Advent 3 2022 – Gaudete (Mt 11, 2–11)

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᛭ INI ᛭

“God is good … all the time; and, all the time … God is good.”

Tell that to John. There he sat in prison. He’d done everything the Lord had appointed him to do. He was the last and final prophet, the preacher of of the coming Messiah. John’s message was different from every other prophet before him. Every prophet before had said, “The Savior will come.” John’s message was, “There He is!”

What did John’s faithfulness get him? Did it get him praise? Did it get him fame? Did it get him prosperity? No, none of those things. It got him trouble. It got him arrested and landed him in prison. Soon, he’d lose his head for being a prophet, a true preacher of repentance and forgiveness for Herod who’d taken his brother’s wife as his own.

Locked in his prison cell—darkness and dungeon—what else did John get? Well, there John sat, nothing else to do but think, and, based on the question he asks through his disciples we see what he got for being an imprisoned preacher. Worry and doubt. What was it all for? Was it all worth it? “Are you the one who is to come? Or should we look for someone else?”

“God is good … all the time; and, all the time … God is good.”

How’s that working out for you? Is God good? Good for you? Good towards you? Or good toward anyone else but you?

There are many nagging doubts that enter our consciences just like they did for John, especially when life takes a turn like John’s. The devil’s close at hand to get you then. Like a shark with blood in the water—that’s devil around a Christian bearing his or her cross.

Suffering, trial, tribulation is one of the marks of the Christian Church, and also a mark of her members, believers in Christ. Believers are “predestined by God to be conformed to the image of his Son.” It is a cruciform image, that is, The Christian’s life takes on the form of the cross. Suffering to cross, cross to grave, and finally grave to resurrection of body.

Does such knowledge make it easier? No. Look at John. He preached, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Now, all he has left is, “Are you for real? Isn’t there someone else? Why’m I rotting in this prison?”

Our flesh doesn’t hold back its confession of God either, really, its anti-confession, its anti-God manifesto. What sort of plan is this? Why am I going through this? Why’d you do this to me? Why’d you let this happen? Why’d you make this happen? What sort of good God are you? Why’d you ignore my prayers? What good is believing in You, anyway? Why’d my life end up here? What did I ever do to you?

You know what you’ve done. (Not that your experience is punishment for any sin in particular.) But besides that, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” But we do! We hate God for being, well, God. This is the original sin to want to be God in God’s place.

**“But where were you,”** the Lord says, **“when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” ... “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?” ... “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?** **“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (Job 38–40)**

What’s the Lord to do with such a sad bunch? With a prophet who’s locked up in prison and imprisoned with doubts? What about you? With your thoughts and feelings about the surrounding darkness? He does what the Lord always does with such individuals. He sends them a preacher.

That’s what Jesus does for John. Jesus sends the disciples of John back to John as preachers for John. They are to give John the message, the good news that “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” That’s just the realization of the message John Himself preached: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The message they preach, that Jesus sent those two disciples to preach is that:

THE CHRIST IS HERE TO GIVE LIFE TO THE DEAD!

John was called out of his doubt by being told what Jesus said and did. He was given the Light of Christ in his prison cell. He was given the hope of Life in Christ as he knew the executioner coming. He was given the peace of Christ in the midst of his worry and doubt. He was given the good news that his sins are forgiven. The very same message Isaiah preaches to us today: “Jerusalem’s warfare is ended, her iniquity is pardoned, she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” (That’s more forgiveness than she has sins!)

The Lord does for you the very same thing He does for John—sends you a preacher. I’ve got the very same message that John heard, the very same message John needed, the very same message Jesus wants preached to the ends of the earth:

THE CHRIST IS HERE TO GIVE LIFE TO THE DEAD!

That’s why Christ came. That’s why Christ was born. That’s why Christ Himself went through arrest, prison, suffering, death, and grave. And He went through the grave; He didn’t stay in it. He rose! He came to give life to the dead, to give forgiveness to sinners, doubters, worriers, mourners, prisoners. He came to fulfill and promise resurrection from the dead by His own resurrection from the dead.

His blood sets us free to be people of God, children of God, His own dear brothers and sisters. Just like Isaiah preaches: there is “double for all your sins.” More forgiveness than you have sins. This is why every Absolution is for “all your sins.” This is why every Sermon preaches the forgiveness of all your sins. This why the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood is for “the forgiveness of sins.” Which sins? All of them! That’s even why each Our Father asks for the forgiveness of all our trespass. The Lord is never done with giving you forgiveness. He died for all your sins, and now in the present tense He continually forgives all your sins. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. … Say that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”

THE CHRIST IS HERE TO GIVE LIFE TO THE DEAD!

(Conclusion.)

The Lord Jesus doesn’t break the bruised reed. John wasn’t a reed shaken by the wind in the wilderness, but he was locked away in his prison cell. He’d forgotten that he was the forerunner. The one preparing the way for Jesus. He didn’t just get people ready. He went the way Christ Himself would go. John preached in the wilderness. So did Jesus. John was arrested in Jerusalem. So was Jesus. John was executed. So was Jesus. John was buried. So was Jesus. On the third day Jesus surpassed John—He came back to life.

Now we are following the same path. Suffering. Death. Grave. But we will receive the very same thing where Jesus blazes a trail. We’ll get a resurrection and empty tomb just like Him.

THE CHRIST IS HERE TO GIVE LIFE TO THE DEAD!

That is the only way God is good. He gives life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, a shoulder for the weak, an ear for the distressed. (He’s God enough not only to shoulder your burdens but to forgive your anti-him thoughts and feelings.) Only the dead get life, only the sinner gets forgiveness. And what if you’ve got a lot? The Lord’s got double for all of them. More forgiveness than you’ve got sins today, and an empty tomb and life forever on the Last Day.

᛭ INI ᛭

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