“Is That Really You?”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
December 11, 2016
Matthew 11:2-11 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah[a] was doing, he sent word by his[b] disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers[c] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone[d] dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet?[e] Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
We are well into our Advent journey on this the Third Sunday of Advent. We have before us this morning a text that challenges us to hear the “down and dirty” questions of Advent. We have before us a conversation between the “heavy hitters” of Advent; Jesus, John the Baptist, and the crowds! The one we are waiting for, the one who is coming, and us! As we move forward in our Advent journey, I believe it’s time for us to seriously consider the question, “What is our business during Advent?” I believe our business during Advent is to do just what John did in this text, it is to ask the question.
Asking questions is always a risky thing to do. Risky because what if the answer you receive is not the answer you want? Well, with answer withstanding, the real situation revolves around the question. I can remember being somewhat “outspoken” in elementary school, trying to answer the questions correctly, especially if it involved answering in front of the class. Because, if you get the answer correct, you look good, if you get the answer wrong, well, you know the outcome. But asking the question can also be difficult. Is it better sometimes for someone else to ask the question? What if the kid who always has the right answer asks the question? It sort of puts us at ease doesn’t it? In our text this morning, someone else asks the question, someone else puts themselves on the line, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
But it’s interesting that it is John who asks the question; the John who earlier in Matthew claimed that “One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matt 3:11). Fast forward to our text this morning and all of a sudden we have a John who is asking the question, “Are you really the one we have been waiting for?” What is really happening? What is really happening is true human questioning. John, having been imprisoned, having only heard what Jesus was doing, was asking a question that ran deep within his faith, “How can this person be the Savior that I proclaimed was coming into the world?” He certainly didn’t take Herod’s sin away, he didn’t keep me out of prison, what type of salvation is really taking place?
John asked some of the real life questions that we tend to ask, and we ask them often during Advent, if we take the journey seriously. We should ask the tough questions, we should seek deep within our lives and ask ourselves, “How do await on the Savior?” How does our life of faith play out in a season of waiting? of Advent? of the Coming of our Savior? We, as human Christians seek to ask those questions that stir our soul?
So what happens when someone else offers the answer? For Jesus answered John, and I believe Jesus answers us in the same way, He answers us in words that sound like this, “I cannot answer for you. You have to decide on your own whether I am for real. Look at the evidence. What do you see?”
This becomes “our” journey during Advent! We have to ask the questions of how has Jesus been revealed to us in our lives? Not just at the Advent season, but in all the seasons of our life.
Often times we take this Advent Season and the upcoming Christmas Season as what we used to call on the neighborhood basketball court, “give me’s”! These things, those baskets that were automatic when you got fouled, the automatic free-throw’s when the foul was a technical, those were the “give me’s” we expected. Often times we take Advent to be a “give-me” in that it’s automatic for Jesus to appear in our life and all is ok! When in fact, we have to ask some very, very, tough questions concerning how Christ is present and active in our lives. Not relying on the fact that “He just appeared”! But that He appeared with a purpose to convict and change our lives to live differently and for the purpose of God’s Kingdom.
Therefore, as Advent people, we are called to be people of faith, of action, of love, and service.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote these words in a poem, “Who am I?” Wondering what his purpose in the Christian life was all about, it is often echoed by most of us who claim the Christian faith, just as it was by John the Baptist. We find our answer in John the Baptist’s life as we come to understand that we need to look not toward ourselves, but toward Christ! For it is in Christ that we find out who we are! “Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine!”
May we continue our Advent journey continually searching and asking the questions, and knowing that Christ is the answer to our questions.
May we wait patiently and yet with energy, sustain our journey toward the manger.
AMEN & AMEN.