Thursday, January 8, 2015

“Do You Know the Man?” (John 1:6-8)

S-1462 3SIA/3B 12/14/2014 Hymns: (O) #62; (S) #74; L.S. #313; #306; (C) # 97

Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 5:16-24

Theme: “Do You Know the Man?” (John 1:6-8)

Question: “Who is the most important man you know?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 3rd Sunday in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:6-8).

Beloved people of God, during our pilgrimage on earth we meet many people—people who leave their imprints on our hearts and lives. Today is no different. By God’s grace, as you and I walk the Advent road that leads to Bethlehem’s manger we meet again people along the way. Most of these people are familiar. When we meet them each year they come across as old friends. Along the way we meet that Virgin named Mary, the honorable Joseph and the celebrating shepherds. In fact, if I were to ask you to close your eyes right now and envision the scene of that first Christmas, I am certain that we would all have some sort of image of these familiar characters in mind.

But today we are reminded that along this Advent road we also meet one of the most unique and, quite frankly, odd characters in the Christmas story. In the Gospel lesson for today, we read these words about him: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This John is so unlike the gentle Mary, the honorable Joseph, and those curious shepherds. This John is just, well, different.

Let us travel back in time to that era and behold him as he stands at the Jordan Bank. He is wild, he is boisterous! Where does he preach? He doesn’t preach in the synagogue or the temple in Jerusalem; instead he is out in the wilderness. And for weeks people travel to listen to this man who we are told in the Scriptures his food was honey and locust. Boy is that a good diet to lose weight on or not. He is an odd character, yet people for weeks traveled to this desolate place—the Judean wilderness to hear him and be baptized in the muddy Jordan. And if you were standing on the shores of this Jordan; you would ask the question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

We are told more about him through the Scriptures. Indeed, Scriptures give us a pretty clear picture of his identity. He is the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest. We know that she was barren and almost beyond childbearing years when she conceived and bore John. But then again, that happens when God’s messengers get involved. You remember the account! Zechariah was behind the curtain at the Temple doing his duty when an angel came to him and told him about this child. How in unbelief Zechariah was sentenced to silence until this son would be named. PAUSE.

When John came upon the scene, he wore a most unusual garment that you can’t find either at Macy’s or Yonkers. He wore Camel’s hair outfit and he lived where crazy people live—in the wilderness. Yet, as multitudes came out to hear him; the Jewish hierarchy wanted to know “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” Thus they sent a delegation to inquire of him.

Upon reaching him they asked: “Who are you? We need to give answer to those who sent us. John’s answer to their interrogation is KEY for us this Advent. Notice how John answers very pointed questions that demand a direct answer. He doesn’t answer them by telling them who he IS. He answers them by telling them who he is NOT! He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No” (John 20-21). There is no pretending or pretense in this strange man. He is not the long promised Christ. He is not the return of Elijah that the prophet Malachi speaks of. He isn’t even the “prophet like Moses who would arise from the people” that we hear of in Deuteronomy 18. He is none of these images that the Jews would expect in a Messiah figure. So, “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

However, the prophet Isaiah helps us with his response: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”…“I baptize with water, but among you stands One you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

He is not Elijah, He is the not Prophet, and He is not the Christ. He is simply a voice. His message and ranting are about the One who would come after him. In another place the Baptizer says: “I must decrease and He must increase” (John 1:30). And thus we return and ask this question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” People wanted to know who John the Baptizer is.

He is simply a messenger of God, calling people to repentance. And when Jesus finally comes upon the scene, John points with that blessed finger and says: Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I would love to have scene a video of this precious moment as he points to another Man and says, “HE IS THE ONE!” He is the long expected Messiah!” 2700 years ago Isaiah spoke about Him as if He has already come. He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God” (Nicene Creed). He is the Man sent from heaven to be our Savior. He is the God-Man who enters our world of sin, death and decay, and turns it upside down and makes it whole again. PAUSE.

The question we have been asking is this: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” That is the question you ultimately must answer. Do you know this Man? I am certain; some of you have met wonderful men in this world. Some of them are important others are not as much. But there is only One man that is very important for us to know that is the God-Man, Christ Jesus.

As our sermon hymn so beautifully and eloquently reminded us of His mission and ministry, “That He comes to bring forgiveness. He comes to correct the wrong and death that took place in the Garden of Eden” (TLH #74). He comes to heal the broken hearted, to free the prisoners. He comes in human flesh to live the perfect life so that we may not be accused as Nathan (Prophet) told David (King of Israel), “You are the man!”(1 Samuel 12). Even though Moses is the man of God, yet we know he is a murderer.

However, the Man we are talking about is different. When He was accused by the Jewish leaders of blasphemy, and led to Pilates court He remained silent. Reminiscent of what Isaiah said of Him: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (53:7).

We need to unpack these prophetic Words: When Jesus stood in the presence of Pilate; He was acknowledging His condemnation already. He became the murderer, adulterer, the thief, the liar and deceiver. Every sin that you and I have committed was placed upon Him. Thus we are moved to ask this question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

Beloved in the Lord, you may know a lot of people in this world; you may know the most wonderful men in the world, or perhaps even the President. But when it comes to salvation none of these men will be able to help you. There is ONLY One Man. He is the One of whom John said, Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” PAUSE.

Today, on the Advent wreath we lit up the third candle. It is the candle of joy. Advent reminds us of the great joy that this God-Man was sent to earth to accomplish. With His gracious hands He healed many, opened the eyes of the blind, raised people from the dead and freed those who have been captives by sins claws and under death’s hold.

John the Baptizer, this odd, unique and wild character in the Christmas drama spoke of Jesus because He is more important. He said, “Among you stand One whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” He has done that when He came in human flesh and took upon Him our humanity and laid in the manger of straw. He lived the perfect life for us and finally laid to the slaughter upon the cursed cross of Calvary for you and for me.

You should also remember that because of this God-Man you are no longer condemned. Satan our accuser comes to the presence of God and says: “God You are a just, holy and perfect and You demand perfection from Your subject. This woman, this man standing before You have sinned. Your Word declares those who sin must die! Carry out that sentence of death!” But into this scene walks the God-Man Jesus Christ and steps between God and us and declares: “Father, I have paid the penalty for their sins. I have shed My blood for them. I have washed them clean. I have covered them not with camel’s hair but with the white robe of righteousness. They have been purchased by Me Father. Since You are just, holy and perfect You can’t judge them since You have already judged Me!”

Don’t forget this truth: This God-Man has paid the price for our Freedom. Again, we must ask the question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” He is the long expected Messiah. His message of peace echoes to all generations and throughout all of the centuries. His ministry continues to draw us ever closer to Him.

As we spend time around Him and in His house of worship we hear His voice and by the working of His Spirit, that voice dwells in us. And when we are fed, nurtured and strengthened, we leave this place as His voice to the world. For after all, there is Only One Man that the world needs to know He is the God-Man, Your Lord and Savior, who give us joy, love, forgiveness and peace forevermore. What a blessing we have as we get to know this Man and make Him known to others. Amen.

Now the peace…


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