There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
~ John 1:6-8, 1:19-28
"Are We Really The Ones Whom God Has Saved"
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy. This can be a bit ironic as many people suffer from the Christmas blue. The theme of today's service is therefore the blue's, or more importantly, how to overcome that depression which particularly manifests itself around Christmas time, as many people see the weeks before Christmas as something to endure ... rather than enjoy.
Do we as Christians look forward with joy towards Christmas; because there is more depression and suicides around Christmas time, than any other time of the year? This therefore does not suggest as the season of joy.
Even John the Baptist in our Gospel lesson this morning is very depressed. John is wondering if Jesus is the Messiah that he has been proclaiming. After all John is in prison because he was doing the Lords work, and now John is wondering whether he was doing what God wanted him to do; because if Jesus was not the messiah, then everything had been in vain.
Now John was the first prophet to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, and much of John preaching came from the Old Testament itself. Like some of the verses we read in Isaiah 35 this morning.
Verse 2. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
Verse 4. Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, And with terrible recompense.
Verse 10. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
John is in a pretty scary situation; he probably knew his days were numbered and he was wondering where he went wrong by proclaiming the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.
But where is this messiah because instead of preaching hellfire and brimstone, Jesus was doing works of mercy? John therefore was very confused; and he really needed to ask Jesus if e was really the “one”.
Years ago I received a great Birthday card from my wife Barbara. On the outside it read: "Sweetheart, you're the answer to my prayers"; but when I opened it the inside was inscribed, “You're not what I prayed for exactly, but apparently you were the answer." Thanks.
For thousands of years, the Jewish people had been praying for a Messiah, a deliverer who would conquer their enemies and establish a kingdom of righteousness and might. Their deliverer would be powerful, a warrior and a king, and through His power, the Jews would again reign in peace and prosperity.
Then along comes Jesus. A poor carpenter with questionable friends who claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah: come to set up a very different kind of kingdom. And so we can forgive even Jesus' strongest supporters for saying, “You having a laugh. Are you really the answer to our prayers?
John the Baptist had also been praying for this Messiah all his life. John had even been demanding a stern call to penance for those who would follow him; while been judged harshly and condemned by the powerful ruling religious establishment; the Pharisees.
John's idea of Jesus was therefore one of a warrior type, someone as we said earlier who would preach fire and brimstone. John had even said himself that when the Messiah appeared He would baptize with the "Holy Spirit and with fire."
John must have been asking and saying "Where is this fire, where is this judgment? And why, if the messiah is here, am I this prison? I thought I knew my cousin pretty well, and I remember that day in the Jordan when I baptized Him. What a glorious day, with God’s whole plan being put into play, but, where is he now? Why isn't He doing what I said He would do? Is He really the one or should I look for another?"
And then imagine if you will for a minute how he heard the answer, and the feeling that must have overcame him when his disciples reported what Jesus had said.
"Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed are they who take no offense at me."
We will go further into this answer: have the blind received sight? Remember the blind man Jesus met on the road? Making a paste from the dust in the road, Jesus touched his eyes and his vision returned. Ask that man, "Is Jesus the One?" And ask the millions of others who have been blind to the truth about themselves and about God, but who've found that Jesus opened their eyes. Ask them, "Is he the One?"
Have the lame walked? Go and ask the paralysed man whose friends lowered him through the roof on a mat before Jesus. Ask him, if you can catch up with him; "Is Jesus the One”? And ask the thousands whose feet never seemed strong enough to stay on the right paths, but through Jesus have found the strength to turn around and walk true. Ask them, if Jesus is the One?"
And today, ask the countless numbers who have found Jesus to be the liberator from their prison of drugs, greed, loneliness, and fear. Ask them also, "if he the One?"
I know I am preaching to the converted, but in response to John's question, Jesus could simply have said, "Yes, I am the one." He doesn't do that, but neither did He evade the question.
Jesus does what he so frequently does when asked a question, He refers them to scripture and throws it back on the questioner in typical Jewish style. And any psychologist will tell you that an answer, to be long lasting and valid for the questioner, must always come from inside the questioner.
Jesus sent John's disciples back to John with the very quote from Isaiah we read in the first reading this morning. Jesus knew John would understand, as John was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament; and John new his scriptures.
Now to move on, why did Jesus choose these particular things to prove his Lordship and what does this tell us about his priorities?
These miracles all seem to involve restoration and compassion. Just as they are today, the deaf, the blind, and the lame are kept outside the mainstream of society; who were and are often forced to beg support for themselves; as others view their disability as a punishment from God.
Lepers were outcasts, unclean, cut off from all social or religious acceptances. Jesus didn't just hear these people - he restored their place in society. And Jesus' restorative powers were never on greater display than when he brought a dead person, Lazarus, back to life.
These answers demonstrate Jesus' compassion for the least and the lowest. They remind us that Jesus came for the hurting, helpless, and overlooked people of society, and that may even include us here today.
This is meant to be the season for Joy. Joy is not something that we can seek; it is something that overtakes us. Joy should not be confused with happiness which is temporal and reflects a situation; neither is it contentment which is also a form of happiness.
Joy happens when we get an insight into what we are doing conforms to the will of the Lord. It is that feeling we get when we know that we are in the right place at the right time. It is that security we feel when we know the Lord, and that He is Lord indeed.
However, I know personally that this joy comes and goes, and it can go more than it comes, but it is great when it is here, as we gain glimpses of what God really is, and what God is all about.
Joy therefore is something rather overwhelming, and we feel secure for our future; whether it is in our family relationships, in our church, or in our community.
And the gift of joy not only comes from God and stays with us; we are free to pass this joy on to others. How many times in your life have you made a dull situation a pleasure because you have this great joy in you heart? How many times have you been the key to success? It is that type of success that comes not because of your efforts nor hard work, but because you are able to pass something on. Something that is very hard to define, but you are aware something has happened.
Do you know, we all have that ability, but only a few of us know that we can pass it on and use it for what is intended. When we allow God to do His works through us, we in turn gain peace and contentment.
To finish off I want to turn this whole issue around on itself just as Jesus would. John this morning was asking Jesus if He was the one. Could Jesus in heaven be asking us this morning, are we His one. Are we fit to be Jesus representative here on earth?
The bible is very clear that we are His body in the world today. It is through us, Jesus can touch people's hearts. With our hands we can reach out to the lonely, the helpless and insecure. With God’s words we can comfort the grieving, and with our voices we can proclaim good news to the poor."
Jesus asks you today, "Are you the one, or am I to wait for another?" The harvest is plentiful but the right kind of labourers are few. With Gods anointing and only with God’s anointing we can reach out to others today.
We may not be able to perform miracles in the way Jesus did, but we can work to bring about a better world; where those in need are ministered to, and the good news of a loving God is made known by word and by action.
Father, during this Christmas season; allow us at some point to discover and welcome the joy of Christmas, through the joy you give us through your son. Father please anoint us, and allow us to be your one; to pass your joy onto others, who may need to here from You. Let us be an ambassador of your peace, and a channel of your blessings not only this Christmas but for ever more. We humbly ask in Jesus name, Amen
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