12/11/2016 – 3rd Sunday of Advent – Matthew 11:2-11 – “The King IS Coming”

Click HERE for the audio of this sermon.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 11:2-11

Hope Is on the Way: “The King IS Coming!”

12/11/2016, Third Sunday of Advent

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

I want to begin this morning telling a story about being validated. It’s a golf-story, so I’ll use my golf-commentator voice, which means you’ll have to try harder to stay awake….

Moses, Jesus, and an old, bearded man were out playing golf.

Moses stepped up to the tee and drove a long one. It landed in the fairway but rolled directly toward the water. Quickly Moses raised his club, the water parted and it rolled to the other side safe and sound.

Next Jesus strolls up to the tee and hits a nice long one directly toward the same water. It landed directly in the center of the pond and kind of hovered over the water. Jesus casually walked out on the pond and chipped it onto the green.

The third guy gets up and sort of randomly whacks the ball. It heads out over the fence and into oncoming traffic on a nearby street. It bounces off a truck and hits a nearby tree. From there it bounces onto the roof of a nearby house and rolls down into the rain gutter, down the downspout, out onto the fairway and right toward the same pond! On the way to the pond, it hits a little stone and bounces out over the water and onto a lily pad where it rested quietly. Suddenly, a very large bullfrog jumped on the lily pad and snatched the ball into his mouth. Just then, and eagle swooped down and grabbed the frog and flew away. As they passed over the green, the frog squealed with fright and dropped the ball, which bounced right into the hole for a beautiful hole-in-one!

Moses turned to Jesus and said, “I hate playing with your Dad!”

 

OK, I’m pretty sure that is not a true story! For one thing, Moses and Jesus would never play golf – if they did, Jesus could no longer say He was without sin, because it’s impossible to play golf and not use the Lord’s name in vain!

But also, God the Father would surely have complimented Moses on his faithful water-parting, and Jesus would have received a word of love and comfort after floating His ball over the top of the water!

 

So on this Third Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!) – hear the Good News that, despite whatever circumstances our lives are facing, regardless of the darkness that seems to engulf our lives, Jesus Christ is our Hope – He is here and He is coming back! And He validates our pains and victories!

 

Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew tells us the last John the Baptist story in his Gospel.  Last week we remembered that Luke tells us that John and Jesus are distant cousins (their mothers were cousins), and that John leapt in his mother’s womb when the pregnant Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house. And then 30 years later we saw that John had been preparing for the day he would meet Jesus face-to-face while he was baptizing people in the Jordan River.

Sometime after that, John was arrested for speaking the truth against King Herod, and before he was executed we come to today’s passage.

Listen for Jesus’ validation of John and the promise that the King of all Kings IS, indeed, coming!

Matthew 11:2-11 ….—-

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written [in Malachi 3:1]:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

 

What am I doing that is worthwhile? Have you ever asked if you’re making a difference? In the 1946 Christmas season classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey comes to the point of believing everyone would be better off if he had never been born – and with heavenly magic his guardian angel Clarence is able to make that happen.

(Spoiler alert!George Bailey was shown by an alternate reality that he was desperately wrong. And he found his life validated only by the storybook magic of returning to his own universe’s reality.

I think we all need validation. Most men spend their entire lives trying to earn their father’s validation. That’s one reason I love the story of Jesus’ baptism, which we looked at last week, where the voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God said that before Jesus even began to do any of His ministry!

 

In today’s reading we see that the ministry of John the Baptist is VALIDATED in Jesus Christ! And I believe every ministry we attempt NEEDS that same validation.

 

I found, in a book by Craig Lounsbrough, this truth: “I find that I spend a tremendous amount of time chasing the praises of men rather than sitting with the praises of God. The former is something I attempt to catch, the latter catches me.”

I don’t think I’ve ever met a believer in Jesus who did not long to hear God tell them: “Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

John the Baptist, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb when the fetus Jesus was in the same room, now needed some kind of proof that Jesus actually was the guy he had been “preparing the way” for. So he sends some friends to go find out. Does Jesus get all uppity? Is His nose out of joint? Are His feelings hurt that His cousin questions His Christ-hood?

Nope. Jesus simply answers their questions; and then after they have left the building Jesus addresses the crowd and builds John up! I think that the disciples, or maybe it’s just me, started to wonder if John the Baptist was really all that! So Jesus immediately defends His cousin by reminding everyone who John wasa prophet, and more than that, John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy! And then Jesus says, “In fact (that is what “truly” means), nobody is greater than John the Baptist – no one; not Moses, not Elijah, not David!

 

But then look at the very last line of this passage: “Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist!” What does Jesus mean by that?

No one to date is anywhere near as great as John! But even the least in the kingdom of heaven has him beat! Does that even make sense? Can anyone here give an answer to this enigma?

          [John was the last prophet to announce the coming King, the awaited Messiah, the Christ of GodJohn even got to introduce this Savior to the world, to baptize Him in the Jordan, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor! No one else got to do any of that! And John was the first to speak God’s word after a 400-year silence. In so many ways, John was greater than any before him because of these special attributes. – But John died before this Son of God’s work was accomplished. John did not see Jesus go to Jerusalem that last time, when He would be shunned and mocked and beaten and, ultimately, crucified! And even more importantly, John would miss the resurrection! John missed Jesus’ ascension back into the heavens. John missed out on the privilege of believing in Jesus as the King of all kings! In that sense, even the least who do have that chance live out a more blessed life of faith. In John’s Gospel it says, to all who did receive Him God gave the right to be called children of God! John the Baptist got to be called a second cousin of Jesus, but friends you and I are children of God!]

 

John the Baptist was the privileged prophet to announce that the King is coming! 2,000 years later, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, demonstrated God’s power and love through His life and ministry, and then received our due death in the cross before conquering death for everyone by resurrecting on the third day, you and I get the same privilege to announce the King IS coming!

 

Your Sermon Notes page asks you to think of one time in 2016 when your hope in Christ was tested/grew. I can easily think of several – I’ll bet you can too. Anybody want to shout out one way, one experience, that your hope in Christ was tested or that caused you to grow? [Kenya – finding true family there/celebrating 22 years as pastor with LPC/Jennifer’s dad’s struggle with cancer and his profound strength and faith throughout].

 

John was the greatest because of his calling to announce the coming of the King! But even we are greater than John with the privilege, the blessing, of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and sharing in that calling – the King IS coming!

How will you give that hope to someone this Christmas season? You might have to wait until Easter-time, but you could even do it on the golf course. Share God’s perfect love one time, and sit back and hear God tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”

 

Resources:

Delozier, John; Lighthouse Fellowship; Red Lion, PA “Advent: Hope Is on the Way”; December 3, 2006.

 

Lounsbrough, Craig D.;  Flecks of Gold on a Path of Stone; Ambassador-Emerald International; Tampa Bay, FL; 2011.

 

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12/04/2016 – Advent 2 – Matthew 3:1-12 – “We Work While We Wait”

Click HERE for the audio version…..

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 3:1-12

12/04/2016, Second Sunday of Advent

Hope Is on the Way: “We Work While We Wait”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

When is the last time you used the word “hope” in a sentence? Was it a verb? Or a noun?

Let me take you back to grammar school for a minute: a noun might be defined as a person, place or thing; and a verb is usually understood as an action word.

The word “hope” as a verb might be, “I hope everything comes out OK”, or “I hope she arrives home safely”, or “I hope Wheeler’s sermon gets done in time to watch the Seahawks game.”(Since they don’t play until 5:30 tonight, I hope so, too!)

Using “hope” as a noun might sound like, “there is great hope that this surgery took care of everything”, or “there is no hope that Wheeler will ever be very good at that dang guitar”. Or, look at your sermon title: “Hope is on the way!”

 

Last week we began the Season of Advent by concluding the series on the Six Great Ends/Purposes of the ChurchThe Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. I had originally hoped to finish that series the week before, but we had the privilege of hearing Jack Hewson’s testimony back in October, and that bumped that series into Advent – it seems that God had a better plan.

The first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy after 400 years of silenceGod exhibited the Kingdom of Heaven to the World when His Son became flesh and was born in Bethlehem. Hope was fulfilled.

And we are promised that Christ will return! We wait … but Hope is on the Way! I sincerely want the people of LPC to know, I want everyone on Nevada Street to know, I want all of Spokane to know, that Hope is on the Way!

 

So on this Second Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!) – hear the Good News that, despite whatever circumstances our lives are facing, regardless of the darkness that seems to engulf our lives, Jesus Christ is our Hope – He is here and He is coming back!

 

Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew introduces us to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. From all appearances, this is the first time Jesus and John have actually seen each other face to face – but it is not the first time they met each other….  Can anyone tell us when was the first time Jesus and John were in the same room together?  [Luke 1 tells us that the pregnant virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Luke 1:41 says, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby (John) leaped in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Today’s story takes place almost THIRTY years later! As we read these 12 short verses, listen for what John the Baptist did between these two meetings.  Matthew 3:1-12 ….—-

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,         ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,              make straight paths for him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

 

So … what did John do? Did he sit around and wait for Jesus to start something? Matthew tells us that John came, preaching in the wilderness, saying “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” He baptized people repenting of their sins. He preached against the scribes and Pharisees.

John studied; John prepared himself for what God called him to do. Tradition tells us that maybe John was a member of a special group of Jews called the Essenes – they were like a fraternal order of Jewish priests who dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture (Old Testament) and communal living. Some believe they are responsible for preserving the Scriptures that were discovered in 1948 – the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

What did John do? He waited for the Messiah, the Christ, to present Himself – and in the meantime he worked! Hard!

 

When we were in Kenya last July, one Sunday I was invited to preach in a large, prosperous church in Bungoma, and Pastor Cary preached in the small, rural church in Kiminini. We weren’t together, so we didn’t hear each other – so this story is second or third hand….

Cary was preaching on being faithful in our prayers, and he was making a point that when we pray for something to happen, it is not faithful to pray and then do nothing expecting results. If we need a job, we pray for a job … and we go out and apply for jobs! His illustration was something like, “When we pray for money, should we then just go sit under a tree and wait?” And the congregation, in Swahili, responded with words acknowledging Cary’s point.

Later he was told that the translator said, in Swahili, “When we pray, we should just sit under a tree and wait.” And the congregation had responded agreeing with that! Point lost!

 

No! Faithfulness means acting on our faith! Always. Faithfulness means doing something. We Work While We Wait!

 

People need hope during times of darkness—That hope is Christ. Christ was the hope of a world that sat in darkness for many years without hearing the voice of God. At his birth, hope came into the world.
Are you aware of everything that took place in Israel during those silent years between the Old Testament and New Testament? The blessings of Isaiah 60 are that a world that sat is darkness without hope will find hope. That hope was to be found in Jesus Christ.

 

Throughout His ministry Jesus Christ, brought hope wherever He traveled. He brought hope to the aged temple watchers when presented at 8 days old (Luke 2); He brought hope to the woman at the well (John 4); He brought hope to the maniac of Gadara when He cast out the demons who fled to the swine (Matthew 8); He brought hope to Mary and Martha when He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 10).

 

He is our Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). And we know that Jesus Christ is coming again.

 

So what work do we need to do? There is a general answer to that – things we all need to do – and there are specific, individual, particular answers to that, unique to each one of us. Jesus gave unique answers (“sell everything and give to the poor”, “wash in the pool of Siloam”, “come down from the tree, I’ll have dinner at your house tonight”).

But He also gave general answers, that apply to everyone. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!

 

One thing we all must do is REPENT! Turn away from those choices and lifestyles that we know are counter to what God says is right. Submit to Him as Lord. Turn around (that is what REPENT means)!

From what must we REPENT? I am sure we each have our specific sins, when we see them, REPENT. But we also all share some sins in common: selfishness, trusting in ourselves more than in God, greed, prejudice….

 

We must Be READY! Be READY for Christ’s return! In Luke 18 Jesus addresses His disciples, His closest followers, and asks them “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” We must be READY to acknowledge His glory and His presence and His power. And we must be READY to submit to Him, to serve Him, to accept His love and to love Him back by sharing His love with the most unlovable ones around us! (That kind of reminds me to REPENT!)

Invest this Advent Season getting READY for Christmas – not the shopping and decorating (that’s all OK), but your hearts and your relationships with loved ones so that you can share the Gospel truth!

John the Baptist says in today’s reading, verse 11, “After me comes one who is more powerful, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!

Be READY for Holy Spirit baptism!

 

REJOICE when we do know Himnot just know about Him – know Him! REJOICE! Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!

 

Our Hope is in Jesus Christ! REPENT. Be READY. REJOICE!

Hope is a temporary need of the soul (I Corinthians 13:13). The reason love is the greater than faith is because in heaven our faith journey will end, and our faith will be sight. Just as faith is a temporary need of the soul, so it is with hope. On the day that we stand before Jesus Christ and see Him face to face we will have no need to hope, we will then know Him even as He now knows us. We will stand before the hope of all mankind and He will no longer be our hope, He will be our intimate friend and brother, our Lord and Savior, the one who gave His life so that we might live eternally.

 

Hope is on the way! Psychologists tell us that the Christmas season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. I doubt we really needed a psychologist to tell us that. More depression diagnoses are made in the holiday season than any other time of the year.

Are you having a blue Christmas as the song writer said once? Hope is on the way!

Take that message to the single mother who cries herself to sleep at night praying that God will take care of her and her children. Hope is on the way!

To the stressed out father who is trying so hard to provide for his family we have a message to proclaim: Hope is on the way!

To the lonely widow who celebrates Christmas after saying goodbye to her dearest on earth: Hope is on the way!

When the night seems too long and you awake to a dreary day, don’t lose hope, Hope is on the way!

If you are fighting a battle of fear and it seems that God is silent, just hold on, Hope is on the way!

When your heart is broken in two and you’re standing in the rubble of your life, God’s Word says, “Hold on my child your weeping only lasts for a night–joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Hope is on the way!

Will you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your hope this morning? He is the only true object of hope. Hope is on the way!  Have you made Jesus Christ your personal savior? Hope is here!

 

Amen

 

Resources:

Liturgynerd blog

 

Delozier, John; Lighthouse Fellowship; Red Lion, PA “Advent: Hope Is on the Way”; December 3, 2006.