Sermon – Matthew 11.2-10 (Advent 3 – 2020)

Lord God, heavenly Father, You gave Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become Man and to come into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech You so to rule and govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may seek no other refuge than His Word, and thus avoid the sin to which we are by nature inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples

 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:

 5The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

 6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

 7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?

 8 “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

 9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

 10 “For this is he of whom it is written:`Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Don’t Mind the Humble Appearance

Dear fellow redeemed,

It is in our nature that we keep ourselves exalted in the eyes of the world. Our sins and shame we hide from the world. We want others to speak well of us and esteem us. On social media, we put our best face forward, flattering pictures, and well spoken statements. We quick clean up our homes before guests come so no one might think that we’re slobs.

But Christ does the opposite. He is great and mighty, being true God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, but He did not “count equality with God a thing to be grasped” as Paul wrote to the Philippians. “He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2)

He appeared in lowliness. Isaiah foretold the manner of His appearance when He comes, “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Is 53). He comes with no pomp and circumstance, but presents Himself as a lowly servant. The Jewish leaders reject Him.

Is this really the One promised, the One they had been looking for? Is this really the Savior of the world?

And then there’s Christ’s Church. John is hated and imprisoned. The disciples Jesus chose are not men highly regarded in the world. Their names did not command the respect and admiration of leaders. Most of those who follow Jesus are the poor and lowly, some of whom are renowned sinners.

So seeing this lowly Jesus, and his lowly Church, is He really the Coming One?

What’s remarkable is that Jesus appeared in such a lowly manner, even as He was performing so many miracles publicly, making whole crowds of people well, casting out demons, and raising people from the dead. Jews count 150 miracles recorded in the Old Testament. Jesus performed more miracles than all the prophets put together! The Apostle John wrote, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25). And those who believed in Jesus said, “When Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” (Jn 7:31).

Yet, He was rejected, people doubted, and many were offended on account of His servant form.

Yet, the miracles testify to His divinity. Jesus said, “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (Jn 7:25). Not only do they testify of the divine power of Jesus, but in those works, Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Coming One. Jesus quotes words from Isaiah, “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.

Do not be offended by His humble form.

And do not be dissuaded by His humble Church. Many expect the Church to be mighty in the world. The Church belongs to the Lord of earth and heaven, and so they expect the Church to have dominion over all powers spiritual and earthly. They expect it to exert its influence and power in the world, and for it to be esteemed by many. Now, if Christian Church is to be viewed as great in the world, it would be for its humility and love and service. But the Christian Church remains lowly in the world.

It is true that Christianity has had a tremendous influence on western culture, helping shape the values that have been treasured and enjoyed for so long. Though that appreciation is waning in recent decades. And there have been times that Christianity held power in certain times and places, though even in those cases it often has been confused with temporal authority, and the Church has been abused by those using it for their own gain. And there is always the division within that afflicts the church, and hatred towards her from those outside the Church. And of course, the Christian Church in other parts of the world are despised, and persecuted, and have very little in respect to their earthly situation.

But even for us in America, we’re now entering into a time many call the post-Constantinian era. Prior to Emperor Constantine, Christians were victims of local and empire-wide persecution. In 313, Constantine gave the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire. From this time, Christianity held a prominent and favored status in the western world. But it seems like this era is on its way out in our country. We’re experiencing hostility not only from individuals, but from governing authorities and powerful people.

And so who knows how long it will be until we’ll see the inside of the jail cell for our faith, like John, or visiting brothers and sisters in prison, like John’s disciples did.

We also have difficulties, sorrows, pains, sicknesses, and death like everyone else in the world. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to being members of the Christian Church, at least as the world measures it.  

Yet, do not be offended by the humility of the Church.

Many are offended by Christ and His Church’s humility. In their pride and self-interest, they will look for a Christ who doesn’t take our sins, because well, that would be an admission that we are sinners in need of saving. They will look for a Christ who doesn’t subject Himself as a servant to die on a cross. They will look for a Christ that is in their own image, and who has a church that does not submit in humility to Christ, the Lord, but who is shaped by his own desires.

Do not be offended by the humility of Christ or His Church, because He is the Savior and Lord we need!

We have no reason to be prideful, and to exalt ourselves, because we are sinners, unworthy of His love, unworthy to be the sheep of His flock, members of His Church. Shall we think of ourselves above God? Shall we tell Him how He ought to act, and what His Church should be like in the world. Do we look to Him to build our own egos and for the approval of our self-righteousness?

No, who are we but sinners? Let’s give up the illusions of spiritual greatness and self-righteousness. The law convicts us of pride. We are guilty. We humble ourselves before our Christ, who became a lowly servant for us. Luther said of the great works that Jesus performed, the greatest was that the poor have the good news preached to them. O how good then it is to see our poverty. And let us be content and joyful in being little before Him. For to you the good news applies!

Christ is indeed the Coming One, and He came for you in humility, for as a humble servant He came to give His life as a ransom for you, saving you from your sins, from death, and the devil.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit, you have come to know these things through the faith He created in your hearts, that you are not offended by Christ, His servant form, and His crucifixion. Instead, you have comfort in these things, that God willingly humbled Himself that you may be His.

And receiving Christ through faith, you are forgiven, justified, righteous, and reconciled, and thus great in the kingdom of heaven. What glory is yours, though hidden now. What glory is given to His immortal Church, which the body of the ascended Christ, though this glory is hidden now!

And so this Advent season, we are happy to consider ourselves sinners, small and lowly, and look for this humble Christ, and receive Him as He comes to us through His gospel. And we’ll still clean our houses lest anyone think we’re slobs, but we will live humbly in this faith and live as servants in the world, until our Lord of glory comes, and then the glory of who we are in Christ, and by His grace, will then be seen. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen

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