And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
This is Your Word, Heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the Truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed: See what John does. He does what a good pastor does. He points not to himself, but to our Lord. He sends his followers not out to find a good lawyer, nor even to go fetch Jesus to come and spring him from death row. He sends his disciples to Jesus with a very specific question for them to ask: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” John sent them, and so they expect to return to the Forerunner of the Christ with a report. But he sent them not with a question for his own curiosity. He sent them with a question to which he well knew the answer. Like a good teacher, John sent his followers to find wonder and great joy in discovering the Answer to their question. That answer would make them whole, would take them where they needed to go, where their old master John loved for them to go, loved for them to discover. He sent them on a quest toward something greater than himself.
John pointed the way. Everything he did, every lesson he taught was not an end in itself, not about him. Everything was pointing, pointing to the One Who would fulfill the desire of ages. John the Baptist to the end was a good pastor, a good teacher. He pointed those who would follow him to the One who was greater than him. He sent his disciples to Jesus. Only there would they find what John could only talk about, could only point to.
The place you find yourself in life today isn’t as important as the place you are going. This journey is only that– and the direction you follow is vital. What direction are you following? Are you following those who point you toward themselves? Are you following goals and objects which are ends in themselves, things which you desire really, only, ever to make you feel a bit happier, a bit less empty, maybe for the moment even fulfilled? Or do you follow the words of the prophets and apostles, and yes, pastors who do not point to things that might entertain you for the day, or down the dead-end streets to themselves, but beyond themselves, through the Word they are given, pointing always, leading you always, encouraging you always, whether you particularly want to hear it or not, in season or out, in fashion or not, always, always to Jesus? Only in Jesus will you find (well, no, not what you’re looking for... that can change from day to day... no, only in Jesus will you find) a better goal and destiny than you could desire or dream.
Jesus took John’s disciples and gave them eyes to see, ears to hear what He does. “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” The reality of sadness and want are overturned before their eyes. Jesus does a New Thing. He makes dead things live, dead eyes, dead legs, dead skin, dead ears, dead people to see and walk and be clean and hear, and hear Good News they’d never heard before. Men can be proud, we don’t want to show our weakness, don’t want to let on that we don’t know the answers, don’t want to show how badly we really do need help. Jesus heals that too, heals that old scab of sinful pride, softens that old scabby heart of stone so that we hear and see and live in His help, grace, and joy, and are blessed not to be offended like the prideful goons we too often are, but in the end not to be offended, but glad to hear His Good News.
You were going to die forever. You were going to hell. You couldn’t do anything about it. Jesus could, and Jesus did do something about it, overcame your death and hell, overcame the blood-price of your sin, paid it with His own life. You are forgiven. You are going to live forever. You are going to heaven. Jesus did this for you. His Word is Truth. Do not be offended, hearing it. This isn’t about how you got here, or where you are. This is about where you are going. This isn’t about John, or any of the prophets or apostles. This isn’t about me, or any other good pastor. This is all about the One we are all pointing to. This is about the One we are pouring out our lives, spending all our years pointing to. This is all about the One John was glad to be sitting in that dungeon, waiting for his execution, if it would only allow him at the last to just keep on pointing to Jesus, sending those who would hear him, hear the prophets, hear the apostles, hear me, to send you to Jesus. He has the answers. Jesus has the forgiveness, life, salvation. John is just a pointer. That’s all I am. That’s all all the saints and angels and the whole Host of heaven are about. We’re about pointing you, now, to Jesus. He is your salvation.
That’s what the people Jesus spoke with that day had gone to see. Not some big show, not an impressive looking guy. They went to see John because he was the most valuable thing in the world to a traveller who wonders where he is, and where to go– he was a sign along the road pointing the right way. Want forgiveness? Want life? Want joy? This way to Jesus. From the start to the end. Even from his prison John sent his disciples... to Jesus.
I want you to think about what it is we are doing here. We are looking at Jesus. Looking at, hearing His Word of Life. Receiving what He promises already here and now. Forgiveness, Life, Salvation, enduring peace and joy. Isn’t that amazing? What a wonderful thing, to have God’s Word and promises pointing you right where you most desire to go.
Every year my family goes over to see the Christmas lights at Shore Acres. They are beautiful and fun and I look forward to seeing the park every December. Several years ago, there was a young father was carrying his little boy. He was about two years old, just old enough to understand the story he must have heard about this magical place they were going to visit with hundreds of thousands of lights, just old enough to understand it and express his joyous anticipation. As that little boy was brought in to the park he was saying “We are here! This is the garden! Oh! Oh! I’m so excited! I’m so excited!” My goodness that little fellow was actually shaking with excitement! He was so delightful to see and hear that I couldn’t help but smile.
This is the place where you hear God’s Word and are pointed to your Savior. This is the place where you receive His forgiveness and are cleansed of your guilt. This is the place your shame is washed away, and you are brought near to Jesus. And His Word speaks, and He feeds you. Isn’t it time you peel away the old rough hide and remember what it was that brought you to this unlikely place for in the first place? Remember what happens here. Remember just Who is here for you. Jesus is here for you. Isn’t it time, Christmas is near, for you to realize that you are peeking into the wonders that saints and angels of old wanted so badly to see, and be just like that little boy, excited, so joyous by what is given you?
Here it is: your sin is taken and done away with. Jesus has paid for your place in eternal life. He loves you. He is here for you in His Word and Sacrament. And He is returning to bring you to the eternal Home He has prepared for you. “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” And blessed is he who is not offended because of Jesus. They were sent back to tell John. You, go and tell your neighbor, go and tell the ones you love. Go and tell. It’s so exciting! It’s more than you dreamed it could be. Jesus is everything, and He is for you.
The Peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus our Lord.