O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Joy in your Doubt
Joy in your Doubt
Based on Luke 7:18-28
Preached on December 16, 2018
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Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice Sunday! Pink Candle Sunday. The Introit called us to rejoice. So did the prophet Zephaniah. So did the apostle Paul. Rejoice! Sing! Shout! Be glad! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice!
John the Baptist is not so sure. He’s not really in the mood to rejoice. And who can blame him? He preached repentance. He baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Prepared the way of the LORD! And now - he’s rotting away in prison. He’s suffering. Waiting to die. This doesn’t seem right. Something must be wrong. Everything appears to be upside down. “Where’s the judgment Jesus? Where’s the kingdom of God? Where are the Holy Spirit and the fire like I preached? The world is going to hell in a hand basket! Evil reigns. Sinners and their sinning are on the increase. Harvey Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg. Brood of vipers everywhere! You’ve got to do something Jesus! Unleash God’s wrath on this wicked world chalk full of naughties and nasties! Give sinners what they deserve! This is what we all expected from you Jesus! You’ve let us down. Are you the One who was to come? Are you really the Messiah? Because if you’re not we’ll start looking for someone else.”
What about your life? Have your share of heartaches? Problems? Sufferings? Not much room for rejoicing? Feel like you’re living in a prison? What sins have you in shackles? What’s oppressing you? Holding down your spirit? Keeping you from joy?
Perhaps you’d like to ask Jesus the same questions? Are the One for me Jesus? Or should I expect someone else?
John says it for all of us. You’re not what we expected. This is not what we expected. Because, well, you know how it works. We get some idea into our mind. We get very sure of ourselves that we understand what we need. We know. And nobody – not even God – can convince us otherwise. We are so certain that we see the whole picture, and we make up our expectations, our story, of how it should be resolved. It’s a really hard thing for us to accept that there might be a bigger story. That there might be a bigger problem. And that our heavenly Father can see a bit more from where He is, and knows how best to give us what we need.
Reminds me of a story from when Caleb was young. He was trying to get into a new carseat. He liked to do things for himself if he could, brave little guy, but he was struggling with the new straps because they were too tight, and totally uncomfortable. Well, the frustration was mounting. I mean, carseat straps are difficult for most adults. So dad reached in to help get them into place, but doing so required that the straps be twisted uncomfortably across his body for a second. I don’t need ‘em, came the cry, just as they settled in to place and we heard that click. His eyes lit up. I’ll never forget the look on his face, as he realized the fulfillment of what dad was working out for him. Not only was he comfortable. He was safe.
Your heavenly Father is working to light up your face, dear one. It’s what He wants to see in the end. And His kindness towards you is far better than mine towards my son. Eternally better. You are part of a bigger story than you know, and He is taking you through a bigger problem than you know. There will be countless moments that are uncomfortable, restrictive. There will even be moments when you feel like He Himself is the One tightening the straps. But this is your heavenly Father. He knows where He’s taking you, and He knows how your face will light up when you get there.
“So be careful,” Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who does not fall away because of Me.” Because I don’t fit your model of the Messiah. Because I don’t do what you think I should do. Your Father has sent Me, and there won’t be anyone else. Am I the One who was to come? Let me show you. I AM the bigger story, and I’m here for your bigger problem.”
He then starts a list. It goes in ascending order, from the least important to the most important. Are you ready? All right. Here He goes.
“I’ve given the blind their sight back. I’ve healed cripples and lepers. I’ve given the deaf their hearing back. I’ve even raised the dead. But the biggest of all — the most important of all — is that I’ve preached. Yes, I’m preaching the Good News of the forgiveness of sins to sinners. Those who have fallen short. Those who haven’t lived up to all they could be. More than that, to those who know they’ve violated their conscience, slashed it and harmed it on purpose.
Am I the One? I’m the Only One - reaching in to the problem at the very center of all this – the heart of matter – that spot within you that no one else can reach – not even you – with mercy and grace and freedom. That’s why I’m here. I am the One for you.
“John,” Jesus says, “you are free in Me, even as you stand behind bars. You are safe in Me, even as you await your death. You are known in ME, and you will never be left alone.”
I’m not here to wreak the vengeance of Almighty God against all the naughties and nasties. I’m here to seek and to save the lost. I’m not here to give sinners what they deserve. I’m here to absorb God’s wrath against all sinners and against all sin in My body! I will take all its damning punishment. I will suffer the hell all sinners deserve.” I am here to save.
Does Jesus offend you? Bore you? Cause you to fall away? Do you want Jesus to give you what you deserve? I sure hope not. For He’s the Jesus who saves. Grace Jesus. For you, John the Baptist, his disciples, everyone. He truly is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as John had preached - we’re just always catching up with the size of His love, and what He is willing to endure to save us. Blessed are you if you are not scandalized and fall away by this Jesus. For He gives you salvation by the forgiveness of your sins.
No, it doesn’t look like punishing the deserving. It looks like taking the punishment Himself. It doesn’t look like yelling at wrongdoers. It looks like a preached message of forgiveness. It doesn’t look a kingdom of wrath. It looks like a kingdom of grace.
And if you thought all this is upside down – He’s not done. There is more Jesus is going to flip on you. Check it out. You who believe in Him – who trust Him for your salvation – you are greater than the prophet John who prepared the way for Jesus. Who preached mighty sermons. Who called a spade a spade. The last of all the Old Testament prophets. Yes, Jesus says: “I tell you, among those born of women there is none greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.”
How could this be? Least in the kingdom of God are the little ones. The little ones of faith. Who are not offended by Jesus but rather rejoice that all their sins belong to Him. That Jesus has answered for all their hellish punishment. That you don’t get what you deserve. No. You get what you don’t deserve. Jesus. A gracious, merciful, loving King to rule your heart – not with force or coercion – but with forgiveness. You get Jesus.
Now we understand Rejoice Sunday – now we understand how these all these believers could say Rejoice in the midst of their doubts, and their problems, and their sufferings. Now we understand that this joy will never end – it will outlast each and every sorrow. Because His Name is Jesus.
Happy Rejoice Sunday!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr