Sermon for Gaudete, the Third Sunday in Advent, AD 2021

Matthew 11:2-10

Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice! So begins the introit today on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete – or, Rejoice! All you blind, rejoice, for you will see! All you lame rejoice, for you will walk! All you sick rejoice, for you will be cleansed! All you deaf rejoice, for you will hear! All you dead rejoice, for you will be raised! All you poor rejoice, for you will have the good news preached to you! If Jesus is truly the coming one, the Christ, then this is what we believe. When you ask, who is this Christ? These are your answers. Who is the Christ? No other questions matter.

If the question is Who is the Christ? Then circumstances don’t matter. John rotted in a prison cell in Herod’s fortress. John had committed no crime. He had done nothing wrong. He did exactly what God told him to do, what he was created to do, and it led to a prison cell. He was supposed to be the one who came before the coming one and prepared his way. What happened? At least John could speak to his friends and disciples. He sent them to Jesus to get the plan. Why was John in the situation? Isn’t Jesus the Christ? Isn’t Jesus the king? Why are his circumstances like this? Jesus’ answer is – your circumstances do not affect whether I am the Christ.

What does he say to John? He does not explain why John is in prison. He does not make excuses. He says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” The first sentence answers John – is Jesus the coming one? Yes. See all these things Jesus is doing? These are what the coming one, the Messiah, the Christ, will do. These are all prophesied in the Old Testament by Isaiah. Then the second sentence – blessed is the one who is not offended by me. What offense has Jesus given to John? It’s the elephant in the room. John is in prison, and the action of the coming one that Jesus does not mention is setting captives free. This is hard to hear, but blessed is the one not offended by this.

What circumstance would cause you to be offended by Jesus? What circumstance would cause you to say – no, I don’t think Jesus is the Christ after all? What if you lost everything you owned for no good reason? What if you lost your job and were made an outcast to society? What if you lost a child? What if your nation was invaded? What if you were imprisoned and did nothing wrong? There is no need for quick or flippant answers here. Even John the Baptist doubted from prison. The doubts will happen because the world is very evil.

The unbeliever embraces the doubt. The response to Jesus’ answer may be - what blind can now see? What lame walk? What dead are raised? Jesus healed people in the past, but where is the benefit to me and mine right now? This allows circumstances to determine who Jesus is. If your circumstances are good, then Jesus is Christ. If they are bad, maybe he is not really who he says he is. Or maybe he’s a little less than everyone holds him up to be. This is not faith, but testing God, holding God to your own measurement and expecting him to play the game. How many presents do you need to get to believe Santa Claus is real?

The Christian will take Jesus’ answer as John did, in faith. The Christian like John sees Jesus’ answer and says, yes, Lord, I see. You truly are the Christ. My circumstance is irrelevant for that claim. Then in the bad circumstance, Jesus becomes the comfort to the troubled soul. Jesus is the hope in the circumstance. Neither doubt nor excuses will create hope and comfort. The only true comfort in life and death is that Jesus is the Christ. May you always pray, thy will be done. For in thy will be done you accept that His will is always done, but ask it may be among us also. If his will is that for now our circumstances cause us to suffer, then we pray that his will be done that we trust in Him through it. For He is the Christ, and no circumstance we are in changes that. That is what John held to in prison until he was martyred. He would not let circumstance change his faith like a reed blown by the wind.

The reed blown by the wind is like the person who lets their belief be determined by other people and personalities. Personalities don’t matter to the question, Who is the Christ? Jesus turns to the people after John’s disciples leave and asks them, What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? That is, someone who goes along with whatever is most popular and politically expedient to preach. A guy who knows which side his bread is buttered on. Such a person would be happy to preach whatever pleases the most people, or the most donors. Yeah, he will tell you who the Christ is. Turns out, the Christ is exactly who you want him to be. A nice, moderate person. Yet as much as you would like to believe it, you know rationally that it would be silly to base your entire faith on the words of such a person. A pleasing personality may deceive many, but it does not determine the Christ.

A pleasing personality John was not. Nor was he one of those fellows in soft clothing who hangs out in kings’ houses. They know which way the wind blows, and their Christ is whoever has the power and influence. It gets them out of their difficult circumstances quite easily. Herod the Great, the father of the Herod who imprisoned John, really knew how to be one of these guys. He would go along with whoever was in power in the Roman Empire. If Marc Anthony and Cleopatra were on the rise, hey, he was best friends with them. When Julius Caesar took over, he was a die-hard Caesar fan. Personalities determined his king, his Christ, because personalities got him great success in life.

John was neither of these. He was popular, not with the powerful. He had no respect for persons. His conviction about the Christ did not change to please any people, no matter how powerful or influential. This got him in a king’s house – in the dungeon. Would your actions change if you feared Christ over all other people? Would you work differently, parent differently, live differently? Do you think you would be less successful and comfortable? You may. John was certainly less comfortable in camel’s hair than nice satin of Herod’s court.

But John was more than a prisoner. John was more than the prophet. He was the prophesied prophet who Malachi spoke of, the one who would go before the Lord, the Christ’s, face to prepare the way before Him. Jesus is the Christ means that everything is interpreted back through Him. So John is certainly not some flash-in-the pan preacher, or down-on-his-luck political prisoner. He’s not even just some good prophet. He is The Prophet. He is the forerunner of Christ. The existence and work of John means that Jesus is the Christ and therefore God is working, after 400 years of silence, to save His people.

If Jesus is the Christ, then the answer that the blind see, lame walk, dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them is good news for you. Do not be offended by the actions of Christ in giving consolation, even if they are not coming to you and your loved ones directly. For these works are the sign of the greater thing – Jesus is the Christ! He is the King, the Lord of heaven and earth! The Coming One has truly come, the one whom John the Baptist pointed to, and He brings salvation and hope for a future.

Herod had no future. He worshipped personality and found great success, but also killed his own children to keep his power, mad with the obsession of holding on to it. He is worm food now. So too all the false prophets who gain big followings and then lose them. Who can hold on to 15 seconds of fame today? Who can hope in any future to be in the big boss’ favor one day and then fired for a comment made decades ago the next?

To make Christ dependent on people, on circumstances will gain nothing. None of those things change who Jesus is. That is your true hope. You consolation is that even now you can understand this. Instead of thinking, if my circumstances would be better, I would believe in Jesus, think, Jesus is the Christ, and on that fact and in that hope I will define my circumstances. The best part is, Christ works in you to build this trust. For the unbaptized are baptized! The hungry are fed with the body and blood of Christ! The captives are freed from sin! The poor have the good news preached to them! Rejoice! Jesus is the Christ, and He is Lord of All! Amen.






1 Corinthians 1 Kings 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 10th commandment 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Timothy 2020 4th petition 9th commandment Abraham Acts Adam Advent Ahab and Jezebel All Saints America Andrew Angel of God Annunciation Ascension Assyria Augustine of Canterbury Babel Beatitudes Bede Bethlehem Bible Candlemas Christian life Christmas Christology Christus victor Christ Daniel David Deuteronomy Diet of Worms Easter Eden Egypt Elijah Elizabeth Enoch Ephesians Esau Esther Eve Exodus Ezekiel First Article of the Creed First Article First Commandment Fourth Petition Galatians Genesis Gerhardt Gethsemane Good Friday Gregory the Great Hallmark Hebrews Herod Holy Spirit Holy Week Hosea Immanuel Independence Day Isaiah Israel Jacob James Jeremiah Jerusalem Jesus Jews Job John the Baptist John Jonah Josephus Joseph Judah Judas Iscariot Jude Last Judgment Law and Gospel Lazarus Lent Lord of Sabaoth Lord's Prayer Lord's Supper Lord\'s Prayer Lord\'s Supper Luke Luther Malachi Manna Mark Martha Martin Rinkart Mary Matthew Matthias Maundy Thursday Messiah Micah Moses Name of Jesus Nativity Nicene Creed Nicodemus Noah Old Adam Palm Sunday Passion Paul Pentecost Peter Pharisees Pharisee Philippians Proverbs Psalm 22 Psalms Psalm Real Presence Rejoice Revelation Roman Catholic Romans Rome Ronald Reagan Samuel Sanctus Satan Saul Sea of Galilee Second Coming Sermon on the Mount Seventh Petition Shepherd Simeon Simon Peter Simon Son of God Son of Man St. James the Apostle St. John St. Michael St. Paul Stephen Tampico Thanksgiving Thomas Transfiguration Trinity Triumphal Entry Valentine Word of God Zechariah abortion absolution adoption adversity allegiance almsgiving angels anno domini apostle ashes atonement authority banquet baptism beggars binding of Isaac bread bribe business call catechism ceremonial law children church discipline church growth church militant church triumphant church circumcision circumstance comfort commandments compassion compromise confession confirmation conflict confrontation conscience consolation contentment cornerstone courage covetousness creation cross crucifixion crucifix culture cup deaf death of Jesus death demons descent into hell destruction devil discipleship disciples disciple discipline divine service division doubt dragon election end times endurance envy ephphatha evangelism evil exclusive eyes faithfulness faith fall false prophet false teachers fasting fear feast of tabernacles feast feeding fellowship finite contains the infinite firmament fishing fish flood forgiveness freedom fruit of the Spirit funeral future giving glory of God glory godparents good life gospel government grace healing heaven hell history holiness holy wounds of Jesus hope humility hymn hypocrisy ideology idleness idolatry images incarnation inerrancy infant baptism inspiration intercession invocation of the saints joy judgment justice justification kingdom of God king lamb of God language leniency lepers life lilies love magic magi manger manliness marriage martyr masculinity meaning means of grace meditatio memorial mercy miracles miracle mission mocking money mortification motives music mute mystical union nationalism nations new man ninth and tenth commandments normalcy bias nostalgia nunc dimittis office of the ministry oppression original sin orphan paganism parables parable paraclete paradise paralytic parenting passover patience perfection persecution personality pilgrims plague politics praise prayer preachers preaching presence of Christ pride prison prophecy prophet provision purpose reason redemption reformation refuge regeneration repentance resurrection rock rulers sabbath sacrament sacrifice sanctification scripture second commandment self-denial sermon on the plain sermon serpent sheep sight signs sign sinners sin sixth petition slavery small catechism social trust sparrows spiritual warfare spirituality state of humiliation stewardship steward stone storm student suffering sun teacher temptation ten commmandments throne tiktok time tomb tribulation trust truth two natures typology unbelief victory vindication vocation voice waiting war water weakness wealth wedding wickedness widow will of God wine wisdom wise men witchcraft witness works work worry worship wrath of God