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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Dec 11, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace are yours from God our Heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 3rd Sunday in Advent, Matthew 11:2-15. There we read these words:

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."

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, "‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN. Dear Christian friends,

Bible scholars and pastors like to debate the question, "Why did John send his disciples to Jesus? What was John’s motivation?"

Some say that John sent his disciples to Jesus for his disciples’ sake. In other words, John was simply doing what John had always done, pointing His disciples to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away their sin, and your sin, and the sin of the world. Others say the opposite. They say that John sent his disciples to Jesus, not for his disciples’ sake, but for his own sake.

They say, that John was in prison and about to die. That John was quaking in his boots. That John suffered doubt and fear concerning the very Gospel that he himself had preached. That John was having a hard time believing that the good news concerning Jesus applied also to John. In the hour of his death, John needed the assurances and comforts that only Christ can give.

Well, which is it? Did John send his disciples to Jesus for the sake of his disciples, or for his own sake? The best answer? is YES.

You see, there are some benefits for you when you see that John sent his disciples to Jesus for the disciples’ sake, so that the disciples themselves could hear Jesus’ Words.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Chief among these benefits is the realization that Jesus’ Words are the only Words that matter for your faith and life. We read in Luke 3:2 that "The Word of God came to John." It did so for the sole purpose of directing people’s attention to Jesus.

The only things better than John’s Words concerning Jesus are the Words of Jesus Himself. (That is part of the reason why we rise to our feet for the reading of the Gospel.)

So John sent the disciples to Jesus with a question that would require an answer. In that answer there is life and salvation for you: 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."

And what does this mean for you? At the very least, you should consider all preaching to be useless unless that preaching brings you to Jesus and brings Jesus to you. Preaching should not be regarded as preaching simply because there is a person in the pulpit or a voice on the radio.

Preaching is nothing other than the Word proclaimed to you concerning your Savior, Jesus Christ. When preaching fails to point you to Jesus—as John sent his disciples to Jesus—then preaching fails to be preaching. Jesus Christ must be proclaimed in your midst as "the one who is to come," as "the source of your sight..." As "the cleanser of your sin..." as "the resurrection of your dead..." and as "the content of your good news."

If Jesus Christ is not proclaimed among you in this manner, it would be better for you to have no preacher in your pulpit at all.

Now turn the coin over. What does it mean for you, when Jesus Christ is indeed faithfully proclaimed in your midst, just as John pointed his disciples to Jesus in today’s Gospel?

Luther stated it well when he declared in his works, "the people ought to listen diligently." Or as he said in the meaning to the third commandment that they ...should not despise preaching and the Word, but hold it sacred, gladly hear it, and learn it.

The people ought to think of the Church’s preaching as the on-going voice of John the Baptist in their midst, the one who declared, "Repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." The people ought to think of themselves as following the footsteps of John’s disciples, whom John sent to Jesus in order to hear what Jesus had to say.

And then, what about the other possibility? What if John was feeling afraid, now that death was breathing upon his neck? There are some benefits personally available to you when you see that John sent his disciples to Jesus for John’s sake, so that John could likewise hear Jesus’ Words.

Chief among these benefits is the realization that you do not stand alone in your need to hear the forgiving, life-creating Words of your Lord. All the prophets of God share your need to hear Jesus’ Words. This need to hear Jesus’ Words includes even John, the greatest of all the prophets.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

When John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Jesus, "Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Essentially John was saying to Jesus, "Has my own hope been misplaced, and has my preaching been in vain? Has it been for nothing that I will soon make a chopping block my pillow?

Learn from this, dear friends, that the prophets of God are in no way superior to you. The only honor due to them is the honor of their office, and not of their person.

They are built of the same flesh and blood; flesh that fades and blood that spills upon the ground; flesh and blood that must wait with you to be raised by Him who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

The prophets are imbedded with the same, deadly sin that is likewise stuck in your flesh. The prophets of the Lord hold no superior faith, but they possess exactly the same value of faith that you yourselves have been given (2 Peter 1:1)—faith that miraculously grows out from the indwelling power of Jesus’ Words.

Simply stated, those who speak the promises of God must likewise live by the promises of God, just as you also must live.

The prophets have no forgiveness, except for the forgiveness that you have heard them preach to you in Jesus’ name. They have no holiness, except for the holiness that Jesus has already given to you. They have no courage other than the courage of faith that likewise moves you in your daily struggle. They have no life, except for the very life of Christ that moves upon the wings of the words they have been sent to speak.

In today’s Gospel, God places prophet and disciple, preacher and congregation all upon the same plane and He faces them all in the same direction—toward Jesus Christ, the Coming One.

There is no need for any of us to look for another, dear friends! In Jesus Christ, we have all, each one of us received—and we each shall continue to receive—exactly what we each need:

"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."

Christ is Risen!

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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