Archive for the ‘Luke 7:18-35’ Category

Those Fickle Children

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 Grace, mercy, and peace to you friends from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Our text this morning is our gospel reading, with special attention on these words: “And blessed in the one who is not offended by me.” [vs. 23]

In this season of gift giving, God wants us to remember the gift that He’s given to each of us in our baptism.  He wants us to remember that through simple water and the presence and power of His Word alone, we have been spared from His judgment and His punishment for our many sins, and He has done this by grace alone…that is by His love and forgiveness, which we can never earn or deserve.  And because we have receive this gift from Him, in return, He wants His grace to change us in such a way that our greatest desire will be to love and worship Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.  

Good news right?  Yet for some, the gift of God’s love is unacceptable to them, or it doesn’t suit their tastes, so they want to trade it in, upgrade it to something more in keeping with their life style.  What is it that they want?  Well let’s turn to our gospel reading for some insight. 

We join Jesus in the middle of a conversation with two of John the Baptist’s disciples.  They’ve been sent by John to ask for guidance.  You see John couldn’t come in person because he was locked up in King Herod’s dark and dank prison for preaching the very message God had given him to proclaim throughout the land, “Repent and be baptized!” Why did that offend King Herod?  Well, John empowered by the Holy Spirit, pointed out that king Herod was committing adultery by sleeping with his brother’s wife.  As you can imagine, the king and is illegitimate spouse didn’t like hearing that they needed to repent and dissolve their relationship.  Now it’s tempting for some to think that John had lost his faith as he sat suffering in his cell alone; feeling as if God had abandoned him.  Where is the judgment that God told him to warn people about?!  Now while it is true that any normal person would lose hope in circumstances like these, we must remember that John was not a normal man, he was a faith-filled man.  Could it be that such a faith-filled man had really lost his faith?  Well let’s consider that for a moment. 

Here is a man who was called by God to proclaim one message: “The Savior and the Judge of the world is coming.  Repent and be baptized!”  He knew that Jesus was that Messiah, the savior of the world, and he expected Jesus to do all of the heavenly works that had been promised by God through the prophets.  He knew that there would be works of grace, miracles that demonstrated God’s love and forgiveness and he knew that there would also be works of judgment.  He must have asked himself, “Where are the works of judgment?  Where is the day that is coming which none can endure and no one can stand when He appears?  Where is the refining fire and all of His furry that I have been warning everyone about?” [Malachi 3:2] 

You see friends, John wasn’t losing his faith, but rather he was confused.  So where does a faithful man of God go with his confusion?  Why He goes to the very source; he goes to Jesus!  So through a couple of messengers, John asked a very simple question, that when answered would restore his clarity: “Will another one follow you?  When will the works of judgment begin?” 

Jesus answered John’s question in a way that would strengthen his faith by reminding him of God’s faithfulness.  Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the cripple are walking, lepers are cleansed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised, and then tell him that just as the prophet Isaiah foretold, the poor have the good news preached to them.” [Isaiah 35:5,6; 61:1]  With this short answer, Jesus sends John’s disciples back to their teacher confident that this Word would relieve John’s worry and strengthen His faith in God’s faithfulness. 

Are you wondering how that relieved John’s confusion?  Well John’s disciples may have wondered that too, but make no mistake John understood it loud and clear.  You see, Jesus was taking John back to the same Old Testament prophets that John had been quoting in his sermons that proclaimed the need of repentance. He was helping John remember that God’s grace must take priority over the coming judgment.  The gospel must first be preached in its fullest before judgment would come.  All who confess before God that they are spiritually poor, completely empty and destitute will be filled by Him.  The gospel must continue to be preached until God’s predetermined time of judgment begins. 

Friends, John’s mistake was the same mistake that many Christians make today; they forget that how God marks time is not the same as how we mark it.  We along with John need to remember that throughout the Old Testament prophecies and even in the message given by John the Baptist, one thing has always been left unanswered—the interval of time between the first coming of Jesus with grace and mercy and His second coming when He brings judgment to those who have rejected His grace.  So we need to really hear the words that Jesus dismisses the messengers of John with, because they are also for us: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  We must not doubt God and be offended that He does not mark time as we do.  We must live every day as if Jesus is coming this day.  Blessed is the one who is not offended. 

Some of us might ask, “Why would anyone be offended by that?”  Well maybe for the same reason that some in the crowds that followed John and Jesus were offended: We are all by our very nature two faced and self serving… we are fickle!  We’ll take the baptism that saves us but we refuse to embrace and live out the message….Repent!  Turn away from your sins and turn only to Jesus who is your savior. 

This was the point that Jesus was making when He asked the crowds the same question three times, “What did you go out into the (desert) to see (when you looked for John)?”  Friends, when Jesus repeats anything three times you better believe that it’s important!  Did you go out to see a tiny marsh reed being swayed in the wind?  Did you go to see a person who is more worried about political opinion and the favor of the king than following God’s Word and Spirit?  If so, then that isn’t what you found is it?  So why did you let him baptize you if you didn’t agree with his message? Well maybe you went out to see a fancy talking, well dressed speaker who could get you motivated to improve and enhance your life?  Someone who would preach a message of blessings and prosperity…someone who would tell you that you could have heavens rewards right here on earth?  But you didn’t hear that either did you?  No instead you heard God’s true message: “Repent everyone of you and be baptized!  Turn away from your sinful life and in confession turn to God alone who can forgive and restore you!”  Where is your repentance and confession?  

Are you offended by Jesus evaluation of us this morning?  Are you offended by the truth?  Like the crowds that were judged by Jesus as fickle, are you shocked to hear that you are fickle too?  Are you shocked that you find yourself being judged as double minded and indecisive about your need for a savior, much like the children in Jesus’ story who neither wanted to dance nor to weep? 

If this is you friends, then may I say you’re not alone?  Because you see, this is all of us!  We are all convicted by the same verdict—guilty of not loving God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls.  Guilty of loving our flesh more than our savior!  Since this is true, and it appears God’s word has found us out, then hear the Word of God, the very lips of Jesus speak to you this morning:  “The blind have received their sight, the crippled can walk, the lepers have been cleansed, the dead have been raised, and you who are sinful and poor in spirit have been washed clean of your sins through simple water and the power and real presence of God’s own Word.” 

This morning friends, Jesus says to us: “Let this truth change your heart.  Let your heart hear this message and be changed by it.  By my stripes you have been healed.  By my death upon the cross for you, your sins have been paid for.  Behold, I have made all things new!  This is a gift from me to you…will you confess that you need it and that there is no other name or message under heaven that can save you?  Will you simply rest in this good news and let it change you? 

That is your gift this advent season from God friends.  I pray that as you open God’s baptismal gift to you every day, you will allow Him to make you like John the Baptist… resolute, strong, and faithful.  Open it every day friends and live out your new life.  Do not wait.  Remember God does not mark time as we do.  Jesus could come again at any moment.  Jesus is coming, He is coming indeed!  Maranatha… come Lord come quickly.  AMEN!