Advent 3: Gaudete (Mt 11:2–11)
INI + AMEN.
Today seems a bit disconnected. We’ve got our joy candle of rose with our pink joy clothes. We just heard Isaiah sing of “Comfort, comfort My people.” We sang that, too! We heard Paul tell us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We sang of a “thrilling” voice. So, what’s the deal with our Gospel lesson? John. Prison. Going to be beheaded. Not much joy there. Death row. Comfort. Joy. One of those things is NOT like the others.
The text isn’t about John at all, though. John’s only important for one reason: He points to Jesus. In Jesus there is enough—more than enough—comfort and joy to go around, even for John in prison.
The joy and comfort of our Gospel text is all about what Jesus says and does and wants. It’s pretty simple. Simple enough for John, his disciples, for you, and for me, too.
JESUS WANTS YOU TO HEAR, SEE, AND RECEIVE HIM.
((I. We want to hear and see something else.))
JESUS WANTS YOU TO HEAR, SEE, AND RECEIVE HIM. But how often we grow tired of the Gospel that delivers Him. As if there’s something more, something besides the Gospel. But there is only one Gospel: That Jesus died and rose again for you, that what He did, He did for you, that what He said, He said for you. That’s how Jesus defines the Gospel: “Go and tell what you hear and see.” Last Day promises given ahead of time: “the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are resurrected.”
But what do we come out to see? What do we come out to hear? How quickly we depart to another so-called gospel! Confirmation bias runs rampant. Do we want to hear what we already think? Do we want to hear completely different things besides the Gospel? Things about ourselves? How we can excel and improve? How our neighbor ought to improve, especially in how he acts towards me. What do we want to get out of coming? Some moving experience that’s never promised.
Do we, as the Greeks who asked Philipp, “want to see Jesus,” and Jesus is in the way He wants to be seen and heard and received? The crucified Jesus? The One who in words, in hymns, and images is “publicly displayed [for all] as crucified”? That Jesus is certainly a “stumbling block,” an “offense,” but Jesus says, “blessed is the one who’s not offended by Me.”
That’s Savior Jesus. Not get you out of your problems Jesus. Not keep prophets off of death row Jesus. No, the one who Himself would be arrested, beaten, killed for our wanting not Him, but an idea of Him.
((II. So, He sends you a preacher.))
But in spite of us, He is a real Savior, who still WANTS YOU TO HEAR, SEE, AND RECEIVE HIM, the real Him! He won’t leave us with our own ideas, our own word. He loves us too much for that. He is such a Savior, that won’t leave you alone with an idea of Him that gives light only as long as you can keep it going. No, that won’t do. So, He sends a preacher.
Everyone’s in need of a preacher. “I send My messenger before Your face.” Preacher of repentance. That’s John, and every Jesus preacher. Clear out your sins. Cast down our false ideas. Actually strive to find out what’s false about us to “make straight what long was crooked,” to “make the rougher places plain.” Prepare. Get ready. Jesus, the crucified, is the only Jesus there is, and He will only reign alone. Forgiveness alone. Nothing else will do when He comes again.
But there’s more. Always more with the Lord! The Gospel isn’t just a nice dessert or treat to have every now and then. The Gospel is a rich feast of joy and fulness, the fulness of the Lord. His preachers come with comfort. So, Jesus ordained, set apart, sent John’s disciples to preach one thing: His own Word and deeds. What He was doing for the blind, the dead, and the poor in spirit. That’s the final message: comfort! Comfort in the midst of death! Comfort in the midst of sadness, darkness, and despair.
All Jesus preachers preach of Him and what He does and says. For this reason He sends them. To dole out His comfort. If you want something other than that, you can find preachers to preach it, but they aren’t Jesus preachers. His dole out the goods, dole out the Gospel, dole out Jesus Himself. They are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries”, the Sacraments, “of God.”
JESUS WANTS YOU TO HEAR, SEE, AND RECEIVE HIM, the real Him. Him as Savior, Savior from sin, death, grave, and hell. No other Jesus than that. He wants to hear and see Him. He wants you to receive Him. His Word is where you hear Him, only in His Word. You’ve got a preacher to deliver it. John had his! His Sacrament is where you see Him: body and blood. But there you don’t just see Him. You receive Him, in the eating and drinking of His Body and Blood. You see, when you hear and see Jesus, where He offers Himself, you receive Him, the crucified and raised Him.
He’s only where His Word, His Gospel is preached. So, He can even be in a prison cell with John—by the Word of preacher. He was with His people Israel in Babylon by the preaching of Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whom we commemorate today. He’s also only where His body and blood are being stewarded out. There He is. He can’t not be.
JESUS WANTS YOU TO HEAR, SEE, AND RECEIVE HIM. So, you have! Just now! What joy!
INI + AMEN.