Advent 3 (A)

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A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer

First & Spring Creek Lutheran Churches

Third Sunday in Advent – December 12, 2004

Text: Matthew 11:2-11

I.                   Introduction: “Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I’ve always loved this story about John the Baptist. It’s one of the most wonderful, most important, and most overlooked stories in the whole Bible. These ten little verses give us a glimpse into the private heart of one of the great heroes of our faith – they bring John the Baptist, a prophet towering over all except for Jesus himself, down to a human level once again. These verses speak to us about faith and doubt, and they teach us how we might live as people of faith. There are three things in particular that I love about the story of John’s messengers to Jesus: I love that John has doubts, I love how John deals with his doubts, and I love how Jesus responds to John’s doubts.”

II.                I love that John has doubts.

a.       John’s credentials

                                                                    i.      Miraculous birth

1.      Foretold by angel

2.      Conceived of an old mother and father

                                                                  ii.      Prophetic lifestyle

1.      Clothing

2.      Food

3.      Proclamation – “Repent! The kingdom is near!”

                                                                iii.      He recognized Jesus

1.      In the womb – he leaped

2.      At the river – “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

b.      John was a leader

                                                                    i.      Pressure to appear confident

                                                                  ii.      Doubts about hypocrisy

                                                                iii.      In prison right now because of his preaching

c.       John had heard the voice of God

                                                                    i.      “This is my Son, the Beloved!”

d.      If John could have doubts about Jesus, anyone could

III.             I love how John deals with his doubts.

a.       Could have…

                                                                    i.      Lost his faith

                                                                  ii.      Kept on preaching what he no longer believed

b.      Instead, he is direct and straightforward – he asks Jesus bluntly

                                                                    i.      Swallowing his pride

                                                                  ii.      Taking a chance on Jesus

                                                                iii.      Willing to wait for the reply

c.       John teaches us how to live with doubt

IV.              I love how Jesus responds to John’s doubts.

a.       Jesus praises John for his faithfulness

                                                                    i.      Jesus does not criticize or ridicule John for his doubts

                                                                  ii.      “More than a prophet!” (Elijah)

                                                                iii.      “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist”

                                                                iv.      The message: Doubts do not make a person unfaithful

b.      Jesus sends John evangelists

                                                                    i.      John’s disciples have seen and heard

1.      The blind see

2.      The lame walk

3.      The lepers are cleansed

4.      The deaf hear

5.      The dead are raised

6.      The poor have good news brought to them

                                                                  ii.      Jesus sends them to tell John their good news

1.      We think of evangelism as something we do in faraway places

2.      Evangelism = sharing the good news of Jesus

3.      We all need to be evangelized – we all need someone to share with us the good news

4.      When we are caught up in doubt, we can lean on the strength of others’ faith, listening to their stories about what they have seen and heard of Jesus

V.                 Conclusion: “John the Baptist was a great man, no doubt about it. And never was he greater than at this moment in his life – locked away in the dark, wondering and worrying whether he had made a great mistake after all. In his doubt, John the Baptist is no different from any of the rest of us who struggle to believe in a message that seems too good and too strange to be true. But rather than give up, John did the boldest thing possible – he went straight to the source. He asked Jesus straight-up, is it all for real? Help me to believe in you! Rather than hiding his doubt out of guilt, or shame, or pride, John dealt with his doubt in the best, most honest way he could, by talking to Jesus. That’s a great example for us. And most encouraging, Jesus loved John even in his doubt, and sent messengers back to bring him some good news. Jesus loves us in all our doubts, too, and when we are struggling, he has given us a whole community of evangelists to share with us what they have seen and heard of him. If you are in the grip of doubt right now, listen to your brothers and sisters – they know about our Lord and they have marvelous stories of the miracles he has worked before their eyes. Their good news will strengthen you. And if you are full of faith today, share it! There are many out there who struggle and need the good news that you have. Listen to Jesus, and go to tell them what you have seen and heard. Doubt is not sin – let John the Baptist’s story be your guide and encouragement as you work through doubt into faith again, together with your brothers and sisters. Amen.”

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