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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1283

December 11, 2016 – Advent 3 Matthew 11:2-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

"If You Know Where to Look"


 

  • Are You the One?

One thing that may foster our desire to share the gospel message is that people are looking for something greater than themselves, that people are searching for answers to life’s questions, or just questioning the meaning of life. People are looking. What we have to offer is the knowledge of where to look! Have you ever been in a situation when you are trying to find something, it could be looking for the perfect gift or the solution to a problem, and someone comes along and shows you where to find what you are looking for. Then they say, “well, you just have to know where to look.” We know where to look when it comes to the most important questions of our lives. We look to Jesus Christ.

 

John the Baptist, someone we would imagine knew where to look, was still having doubts about Jesus so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” “Are you the one?” Would you not think that John the Baptist, of all people, would know the answer to that question? This is the guy who cried out in the wilderness and wore a camel hair robe, eating locusts and honey, rebuked the Pharisees, told everyone that Jesus was coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” He told Jesus that Jesus should be baptizing him rather than John baptizing Jesus. At that point John certainly knew that this is the guy! But now John wonders if it is really him. I suppose it shows that anyone of us could fall into doubt. Is Jesus really for real? Is Jesus really with us? Is Jesus the Savior of the world? Will He come again?

 

I also suspect this is what people ponder when confronted with the gospel or with questions about the meaning of life. Is this true? Could this Jesus I hear about from Christians be the one who can save me and bring real meaning to life? Yes, He is the One!

 

Perhaps John was like many others of his day who was expecting a flamboyant conquering leader to deliver his people. Jesus was certainly not what most people expected in a Messiah. His style was not that of a conquering king, at least not in the way people thought he should be. His method had nothing to do with killing Romans and taking over the rule of the land. He did not come with a literal sword, but instead it was with the sword of the word, preaching and teaching and commanding. He came in humility rather than raw power. John's preaching was probably more fiery than Jesus'! Perhaps John the Baptist, the one who had prepared the way for Jesus, was now among those who thought the Messiah would come in a different way. So, he sends his disciples to find out for sure. He at least does that. He is still looking to Jesus only looking for more confirmation. But there is something still in John that pursues Jesus.

 

 

 

 

  • What Do You See?

 

Jesus responds to John’s disciples with their own observations, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” He is calling on John’s disciples to become Jesus’ witnesses. What have your seen? What have you heard? What they had really seen and heard was prophecy fulfilled.

Isaiah 35:5-6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Go tell John that the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled. Go tell John that the Messiah is opening ears and eyes and healing legs and disease, raising the dead, and preaching good news. Go tell John what I have been doing and proclaiming.

 

Or from Psalm 146:7b-9, The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

 

Go tell John that people are being set free and lifted up to new life. Go tell John that justice is being done and then he will know if Jesus is the one.

We know all the more from what we see prophesied about and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

It is more than likely that John's disciples had heard and seen the sermon on the mount, the healings from Matthew 8-9. They are eye witnesses. You'd think they could have given this testimony to John the moment John told them to go ask Jesus if he was the one. Instead, Jesus gives them the same instructions. Go tell John what you have seen and heard.

 

It is an interesting list of things Jesus gives about the blind, the deaf, the lame, and then you get people being raised from the dead! Wow! And just when you think the most amazing thing in the world is noted, he ends with “preaching the good news to the poor”. How in the world is good news preached more powerful than raising the dead? We might think that Jesus would make a list like we would, saving the best for last. Perhaps he did. What all these things have in common is bondage. Bond by a disability, bond by a sickness, bond by death. What Jesus does is set people free from darkness, free from deafness, free from death, but we know the worst death anyone could experience is that which leads anyone forever lost and forever separated from God. Here is the depth of power in the preaching of good news, for in that word of salvation is freedom from eternal death.

Go tell John what you have seen and heard and that will confirm that Jesus is the One.

 

 

  • Looking No Further

 

You need not look any further. Imagine what John felt after he heard the testimony of his disciples. I imagine his heart beamed with joy and peace to such a degree that any hint of fear in him was gone. Any fear of death toward him was gone. When God gets a hold on us we need not look any further. Christ is the end of our journey. He is the fulfillment of God's plan and purpose for humanity. Yet, John apparently had doubts. He wanted to know if he needed to look further, to look beyond Jesus. We all have doubts, if we look deep enough we find doubt. It stays hidden most of the time, but there are times when it rears up and makes its presence known. Times of stress or hardship. Times of suffering and pain. We do not always know when, but if we are truly honest we sometimes think we might look further or somewhere else. That is part of our human nature, a fallen nature for sure, but doubt is a part of life. If John the Baptist can doubt, I suspect any of us could.

I think doubt can also make us stronger for it may lead us to a stronger conviction. It may lead us to trust more deeply that we need not look anywhere else. It leads to the conclusion that Jesus is the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

 

Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

 

 

  • Looking For Another

 

The Jewish people continue to look for another, non-believing Gentiles look all over the place for someone or something in which to believe. Some look to national leaders. Some look to themselves. Some look to money. Some look to entertainment or work or drugs or to someone else significant in their life. We know well the common story among people who look for another. They look for the perfect life apart from Jesus and find that nothing truly satisfies. Life grows more empty and hopeless. Some get so deep in looking for meaning in riches or fame that they become consumed by the riches or the lifestyle. This is another reason we must be ever ready to share what we know. People are looking and they are often looking in all the wrong places. It is why we should foster our life as a church that follows Jesus by loving God and loving one another so that others might see Jesus and look no further than him.

 

  • Impulse to Look

 

If there is one thing that is common among human beings, it is the impulse to look for something greater than ourselves, the impulse to look for meaning in life, or the impulse to find answers to our questions. It is because of this impulse that we consider sharing what we have for them in Christ. We know there is no other place to find life and meaning, no other one to know. Jesus is the One to whom we are all looking. Knowing that everyone is looking gives us courage to speak the name of Jesus when the opportunity comes. We know of family members and friends who are looking in all the wrong places. Remember that song lyric, “looking for love in all the wrong places, Lookin' for love in too many faces, searchin' their eyes and lookin' for traces of what I'm dreamin' of.” People are dreaming of love and they will not truly find it until they find Jesus.

 

 

  • Blessing to Those Not Offended by Jesus

 

Jesus ends his statement with the blessing to those who are not offended by him. This might be the most important line in the reading for our time. Everyone is offended by something these days, from the simplest and ridiculous things to things that are truly offensive. It seems like a religion in and of itself, the church of the offended. And the worst part to me is that so many are bending the knee to accommodate every offense. Certainly people are offended today, all those who oppose Christian faith. Those who reject Jesus are those who are offended.

Jesus offers a blessing to all who do not take offense at him. People were offended by Jesus in his day, Pharisees, Romans, kings, people in his own hometown. And people are offended by him today. I would suggest that everyone who opposes all things Christian are those who are offended by Jesus. All those who seek to keep faith something of a secret in their lives are offended. Paul wrote in Romans 1, For I am not ashamed of the gospel...” (1:16). Some people who claim Christ are still a bit ashamed, fearful to stand firm in the truth, and thus, show offense to Jesus. Some theologians and pastors who have softened and compromised the scriptures are showing offense in Jesus. They may not belief it of themselves, but it is a form of shame when people reject the scriptures and its clear teaching. We must be strong to take no offense in Jesus, meaning that we must be strong to share the gospel, hold fast to the scriptures, and love each other in grace and truth.

On this third Sunday of Advent, may we be reminded that we have the message of light that opens eyes to see. If you know where to look you can find meaning and purpose and salvation. We know where to look! We offer the light in the darkness. There is no need to look for another, for Christ is the One who has come and will come again.

 

One last note about this passage. Jesus does not rebuke John for sending his disciples. That is, Jesus does not rebuke John for doubting if Jesus is the One. Instead, he speaks highly of John saying that he is a prophet and even more than a prophet. And yet, the least in heaven are even greater than John. John is one if not the greatest prophet in a long line of prophets. God says that all who come to Jesus will be even greater than John in the kingdom of heaven. That says something amazing about all who look to Jesus and take no offense in him. Let us show others where to look. Look to Jesus who is the light in a darkened world.