Matthew 11:2-15 (Advent 3A)
St. John, Galveston 12/11/2022
Rev. Alan Taylor
+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
It seems that a lot of things are standardized these days. You order a drink at the fast-food restaurant by asking for a “small,” “medium,” or “large.” If you want something in between medium and large, or, medium and small, you’re pretty much out of luck. A Big Mac, I am told, tastes pretty much the same in Peking as it is in Peoria. Lowes, Home Depot, Applebee’s, and Target can all be found clustered together along the highways that lead in or out of every city in America. Nothing is really unique. Nothing is distinctive.
Though what I’m saying might seem a bit pessimistic, it’s not intended to be so. I’m simply observing a cultural phenomenon. Whether for good or ill, there is a great deal of conformity and standardization in our lives these days.
Unfortunately, that little cultural quirk sometimes spills over from the mundane, that is, from things that don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things, into the realm of life’s most important issues. For instance, a person who is not well versed in the Scriptures, often finds it very difficult to distinguish between the gods of this world and the true God. Some, in fact, wouldn’t even distinguish between good and evil because, in their minds, good and evil are not objectively measured. As such, Jesus is often perceived to be like any other religious figure who competes for people’s attention and adoration. His teaching is reduced from that which delivers us from the darkness of sin and death, to a mushy, sort of Oprah-esque spirituality, or Dr. Phil-ish style advice.
When it comes to God, and specifically to Jesus, our old nature tends to view or picture Him, not as He is according to His divine word, but as we perceive Him. In other words, left to our own devices, we will always make god out to be what we want Him to be. In other words, we have a tendency to create god in our own image, in our own likeness.
Consider the ramblings of a blogger who often writes about the ills of American Christian Fundamentalism. He says, “If God is truly good, truly lovable, then I can pretty much discount the parts of the bible that portray Him as an entity less decent than me. Why would anyone worship ANY "Supreme Being" that isn't or wasn't a million times better than they are? The OT God does things I could never do in good conscience, makes demands I could never make in good conscience, has far less patience than me, is far less forgiving than I am, is considerably more petty and openly self-centered than I am...and I'm no saint (although not deserving of eternal torment even on my worst day).”
The blogger obviously considers god purely from a human perspective. Or, as I said earlier, he creates god in his own image and then rejects him because he isn’t at least as good as he thinks he himself is.
As we consider the Gospel reading for this morning, where John winds up asking questions about Jesus, it appears that even he had built up in his mind a caricature of the Messiah, of the coming One. Like many of the religious leaders of his day, John, even though he knew Jesus was the “Lamb of God who had come to take away the sin of the world,” likely didn’t understand that Jesus would accomplish His mission in humility and in great suffering. After all, in any sort of conventional way of thinking, a king who desired to establish a kingdom, do so with power and with a certain amount of force. Jesus though came into the world, having put His power aside, in great humility and meekness, in order to usher in His kingdom, through His own suffering and death.
After John called out King Herod for his sin, he was imprisoned by Herod. As he awaited his fate, which would certainly be death, he began to wonder about Jesus’ mission and ministry. From his perspective, imprisoned on death row as he was, things had begun to go awry. If Jesus came to deliver His people from their oppressors, He sure wasn’t doing a very good job of it!
In a moment of uncertainty, John sent a messenger to Jesus to ask Him if He was the “the One,” or, if they should wait for another. It’s the kind of question people ask when God disappoints them, isn’t it?! Is Jesus the One or, is there something better out there!? In a culture where everything is standardized, where one religion is considered just as valid as the next, our tendency to make god in our own image kicks into overdrive. Who do you want god to be? How do you want him to act? What do you want him to do for you in a given situation?
Jesus answered John with something that would take John outside of himself, with something that would cause John to rejoice in the certainty of God’s promises given to His people in the Scriptures. He told the messenger to go back to John and to tell him that “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus quoted a prophecy about the Messiah from . God can’t be created by the thoughts and intents of our hearts and minds. He can’t be made to be what He is not. The true God contradicts all human reason and logic. Even the word of the cross, the Gospel itself, we are told, is “foolishness to those who are perishing.” God comes to us, not because we deserve His attention, but, because we are despised and infirm, the lost of this world who are in desperate need of forgiveness and redemption!
Jesus brings His Kingdom to bear in our lives in a most peculiar way. John would have his answer, but he would remain imprisoned to bear his own cross. Jesus, of course, would carry His cross too. He would suffer and die on it. Having done so, He now uses your sufferings to strengthen your faith and to bring you every closer to Him.
It likely isn’t the way you would do things if the choice were yours. But, that’s the point, isn’t it! God’s ways aren’t our ways, and His thoughts aren’t our thoughts. What you and I would be inclined to call foolish, He calls His power that leads us to salvation.
There is something in this world that is unique after all, isn’t there? In suffering and in death, God has redeemed the world!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
Posted on December 06, 2022 10:24 AM