. . . the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them.
Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to Her that Her warfare is ended, that Her iniquity is pardoned, that She has received from the Lord’s hand double for all Her sins.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see It together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A Voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the Breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of Good News; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of Good News; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His Arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His Flock like a Shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord Who judges me.
Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, Who will bring to Light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
When John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the One Who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
And Jesus answered them, “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. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:
What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
who will prepare Your way before You.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”
The sermon text is St. Matthew the 11th chapter.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hears, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Do you ever contemplate on your life, review it, look back on your place, see if it's just as you planned everything to be, or something else? Do you ever with your eyes review things, wonder how things are going, look at the world, look at yourself, consider it? You ever use your ears especially with regard to the Father in heaven, and you're standing before Him, to listen to what the world is saying, to listen to what the scriptures are saying, to pair up what you might be saying with it all?
Might call it contemplating on life, maybe years ago people might have thought of it as meditation, especially on the Word of God. If you consider your life, have there been times when you're more contemplative or less? Don't think we're much living in an age that contemplates much, but you consider your own life at different times when you did contemplate I’d have to imagine if you've known any spiritual growth a lot of times it goes hand in hand with hardship. When life deals us a blow well then we have to take stock, we have to review what's important and what isn't, we have to see if God has done this great thing in us, unfolded our lives perhaps in ways that we would never expect, or whether we've got our own selves into the middle of the mess, and therefore repent and pray, cry out for help.
It's kind of that type of season, one of meditation, before a time of joy. Review, time to take stock of where you're at. If it's all gone just as you thought it would go or if indeed the Father in Heaven's giving something different to you, better than you would have ever expected. John the Baptist is in prison, he's contemplating it all, he certainly would have time and opportunity. So he asked some disciples yet with him, though most of the crowds have obviously gone away, Jesus has increased. Of course, he[John] is decreased, like it or not. So he's got plenty of time on his hands to think about it all and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask this question, are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another.
His mind is wandering to the right questions, away from self and to the God of heaven. But he's also reflecting on all that he's done and thought and said and certainly wondering if it's all been good and right. Those he loves are also involved, these disciples, as he sends them to the Christ as his ambassadors, that he might reflect on what helps and what doesn't, that he might reflect if he's been a grand success or an abject failure, he might reflect on how God in Christ Jesus is involved in his very life's course, his impending death, whether he'll have vindication or rejection. Certainly, if you've ever been in prison or perhaps really sick or in great times of trouble they’re times to reflect on your own life. John does it well because he at least reflects on all things in light of the Lord Christ.
So whether you're feeling sorry for yourself or whether life hasn't gone how you thought it would go, whether you've had much trouble of the day, or whether your death is impending, or coming soon, you do well if the Holy Spirit brings forth, from you, thoughts on the Lord Jesus Christ and who He is and what He has done. John the Baptist would have you reflect on your person, reflect on your plans in light of the Father in Heaven's plans for you, reflect on those you love, your status towards them, reflect on the Lord Jesus Christ and how he ought to increase and how you ought to decrease. So the season of Advent.
Now like any other happening in the scripture there's much going on here but particularly John's disciples are to consider with their eyes what Jesus is doing not what John's doing. They're to consider with their ears what Jesus is saying not any longer what John is saying. And they're to take this word back to John to contradict what his eyes are seeing and to contradict what his ears are hearing with the glorious gospel that is being preached to the poor. And with this word for John, and for you, blessed is the one who is not offended by me.
Those words seem pretty appropriate for our day, blessed is the one who is not offended by me, as we look for the Christ to come again. Boy, we have a superficial age that doesn't think on much, meditate on much, contemplate on much, and when hardship comes, wow a lot of people are entirely broken. But what a word for our day, blessed is the one who is not offended by me. So may we grow in faith with John the Baptist, who's willing to take not what he planned but with the Lord had gave for the sake of others, for the praise of Jesus.
So the blind they see and the Deaf they hear and take this news to John the Baptist, what Jesus does, not what your eyes see from day to day but what faith sees in the Word of God. Now what you might even be saying to yourself of what your ears have heard from the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the dead are raised up, oh John my brother, hope in that that, the dead are raised up. What would John's eyes be seeing? Maybe bars, perhaps shackles, what would John's eyes be seeing as he would review his life, favor that had slipped away, those that once clamored to him now clamoring to the Lord Jesus. What would John's eyes see, the world's violence against him, Herod having thrown him in prison? What would John's eyes see as he reviewed his very life, success or failure, his friends any longer, probably not, got to imagine he would have been mostly lonely.
So his disciples were to bring to his eyes the picture of the Lord Jesus giving the blind their sight, the picture of the Lord Jesus as being the one long spoken of in the Holy Scriptures, through the voice of Isaiah, who put John himself there in the middle of the scriptures as knocking down the high and lifting up the low as he prepared the way for Jesus. His disciples would bring to his eyes more glorious things than we see from day to day, according to the Holy Scriptures. They would have brought to his eyes the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ following the after the way of John, that Jesus himself someday would know this place of prison, and that Jesus himself, according to John's preaching, would be the lamb slain, to die a death too. But that Jesus could do what John couldn't do, though he wouldn't bail him out of jail that day, He’d bail him out of the pit with his resurrection, the eyes of faith that was John's as he could contemplate away would see all of these things, after all, he's the one who prepares the way. So Jesus is going where John, at that very moment, sits. But that Jesus is God in flesh and John, of course, isn't, just his messenger.
So that Jesus sometimes leaves us in the very places He puts us. That He might be the great one who comes again on that last day for us. The blind see and John would see it through blessed encouragement, which even the most strong, from time to time, surely need. So his disciples are to have the gospel put into their mouths, and so John is ever disciple-ing his own disciples, that they would go back from the Lord Jesus and they would speak what Jesus had told them to speak, that the Lord Christ could strengthen John where he had been found. What would John's ears been hearing?
When you're in times of hardship, what do your ears hear, especially if you're alone? He's, of course, in prison. I imagine his ears would hear some unsavory things from other prisoners, I don't imagine that they were probably the most encouraging things, probably they were condemnatory, or insulting, or mocking, as our Lord Christ would later hear as he walks the way to the cross. John, in his trouble, probably even speaking to himself might not be having the most wonderful things to consider or to remember. When hardships come your way, do what you have to say always make things better for yourself? Does what the world has to say to you encourage you in the way of faith? When you’re at a time of hardship what are your ears hearing?
I imagine if you've grown in faith, if you've looked outside of self and onto the Lord Jesus Christ, at times when you've grown spiritually, it's been because other people you regard well have had good things to say to you about the Father in heaven who loves you for Christ Jesus sake. If you've grown in faith at hard times, perhaps when someone you loved has died, when the job you desired didn't come your way, and the finances weren't good, when you were in a deep dark depressed hole, if you've grown in faith and come through to the other side, I imagine it’s because you've had good counselors to put good things in your ear about that which is to come and that which is true according to the death of the Lord Jesus. His love for you, his blessing upon you, good counselors, they’re to be sought after. Good Christian friends, they're probably everything, and poor company is the exact opposite.
So what were John's ears hearing in jail? From his disciples, they would have been hearing the gospel, through other people, but from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Ours isn't the real good age, I don't think, for bearing witness to the Lord Jesus with a lot of success, at least that we can see and measure and observe. But I think you'd almost always have to say the hearts are ripe for success that are in great trouble and are looking for encouragement and support in hardship. So the Father in heaven in this day always speaks through people, Christian people, Christian counselors who bring to the world hurting ears wonderful things spoken from the Lord Jesus Himself.
So those disciples are chosen for the task and they’re to bring glorious beautiful news to John's ears, there to counsel him as from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is a task that we get to take up for a hurting world, for one another, this is a task that takes place here in the church if you're in the place of despair, this is a task that extends through you to the world from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Go and speak to the world about the big things, the Lord Jesus Christ is intervened in your life and blessed you in whatever place you're found, even if it's not quite how you drew it up. The Lord Jesus Christ is bringing the Resurrection to bear on broken bodies. The Lord Jesus Christ has love for the world, not a harsh thing to say, but good news to preach to them. And blessed, how blessed are those who are not offended by Him.
What would you think of John, what do you think of the various John's in your life? These guys that are outcasts, they're rejected by the world, that are forgotten, do you consider the John's in your life? What does the Lord Jesus Christ do with John? He doesn't go liberate him at that moment but he asks him wait on him until he comes again. But the Lord Jesus doesn't reject him, or cut him loose as a dead weight that now he's arrived. The Lord Jesus, of course, blesses John and praises him as the greatest one ever born of women. He owns John as his own and of course he redeems John with his great salvation.
Where's our place with regard to those in great suffering in this life, is Jesus to be found for them too, is Jesus to be found also for us when we're suffering? Do we contemplate on these things, will we meditate on these things, will we see the Lord Jesus Christ isn't only with us in glorious days but also one we too bear the cross. So John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ towards him would cause us to think, to meditate on the faith, consider the words of Isaiah the prophet that said it would all be just so, to consider the words of Christ when he has put us wherever he is put us in this life. That we would repent, that we would believe in him, we would trust in Him as the coming one who is bringing the resurrection at the last.
For John and for His church, may He so bless you unto that end.
Hymn of the day:
HARK! A THRILLING VOICE IS SOUNDING
When opening the prayer book to Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding parents can help their children imagine John the Baptist singing to them. It is a fine hymn as his person, life, and voice are heard prominently during Advent in readings and hymnody. In angelic announcement, miraculous birth, preaching, convicting, consoling, Baptism, suffering, imprisonment and death John prepares the way. Like John, Jesus too will be found announced by angels, in the womb, in the Word, in the water, against Herod, with the sinners, arrested, in prison and in death to save.
With stanza one see John as that thrilling voice sounding “Christ is near…Cast away the works of darkness, All you children of the day!” Stanza two is his strong, brave, forceful call unto repentance heard by friend and foe alike. Stanza three is his pointing of his disciples and the crowds away from Himself and unto Jesus, the Lamb, so long expected. Stanza four sees John look unto the end as he sings to us of Christ’s great return in glory, bringing fear to the world and rescue unto the Church. Finally, the hymn concludes with a doxology, John and those who sing with him decreasing, and Father, Son, and Spirit increasing.
LSB receives a different tune over against Lutheran Worship. Whether it is more thrilling than the last, befitting the strength and conviction of John’s clear voice, congregations may consider putting to the test. (Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill for Logia Online)
December verses to remember:
December 2 – Romans 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.”
December 9 – 1 Kings 8:27 – “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built!”
December 16 – Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
December 23 – Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
December 30 – Hebrews 10:31 – “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”