry for their sin. Looking at the Catholics, we see that they do not want to be blind nor do they want to see.
27. The Gospel clearly directed at the poor, the poor in the spirit that is. It is directed at those of us who feel like beggars before God, at those who fear God, and who feel their sin and are therefore hurting. It is directed toward those who are afraid of the coming judgements of God. It is not directed at the rich, who only focus on what they have and to get more, and who are only concerned of how to life in abundance. And so it sound strange, or weird to them that the Lord Christ preaches the Gospel to the poor. They do not care for such a Gospel; they condemn it and feel offended by it. We can see that when we watch the Pope and His mindless underlings, the Cardinals, Bishops, and the rest of the high and mighty, who adhere to the Pope. All the ones who feel so overly pious, and good, and saintly, but do not believe in Christ are offended by His Gospel.
28. What an outrage this Gospel creates! The Lord Christ warns His little flock of followers saying, “Blessed is he who is not offended by what I say.” He seems to say, “ Do not worry if the world laughs about you and persecutes you. Don't be baffled by it but think: even my Lord Christ, who executed so many signs and wonders, experienced the same kind of ridicule. Why should I worry about it? He was such a powerful preacher, and performed mighty wonders, but still they didn't believe Him! So let us not be impressed by the power and the influence of the high and mighty, neither by their secular wisdom, but let us hold on to the never failing Word of God which states: … blessed the ones who are irritated by My Words!
29. Since all of what we experience now the Lord Christ had already experienced many years before, but instead was heavily persecuted, mocked and despised, we might expect to be persecuted as well. His teaching is a sting in the flesh of the people of this world. They fell offended by it and therefore condemn it –it is same now as it has been then.
30. Today's Gospel text is sound doctrine for us. The Lord teaches us to submit our lives to Him, and to look up to Him for our salvation, and eternal life, and not to focus on our own good works, which will never be enough to grant us permission into eternal life. We should always look up to Him, who is the King of all grace, and the King of all comfort to poor, despairing souls, who suffer from their sin. To them the Lord Christ wants to grant eternal life. Even though the strict secular kingdom is part of the heavenly kingdom it is partly part of the Kingdom of Heaven. The secular kingdoms of this world are temporal; the Kingdom of Heaven is eternal. This truth comforts us and lets us rest assuredly on what Christ has done for us. Faithfully you can speak to yourselves, “I believe in the Lord Christ, who made the blind see, the lame walk, healed the sick, made the deaf hear again, and raised the dead. I have His Word, and I am certain that even in my greatest need, He will help and not forsake me. The reason for Him to come to earth was to save me, a poor, miserable sinner, and to comfort me through His Gospel, and to clean me from sin and death in all eternity.” All, who have such a faith, will one day this vale of tears, and enter eternal joy and bliss. This dear Lord and Saviour Christ may grant us. Amen