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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 ….—-
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 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? 8 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. 9 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 was – a 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 God – John 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.”
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.