Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are You the One Who Is to Come?

Sermon on Matthew 11:2-15
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
December 15, 2013 (Third Sunday in Advent)

“Are You the coming one, or should we look for another?”  How should the Messiah act?  What should He be doing?  How do we know who it is we are dealing with?  As He himself said later on in His ministry, many false messiahs would come.  How do we know that He is the true one?  That’s the question John was asking in his prison cell, or at least, John’s disciples were asking it.  And so they go to the source and ask Him directly who He is.  Are You really the Messiah promised in the Old Testament?  Are You really the one who will save Your people?  And, of course, if He says “yes,” then even that doesn’t answer the question, does it.  There’s nothing that prevents a false messiah from saying he’s the coming one.  After all, if he didn’t claim to be the messiah, he wouldn’t be a false messiah, now would he?  He’d just be some guy minding his own business.  Which means that both a false messiah and the true Messiah would each say he’s the messiah.  That doesn’t help us any.

And so Jesus points to what He is doing.  The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the poor have the good news preached to them.  But the reason He points to these things is not because He’s carrying on some sort of “signs-and-wonders” type of ministry where He uses outlandish miracle-working shows to get the people’s attention and, more importantly, their money.  Rather the reason He points to these things is because this is what Isaiah had prophesied He would do in today’s Old Testament lesson: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”  These are things that Messiah will do because these things are who He is.  Blindness, deafness, lameness, muteness, and so on are among the many possible symptoms of being descended from Adam and Eve.  They are reminders to us of the brokenness of this old world.  If Jesus were merely doing signs and wonders for their own sake, He’d also be doing silly things like knocking people down with a wave of his hand (which, by the way, is the exact opposite of healing, when you think about it) or even silly things like making stuff float in the air or whatever.

Instead, the signs Jesus points to here have to do with what sin has done to humanity.  Some are blind, and all of our eyes deteriorate to one extent or another as we live in this old world (says the pastor who’s probably going to need multifocal lenses the next time he gets his eyes checked).  Some are deaf, and many end up needing hearing aids at one time or another (some seem to be more deaf when their spouse talks than at other times, though, uh, not that I’m being autobiographical here or anything).  Some are lame, and most need wheelchairs, or at least canes or walkers by the end of their lives.  Some are unable to speak, and a stroke could easily cost any of us a significant amount of our vocabulary.  It’s precisely these things Jesus deals with, because it’s precisely sin He’s come to deal with.

But these physical symptoms of sin in the world are only reminders to us of the true problems sin has caused us.  It hasn’t only damaged our physical eyesight, it’s made us completely blind to His face.  It hasn’t only impaired our physical hearing, it’s made us deaf to His Word.  It hasn’t only made us lame, it has made us incapable of making any progress toward Him by our own reason or strength.  It hasn’t only made us mute, it’s made us incapable of praying, praising, and giving Him thanks at all.  The fact that we are damaged and deteriorating physically are only outward signs of our sheer helplessness when it comes to fixing our broken relationship with Him.

And so the fact that it is these things that Jesus is fixing is an indication that He comes not just to impress people by fixing our bodies temporarily, but that us poor, blind, deaf, miserable sinners have the good news preached to us that these afflictions will be fixed eternally.  He makes the spiritually deaf hear His Word, the spiritually blind see His face, the spiritually lame walk before Him, and the spiritually mute sing His praises, but these things are true not just spiritually but physically in the resurrection of all flesh.  Not just our souls but our bodies will be raised from death perfectly healthy and able to perfectly serve Him when He comes again in glory.  And that is a “sign and wonder” that nobody will be able to fake.  Only God can raise the dead.  Only God has raised the dead.    Only God can make others share in His death and resurrection by water and the Word.  Only God can make His own body and blood, broken, blind, lame, mute, deaf, and dead, into a meal that gives us healing, sight, hearing, and the ability to praise Him without end.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

No comments:

Post a Comment