Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We cannot prepare for Christmas without mention of John the Baptist. The Gospel according to Luke 1: 39-56 says that after the conception of Jesus, his mother Mary visited her relative, Elizabeth, and this cousin of Jesus in Elizabeth's womb, jumped up and greeted Jesus in the womb of the Virgin.
Then, when John has begun his public ministry, the Gospel according to St. John says, “John bore witness to Him and cried out saying: This is of whom I said: He who comes after me is greater than me; because he was before me ”(John 1:15) and “ And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him: Who are you? And he confessed, and did not deny; but confessed: I am not the Christ "(John 1:19) and also, " baptize in water, but in the midst of you is one whom you do not know. He is the one who, coming after me, is before me; whose shoe strap I am not worthy to untie ”(John 1:26). When Jesus came to John, he said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the One of whom I said: After me comes a man, who is greater than me; because he was before me ”(John 1:26) And two disciples of John, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, and one other (perhaps Saint John, because the apostle never refers to himself by name in his gospel) they left Follow John to follow Jesus In John 3:30, John told other of his disciples about Jesus, "He must increase, and I must decrease."
However, in our text for today, John still had disciples. John had been imprisoned in the Machaerus fortress located on the top of a hill in the mountains of Moab, east of the Dead Sea and about 25 kilometers southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River. He had been in prison for some time, but seems to have received the attention and services of his disciples as before. These men did not yet have a complete understanding of their teacher's message, but they looked at Jesus and his work with rather jealous and disapproving eyes. They brought John an account of the work of Christ, of his preaching and effect, of his miracles of healing, and of the wonder of the people. John himself, filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, having witnessed God's revelation, had no doubts about Christ and his mission. Therefore, he sent them as a delegation with a precisely worded question. John had not come to draw the disciples and the people to him, but to prepare the way for Christ and lead all men to Christ, as the prophet Isaiah says in our reading of the Old Testament (Isaiah 40: 1-8) .
“And when John heard in prison the acts of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, saying to him: Are you the One who is to come, or will we wait for another? And Jesus answering said to them: 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 raised and the gospel is preached to the poor. " Jesus shows discreet kindness in dealing with interrogators: there is no strong rebuke for their delay in acknowledging him. He appeals to them and their teacher's knowledge of Old Testament prophecy about the characteristic work of the Messiah. They could believe the evidence of his eyes and ears.
But that was not all. "And as they left, Jesus began to say to the crowds about John:" What did you go out to see in the desert? A reed shaken by the wind? Or what did you go out to see? A man covered in delicate clothes? Those who wear delicate clothes are in the houses of kings. " It would have been easy for John in jail to keep his disciples in their blindness to serve him in their affliction. But John had not been one of the preachers who temper the truth to the sensitive delicacy of the elegant listeners, whom Luther calls preachers of reeds, who do not risk life, honor, favors, but are guided by the demands of the village. Juan did not use his influence, as he could easily have done, in his own interest, for his own benefit. Also, says Saint Paul in our epistle (1 Corinthians 4: 1-5) in respect of the preachers called to preach the gospel, “Let us men be ministers of Christ, and administrators of the mysteries of God. Now, it is required of the administrators, that each one be found faithful. "
But, there is more. Our Lord said to them, “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. Truly I say to you: Among those born of women never rose another greater than John the Baptist; but he who is lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. "
Why was John the Baptist so great? All the Old Testament prophets pointed to a distant future and sang about a Messiah whose coming was still far away. But John saw with his own eyes the fulfillment of the prophecy, the Lamb of God, and more with his own eyes the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and with his own ears heard the voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus, and he testified to him. John was the last of the old covenant prophets and there is no greater than the first coming of the Messiah.
But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Because John did not see the end of Christ's mission; his career came to an end before Jesus entered his glory. And so, the children of the new covenant who have the full fulfillment of prophecy, Christ crucified and risen, have an even more perfect revelation and a more powerful light than that of John. The apostles did not see the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem with their own eyes. But, they saw the blind come and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised. And more. Not only did the dead revive, like Lazarus, but also the resurrection of our Lord forever and his ascension in the clouds. On the day of Pentecost, they received the authority and power to baptize and make disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today we have the prophetic and apostolic Word, the same baptism of Jesus with water and the Holy Spirit, and the body and blood of Christ in, under and with the bread and wine. John was faithful even in prison, but we have a more secure base of faith than John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets. In that we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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