December 13, 2015
What do you see in Jesus?
The Third Sunday in Advent has traditionally been called, by the Latin word, Gaudete, meaning “Rejoice!” We lite the pink candle on the Advent wreath. The first words of the introit of this day read in Latin, “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, Gaudete…Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God…” Right!
For some. Their life stinks! For some. There is little rejoicing. And plenty of anxiety. This time of year. Some simply dread Christmas. For some. There is a nervousness. And worry. And apprehension. And fright. And fear. And angst. Rejoicing? No! Not really! For them…There is panic. And fear. And dread. How can there be rejoicing? When life’s circumstances say otherwise?
For as you are called to repentance. So also. Are you urged to rejoice in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. By His Cross. He has accomplished salvation for you; “He has cleared away your enemies,”
“He has taken away the judgments against you.” And has come to reign in your midst. Indeed, He rejoices over you with gladness and song! (Zeph. 3:15–17). Therefore, even from prison St. Paul encourages us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Knowing that the peace of God will guard and keep us in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4, 7). We find an example and encouragement in the case of John the Baptist. As he languishes in prison. He calls upon Jesus. And is strengthened by the Word of the Gospel that he receives. The same good news is preached to you. By which all things are made new and even “the dead are raised up” (Luke 7:22). Do not be offended by the cross. But let your life be one of prayer and thanksgiving (Luke 7:23; Phil. 4:6).
Because of Jesus. We always have hope. But sometimes. Heaviness settles. Questions about God and ourselves drag down our faith. Doubt starts to drag us under. Fears creep in behind the doubt. Uncertainty dims the light of hope. Darkness seems to engulf us. And suddenly we feel terribly alone.
Perhaps it is because we come to the horrible discovery that life is not fair. It doesn’t seem like everyone is treated equally. Hardships, unexpected death, or a disaster seems to lack a reason for being. Perhaps it is the prayers we have prayed repeatedly. We know it is God’s will according to Scripture, but nothing happens. We wonder about God’s goodness at weak moments, “Does God care?” We try to keep up the church routine, but something just isn’t right. Should we be afraid of our questions? Should we shove them back down? No, because sometimes in the depths of doubt we make our greatest discoveries of God’s greatest treasures.
Almost all of the heroes of the Bible at one time or another despaired in doubt: Abraham, Job, Moses, David, Jeremiah. Even the forerunner of faith himself faced disturbing doubts – John the Baptizer.
“Is Jesus the long-expected Messiah and Savior?’ ask John’s disciples. “Or should we seek another?” What do you see? Jesus replies. “The blind see. The lame walk…the dead are raised.” Only God can do this. Foreshadowing the restoration of fallen creation. This will be completed at the Second Coming of Christ. In the meantime. We, who are spiritually poor, have the Good News of the forgiveness of sins preached to us. Jesus Christ is the promised One. Who by His death has healed us of the disease of iniquity. And has raised us to life. Who were dead in our trespasses and sins.
GOD USES OUR UNCERTAINTY TO DEVELOP FAITH (Luke 7:18-23)
As John the Baptist languished in prison. (Put there by Herod Antipas – Luke 3:19-20 - because he had called Herod out...for being an adulterer. He spoke God's truth in love. He spoke the truth. It is not right for you to have your brother's wife! So Herod locked him up and shut him down!) -He begins to have doubts about Jesus’ identity. The doubts seem to be brought on by news of Jesus’ ministry. Why is Jesus not fulfilling the Messianic task of overthrowing the kingdom of this world and establishing God’s kingdom? John sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is indeed the one.
Are you The Coming One? This is a title for the Messiah. The same verb (erchomai) occurs in Zech 9:9 “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation.” The forerunner of Messiah is afraid of failure. He is concerned. Did he send people to the right Messiah? Had he been right? Or not? Was John sinking into hopelessness and depression in that jail cell? Did his disciples slant their stories about Jesus? Planting doubt in his mind?
John’s question is actually comforting. If a man of such great commitment and faith can have doubts, we need not be overwhelmed at our own uncertainties. Nevertheless, John’s question is also a warning. John made the mistake of expecting Jesus to act as John supposed He must. Let us never suppose that God must limit Himself to act as we think He should. We must adjust to what God is doing.
Jesus is gracious to John. He didn’t lecture John. Jesus’ response is designed to redirect John’s expectations. Jesus points to His demonstration of power. His healing and preaching. Jesus’ point is that the Messiah has arrived, something he already announced in the Nazareth synagogue. (Luke 4:17-19. Jesus’ mission is not to conquer the Romans. But to conquer sin and Satan. And win the Romans - and all nations - to Himself.
Did you notice the graciousness of Jesus? When He hears of John’s doubt? That is His character. He is not interested in slamming you for your doubt. He is interested in pointing you to the Scriptures. And to His work in your life. As a reminder that He has come to save those who want to believe but are afraid. They need help in their unbelief. Jesus uses the uncertainties of life - to develop faith in you – That diagnosis. That bill. That failing business opportunity. That friend who is just not acting right. That lay-off notice. God does not create suffering. But He often uses it to develop your faith. If you, like John, have any inclination to follow him.
– Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.” Jesus blesses those who are able to set aside their personal agendas and expectations in favor of God’s greater plan. The word skandalizo means, “To cause to stumble or fall.” A Messiah. Coming with healing. And reconciliation. Was an obstacle to so many. (1 Corinthians 1:23; Isaiah 8:14. He was not doing it the way they expected. Or wanted. He was not making sense to them. How could the Messiah come and not take over? How could He leave His people under the oppression of the nations?
F.B. Meyer puts it this way. Blessed are those who stay unoffended when God begins to deal with them, those who do not stumble over the mystery of God’s dealings in their life. Job suffered. Yet stayed faithful. Joseph endured unjust treatment. Yet refused to live in bitterness. Hosea continued to walk in obedience. Even when his spouse was unfaithful and left him. Paul prayed for relief from a thorn in the flesh. But in the end. Submitted to the Lord’s work. “His grace is sufficient for me” (2 Cor. 12:9. Blessed are those who live with unanswered questions. Who rest in the little they can see. Trusting God. For what they cannot see.
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, Gaudete…Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice.
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