Passage: Matthew 11:2–11:15
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 11:2-15
Date: December 11th, 2016; Advent 3; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Natalie and I went to an Ian Tyson concert recently and when they turned off all of the lights for the show it became very dark.
In fact it was so dark in the theatre that it was difficult to see and move around.
But fortunately there were ushers who had flashlights who could light up your path to show you the way as you walked in the dark.
This is a good illustration of what we see John the Baptist doing in our Gospel text this morning.
We are walking around in a dark, fallen, and sinful world and John the Baptist is showing us the way.
John was in prison for speaking the truth.
He had been locked up for about a year because he had called out the king for committing adultery with his brother’s wife.
Kings don’t like to be challenged with such things so he put John behind bars.
We heard in our text that John sent his disciples to Jesus with a question, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” they asked (Matthew 11:2-15).
So does this mean that John had doubts about Jesus being the promised One?
Well, there is some debate over this.
Some say yes. Some say no.
I think it’s hard to believe that John did have doubts.
He’s the one who was filled with the Holy Spirit and leaped in the darkness of his mother’s womb pointing to Jesus even then.
He’s the one who baptized Jesus and then witnessed the Holy Spirit descend like a dove upon him and then heard the voice of God the Father proclaim, “this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
I don't think John the Baptist had doubts, but I do think his disciples did. And understandably so.
John is the cousin of Jesus. He is the prophet, the forerunner, chosen by God to proclaim that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
If all of this is true - if John truly was given such a high honour by God, if Jesus of Nazareth truly is the promised Messiah - then why is John in prison?
It’s easy to understand why this didn't add up for John’s disciples and why they were confused and had some doubts about everything.
John could see the doubt on his disciples faces when they came to prison to visit him. He saw they were in the dark.
And John was no fool. He knew that he wasn't getting out of prison alive.
So what did he do?
Out of the darkness of his prison cell, John pointed his disciples to Jesus.
And he continues to do the same for all of us today.
Out of the darkness of his mother’s womb, out of the darkness of his prison cell, in the darkness of this world today - John points you to Jesus.
In the darkness of your sin, guilt, and shame - John points you to Jesus.
In the darkness you feel deep inside, clouded over with sorrow and sadness because your loved one is no longer with us - even in that empty darkness - John points you to Jesus.
In the darkness of your own inevitable death, John points you to Jesus.
Jesus is the Light that no darkness will ever overcome.
But this is not some quick fix kind of thing.
Being in Christ doesn't mean that all of your sorrow and sadness will immediately disappear.
There are some preachers out there who will tell this - but they are liars. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Listen to what Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11).
John was filled with the Holy Spirit, chosen by God to serve him as a great prophet, and was described as “the greatest” by our Lord.
John was a man who was chosen and blessed by God.
Did this mean that everything was always rosy for him in this life? Did he enjoy all that the world had to offer? Did he enjoy great health and prosperity?
He was thrown in a dark and damp prison cell for being one of God’s chosen and for speaking the truth.
Did being one of God’s chosen mean that John got to enjoy all that the world has to offer?
He had his head chopped off and it was served on a platter by an arrogant king (Mark 6:14-29).
Following Jesus isn't like some magic pill that makes all of the darkness in this life immediately go away.
But Jesus is the way through the darkness.
Jesus walks in the darkness with you, sustaining you, showing you the way.
On our own, we just stumble around, banging into one harmful thing after another.
Sometimes we even hide and revel in the darkness because our sinful nature enjoys it and we don’t want to be exposed in the Light.
We all experience the dark struggles of life.
Some of us are in the shroud of darkness because of grief, or fear, or anxiety, or hopelessness.
It is here that John the Baptist points you to Jesus.
You may not know where you are going, at this point you might not even know which way is up or down, you might feel so lost, scared, and broken that you don’t even know where to begin.
But Jesus knows the way. Place your trust in the One who is the way and the truth and the life.
You might suffer in this life - even as John the Baptist did in prison.
You will have difficult days - when it seems like all is dark.
But it’s not. It’s not all dark. It’s never hopeless.
It’s not all dark and it’s never hopeless because Jesus is the promised Messiah. In Jesus there is light and certain hope.
He is the One sent to save us from the darkness. He has rescued us from the darkness of our sin and death.
John’s disciples asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Jesus answered, “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” (Matthew 11:4).
Jesus makes it clear that he is the Saviour sent by God by pointing to the miraculous healings he performed - all of which are are the fulfillment of the prophecies made by Isaiah.
These miracles are historical events that show that Jesus is the Light of the world.
Jesus was nailed to the cross and darkness covered the earth as he died to take upon himself the wrath that we deserve.
But he broke through the darkness of death when he rose from the dead and he has promised that you too will rise from your grave.
Jesus continues to act in history, directly in your life, as he comes to you in his Word and Sacraments.
In your Baptism Jesus promised to always be the Light of your life - even in your darkest days and most especially in your death.
Jesus is the Light of your life as he speaks to you through his Word - read, preached, meditated upon. We hear the Good News preached and respond with our Amen!
With his true body and true blood, Jesus feeds us that we may be strengthened in our faith and Christian life and we are assured that we do not walk alone.
“Lord Jesus Christ, we implore to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by your gracious visitation” was our prayer at the beginning of the Service.
And Jesus answers our prayer.
Jesus continues to be present in our lives, in our history, today and always.
Jesus is the Way - and he will lead us through this darkness and we will bask in the Light of life for eternity.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice!” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.