INI + AMEN.
(1. Oops!: We all have doubts.)
Doubt is crippling. It’s a burden. Some days you can’t get out from under it. There’s so much going on in the world that can cause doubt and despair. It’s always around. Can you really escape it? We’ve got doubts about all sorts of things. Maybe we have doubts about what our world’s coming to. Maybe it’s just doubts about our own country. Doubts about those in charge. Doubts about those who are running to be in charge. Doubts about those who we think will actually get elected. We’ve got doubts about the economy. Doubts about our kids. Where we’re heading in life. Doubts about work. Doubts about school. Maybe we just have doubts about other people in general: we’re wary of them, can’t trust them. Doubts tend to fill our lives. They press us on every side.
(2. Ugh!: We can’t escape—even John the Baptizer doubted).
What’s even worse about our doubt is that we can’t escape it. Let’s just face it: doubts creep up on us. Doubt doesn’t just show up alone either. Doubt always brings his good friend worry along. And what hope do we have of escaping doubt? Think about John the Baptizer. “What does he have to do with doubt?” we might think. When we think of John the Baptizer, we think of His bold preaching that we heard last week: “Brood of vipers!”—and all that. There’s some confidence behind calling people the “spawn of Satan.” There’s power behind his pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” But John is one of us: “John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” There’s doubt in John’s question. That’s right. John, who preached not only repentance but faith in Jesus, doubts.
That doesn’t look too good for us, now, does it? John doesn’t just have little doubts. He’s got big doubt. Did he put his faith in the right person? Is Jesus really the one? Is He the Savior? When the going got tough for John, doubt came a knocking and faith went going. Isn’t it just the same for us? When things get really bad, don’t similar doubts kick in? We doubt God. We doubt His goodness. We despair of His mercy. We’ve got our faith in Jesus, and what’s it gotten us? We still have troubles. We think, “He wouldn’t let THAT happen to me, would He?” Lose a job. Lose a spouse. Get cancer. It’s all fine and dandy to sing at the end of A Mighty Fortress: “And take they our life, goods, fame child and wife; let these all be gone, our victory has been won. The kingdom ours remaineth.” But what if some or all of that happened? What if worse happened? What if worse IS happening? Then what?
So, what’s to be done? What can we do? Well, we can’t do anything. John couldn’t do anything about it! But take heart, dear Christian. Hear what Jesus does in our text: He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” What Jesus does for John, He does for you and me when we have doubt and worry.
(3. Aha!: ) THE LORD JESUS CALLS US FROM OUR DOUBT.
Now, when the Lord Jesus calls sinners from their doubt and misery, He does one thing.
(4. Whee!:) He points us to Himself.
That’s what He did for John. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” Jesus sends preachers to John, and He has them preach a simple message: what Christ has done. It’s as if Jesus sends His preachers to say, “John, repent of your unbelief. Your doubt. See what this Jesus is doing. He’s healing the sick. He’s raising the dead, John! He’s preaching Good News. He’s preaching that He’s the Savior. Don’t be offended that He’s not what you expected, John. Repent of that. But rejoice in the Coming One that He is! He raises the dead, John. Surely, He’ll raise you too.”
What Jesus says to John, He says to you. “Cast care aside, lean on your Guide; His boundless will provide.” See what Christ has done! He not only heals the sick and raises the dead, but He Himself has died and risen. He’s died and risen for your doubts. Thanks to His living again you don’t have to doubt or worry. Whatever causes you worry will pass away. It can’t get you down forever. Look at Christ! He suffered. He was raised. So also we who suffer will be raised. Because of Christ’s empty tomb “we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Christ already went through all those things for you. He’s died and risen, you have too in your Baptism. You have died and risen with Christ. The waters have done it. What doubt can you have? Doubt perishes in the face of Christ’s empty tomb! For “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” So says Paul who saw the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.
When the Lord Jesus points us to Himself, He points us, calls us away from looking at ourselves. He fixes our eyes, or rather, our ears on Him. “Go, tell John,” he said. In so doing He ties us to Himself. Faith clings to Jesus, unites us to Him. And in this way,
(5. Yeah!:) He makes us great in His kingdom.
We know we can’t be great in the kingdom on our own. Our doubts weigh us down, but He’s paid for them. His tomb is empty! Banish all doubt and sadness, be filled with joy and gladness. Rejoice! Be glad! He lives! His life to you He gives. He gives that to you today, making you great in His kingdom. He feeds you with heavenly food. He gives His body and blood to those He wants to strengthen. There is surety in doubt. There is peace and sins forgiven. Let the devil flee and rout! He’s the cause of all your doubt. Be gone, devil! Be silent, flesh! See what Jesus has done: He raises the dead! He is raised from the dead! Eternal life is yours.
There is joy in that message. Enough joy to wear pink on a Sunday, to light the rose candle on the Advent Wreath. Rejoice that this Good News, this Gospel, is preached to you! But don’t just hear! Take, eat, His body; Take, drink, His blood. They’re given for you. There is rose-candle joy. There is confidence in doubt. There is life in death. It’s given to you.
INI + AMEN.