Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We began the Advent season with a reading about John the Baptist. The cousin of Jesus Christ, born six months before Jesus, began his public ministry before the public ministry of Jesus. John called the people to the baptism of repentance in the Jordan River. John's ministry culminated in the baptism of Jesus.
Jesus grew up as the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth. In His public ministry Jesus preached the forgiveness of sins and then in His death on the cross perfectly fulfilled God's Law to win that forgiveness for us and in his resurrection He made real the promise of eternal life for us. This ministry began when He came to John to be baptized.
When Jesus came to him, John said that this man did not need to repent; He should baptize John, not John Him. John said, "I am not the Christ," but "This is the man." In truth, John at that time, transferred his ministry to Jesus, because very soon John was imprisoned by King Herod. He was probably imprisoned for one year at the time of our text for today.
Why was Juan jailed? He preached the Law of God, that which is good and that which is evil in the eyes of God and called all people to repentance. One’s status in the society of that time did not matter. He denounced King Herod because the king looked at Herodias, his brother's wife, and said to himself, "I want this woman." So, he urged Herodias to divorce Philip and marry him. This behavior was against the law of God. For his denunciation of the king, John was imprisoned and then died in the following manner.
Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced before the king and his friends. It is implied that this was a sexy dance because every man liked it. Herod was also happy and said, "My daughter, what gift do you want?" And she replied, "I want the head of John the Baptist delivered to my mother on a plate." And so it was done.
But, before his death, John in prison had two disciples. When John told them, "This is the man," most of his disciples left John to follow Jesus. John knew that the purpose of his ministry and his life was fulfilled and he would soon leave this world. Therefore, he sent the two disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the One who was to come, or should we wait for another?" John recognized Jesus as the Messiah in the beginning, so the question was for the benefit of his last disciples. .
And Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see, the blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are resurrected and the gospel is preached to the poor."
In Jesus all the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled and He brought the good news of the forgiveness of sins. This is the gospel. Jesus is the gospel, because in Him is the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus fulfilled the Law in our places, suffered the punishment of our sins and died in our places. John preached the Law and the prophecy of the Savior, but in Jesus the people found their Savior. We also, today, because we are sinners who need a Savior.
Therefore, the mission of John with the public ministry of Jesus was over. However, Jesus said this about John: "What did you go out to see in the wilderness, a reed shaken by the wind, or what did you go out to see? A man covered in delicate clothes? Behold, those who wear delicate clothes, in the houses of the kings are they, but what did you go out to see, a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is the one of whom it is written: Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. "
John was a strong man and stable in his faith, but he did not trust in his own righteousness nor did he call the people to trust in his personal authority, but in the authority of the Word of God. This is the mark of the true preacher: He does not point to himself, but to Christ.
St. Paul says so in our epistle (1 Corinthians 4: 1-5), "Let men have us as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now, it is required of stewards, that each one be found faithful.” The good preacher does not speak of his own opinions, or of dreams or visions, but of the Word of God. He must preach the Word and administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion faithfully according to the commandment of the Lord, no matter the consequences for himself. John was in jail, not in the king's house dressed in fine clothes. The faithful pastor guides his sheep to Christ.
Because in the final judgment, we come before the throne of God with joy because we justify by the righteousness of Christ, not by our own merits. In Christ, we have hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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