Did Jesus Come for Me?
Rev. Kurt Lantz Advent 3 Matthew 11:2-11
December 11, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people with eyes and ears open,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). On the First Sunday in Advent we noted Jesus’ coming in gentleness, astride a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Matthew 21:1-9). On the Second Sunday of Advent we noted the contrast at His coming again in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:25-36). Today, we look again at the advent of the Christ, not His first, nor His last, but His coming to us now.
The signs of Jesus’ coming are all around us and have been in plain sight for a very long time now. There is no question that Jesus could come back today, tomorrow, or in the coming year to inaugurate His eternal kingdom over all. As we wait, our eyes and ears see some very disturbing things out there in the world. But they also see some very disturbing things taking place in our own lives that cause us to question if Jesus has come now to save us.
Without going into too much detail (for that might take away the general applicability of the truth), we are all suffering in one way or another. Our suffering might be noticed by other people or it might not. It could be in the form of a physical disability with our limbs, or perhaps hidden away in our digestive system. It could be any kind of physical or emotional infirmity that takes the joy out of the day for us or someone we are close to. It may be even the fatal end of sickness in a recent death or one long ago that still leaves an empty space in our heart. It may be poverty obvious in the way that we have to dress, or only visible on our financial statements of incurred debt.
These are the things that take away the joy from our life: disability, sickness, death, and poverty. These are things that afflict us in different ways and at different times, but can eventually lead us to question whether the Christ has come for us, or just for other people—those people who don’t seem to struggle with these things (without health issues, without emotional issues, without financial worries).
When we see others living without the afflictions that get us down day after day after day we question if we are doing the right things; doing enough good things; praying hard enough; giving enough to charity; going to church often enough; or has it all been a big waste of our time and energy and resources. Would we be happier if we set this Christian faith aside and pursued something else? Jesus, “are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
The signs that Jesus enacted when He came into the world to save sinners were plain and clear. He proved that He had come as the Saviour of the world, the Sun of Righteousness with healing in its wings (Malachi 4:2). When Jesus came to town, everyone could see and hear for themselves that the blind could see again and the lame were walking, lepers were cleansed and the deaf hearing, and even the dead were being raised, and the poor were included among those to whom Jesus came with the good news of the kingdom of God.
This is what Jesus pointed out to the disciples of John the Baptist when they came with the question: “Are you the One who is coming, or do we look for another?” They came because their master was in prison and wasn’t being released. I suppose they may have represented John the Baptist whose bold and strong confession might have wavered while in Herod’s dungeon. Certainly they represented all of the people in the towns and villages where Jesus didn’t go and do any mighty works. And they surely represented the thousands of disabled, sick, bereaved, and poor people to whom He did not bring His immediate divine healing power. Those disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus what most of us are afraid to ask, even when we are at the end of our rope: “Are you the One who is to come, or do we look for another?”
Jesus points us to what can be heard and seen. “Go and tell John what you hear and see” (Matthew 11:4). What do you hear and see? We see disability, sickness, death, and poverty. It is all around us and among us. Yet we hear the Word of God with its promises and declarations of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We think there is some kind of contradiction there, but there is not. It is because we see disability, sickness, death, and poverty that God speaks to us of His coming to us to forgive and heal and save. If we were not aware of any infirmity, we would not know our need for the good and glad news of the Great Physician who comes swiftly with healing in His wings. But where is that healing? Why doesn’t it seem to work for me when I want it so desperately? Why doesn’t Jesus come to me with healing today?
What do you hear and see above and over the disabilities and sickness and death and poverty? You hear Jesus and His promises, and if His Holy Spirit opens your eyes you can see them too. You can see Jesus coming to you with healing. We can see in the sacraments that Jesus has come to heal us.
We were baptized. Our sins have been forgiven. We were washed. We were cleansed. We were purified. We were justified. Christ has come to us in our Baptism as He washed the blind man’s eyes with mud and spit. He has come to us in Baptism like He healed the lame man near the pool of Bethesda. “What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil and gives eternal salvation to all who believe... He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Small Catechism. Baptism. II; Mark 16:16).
“It is a washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death[?] We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). With baptism the lame walk in newness of life and the dead are raised with Christ. When you look at the baptismal font, with eyes of faith you can see that Jesus has come for you.
What do you hear? “These words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’ show us that in the Sacrament [of the altar] forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Small Catechism. Sacrament of the Altar. II). Along with those words you hear everyone around you singing into your ears, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest” (Sanctus) and “O Christ Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us... grant us Thy peace” (Agnus Dei).
What do you see? People are bowing and kneeling and coming with humble faith to receive the One who is to come, the One coming for them and for you with healing in His wings. You see the resurrected body and blood of Jesus Christ given in bread and wine, coming to bestow forgiveness for doubting hearts, life for those oppressed, and healing for every infirmity.
Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me” (Matthew 11:6), not offended by the manner of His coming nor the manner in which He does His divine and healing work. We are the blessed when we are not scandalized by Christ and His abundant gifts in Word and Sacrament; when we do not stumble in faith over the where, the when, and the how of Him fulfilling His office as the coming One.
Blessed were those in the towns and villages where Jesus did not go and perform His divine and miraculous acts of healing, and yet awaited with faith their own deliverance by Him. Blessed were those whom He did not heal as He passed by, but knew that He would send perfect and complete healing through His Word and work as He went to the cross. Blessed are those who are not scandalized by such signs of healing upon others while awaiting the fulfillment of what they point forward to.
To those who may have been offended, Jesus turned their thoughts toward the imprisoned John the Baptist. He asked them, “What did you expect to see?” They expected to see a prophet, but somehow not one shaken behind bars. They expected to see him dressed in animal skins held together by a leather belt and not in luxurious robes. They expected to see him freely prophesying by the river and not shut up in the dungeon of the king’s house. Yet, this greatest of the prophets was imprisoned and that shouldn’t have surprised them. It should have confirmed that John the Baptist was in the same line with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, sharing their life of persecution and rejection.
And when we feel offended by Jesus He rightly points to those very infirmities that cause us to doubt and asks, “What did you expect? Did you expect to be shaken by the wind or clothed in luxury?” What should those whose lives have been joined to Jesus Christ through Holy Baptism expect in this world? Should we expect to have it better than John the Baptist or than Jesus Himself?
But what can we expect when our Lord and Saviour comes to us. He has made His promises plain to our eyes and ears through His Word and Sacraments. His Word says that through Baptism you are the children of God; that though your body may be disabled, sick, and dying, that you walk in newness of life with Christ and will be raised with Him. He came to bring healing and He has—not a temporary healing for a short life in this short world, but healing for eternity in a world without end.
You can see what the unbelievers cannot see. You can hear what the heathen do not hear. In your infirmities you are walking in the way of life everlasting, cleansed from all impurity. All of you who are impoverished in body, soul, possessions, or reputation, have been made rich through the gifts of Jesus, who for your sake became poor, infirm, and died upon the cross that you might find your healing in His resurrection. It is you who have the Gospel preached to you, the good news of a full restoration to life and peace and glory with God forever. What have you heard Jesus say? “Blessed are the poor in spirit... Blessed are those who mourn... Blessed are the meek... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they (you) shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:3-6).
When you see that you are least in the kingdom of heaven, then hear what Jesus says and see what He has done and be assured that because He came to bring healing for the infirm, God’s grace makes you greater in the kingdom than even John the Baptist. What do you hear and see? The signs proclaim that Jesus is the One who comes to bring healing for you. And that is why we are reminded on the Third Sunday of Advent, to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.