Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Matthew 11:2-11 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
This is rather shocking to us: John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the one who is to come, or should we look for another? It causes us to pause and wonder if John were losing his faith. Of all people, how could John not be sure that Jesus was the promised Messiah? Did John’s faith falter? This is often how people treat this text, as if John’s faith was weakened, perhaps because he was in prison.
However, that is not the true meaning of this text. John, who’s faith in Jesus given him by the Holy Spirit caused him to leap in his mother’s womb even before he was born could hardly not know who Jesus was. John who witnessed the Holy Spirit descend into Jesus at his baptism and who heard the very words of God the Father declare that this Jesus was his beloved Son, and the very John who pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” had every reason to believe and not to doubt. It is not that John’s faith was weak, rather, here we see John pointing his disciples to Jesus. John’s disciples had been following him for some time. They admired him. They loved him. But now John was sending his disciples to Jesus so they could see Jesus for themselves and hear the words of Jesus for themselves. For John was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” John was sent into the world to point people to Jesus. The days of John were coming to an end, and it was now the time for those who followed him to develop another allegiance and follow Jesus. Indeed, Scripture tells us as that at least two of John’s disciples did leave John and become disciples of Jesus. For John said of himself, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
And so, today, John is pointing us to Jesus. Let us go along with the disciples of John and ask Jesus, “Are you the one to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus gives us the same answer: “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” What sweet words of assurance! Is Jesus the one? Is Jesus the true God? With so many religions today each calling to us, can we have any assurance that Jesus is the true Son of God? Comfort ye, my people.
“See and hear,” says Jesus. Jesus didn’t make any claim about himself. He pointed to his words and works. What do you see? What do you hear? The testimony we have about Jesus from the Apostles is not mere opinion. It is not some demented man claiming to be God. It is not mere philosophy. Nor is it myth or legend. It is true history, observed and recorded by eye witnesses. It is not just pious stories; it is actual historical events and real live people. All can be verified and has been verified by historical accounts and records. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend into him. John the Baptist heard the voice of God from the heavens. The Apostle John says, “What we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” The entire life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are known to us by eyewitness, historical accounts. Comfort ye, O, my people! Oh, what comfort this gives to know that we have the truth. We know the true God. We know who it is that saved us, who died for us to pay for our sins, and who rose for us to give us life everlasting. We know the one who overcame the power of the devil, who defeated death and who gives life.
And what did the disciples of John see and hear?
First they heard and saw the blind receive their sight. These were the physically blind who could not see the world around them. Some born blind and for whom there was no known cure at that time. The disciples of John saw these poor people receive their sight. They saw them run and leap for joy. They heard them laugh and shout with delight. They saw the words of Isaiah who prophesied 700 years earlier come true: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened.”
And in so doing, our eyes are opened. We, who were spiritually blind and not able to see the true God, not able to see hope, but only sin in our lives, disaster and despair at what is taking place in our world today, have had our eyes opened too. Comfort ye, for the things that John’s disciples saw open our eyes as well to the true God. To the salvation of Jesus Christ who we now can see as the true Savior amidst all the liars, the false gods, the false religions, what they saw opens our eyes to the true God.
Comfort ye, for your sins have been taken away and the God who will judge us on the last day will see neither sin nor blemish in you. You are assured that He sees you as His holy and righteous children, without spot or stain. When we confess our sins, we walk away from the confessional with that pure joy of being free from sin and counted as holy before God. Cling to that assurance and freedom you have in Christ, the true God and Savior of mankind. The truth sets you free from suffering, affliction, fear and worry because the true God who holds life and death in his hands is your Father. He has opened your eyes of faith.
The disciples of John saw the lame walk. This talks about our temporal suffering, our physical pains and illness. Our old age and declining bodies. Our weak knees that need to be replaced, our hips and joints that ache. They saw with their own eyes the lame walk and leap in the air. They saw the salvation of the Lord and the renewal of the body that will be for us too at the resurrection. The victory is won. You ask: Where is God when I need him most? Answer: He is right with you. He is most present in your pain, in your agony. There he is present and close to you. If you cannot find him, then look for him on the cross where he was beat and bruised and crushed and scarred for you. Where he took all your sin and suffering and death into his own body and suffered for you so that it is overcome and washed away. Eat his body and drink the blood that he pours out for you from the cross through the altar of Holy Communion. So on the last day when the dead rise from the grave all that misery and pain will be gone forever. You cry out to God in your agony, “When will you save me?” Answer: He already has. Your salvation was purchased on the cross. It is done. It is finished. Now you only wait in hope for the day you see that salvation with your own eyes. It will surely come, just as surely as he rose from the dead.
The disciples of John observed the deaf hearing. Just as we, who are so often deaf to the Word of God, shall have our ears opened by the word that we may hear his promises and believe. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Jesus is the one who opens our deaf ears so that we too might believe. Believe that your sins are forgiven, despite your failures and unworthiness. In spite of the fact that we are all rubbish, our ears have been opened to hear that God has lifted us up out of the mire and stench of sin and has purified us and made us holy in his sight.
The disciples of John saw the dead raised. They observed the widow’s son stand up. They observed the daughter of Jairus come back to life. They saw Lazarus walk out of the grave after being dead for three days. They saw what will happen to all who believe in Jesus on the last day when all the dead shall come to life and the graves will be empty.
And the disciples of John heard the good news that was preached to the poor. Who are the poor? The poor are those who know their sin and are afflicted by it. Who are crushed by the hammer of God’s law and seek pardon. Those who know that by nature they are dead to God and deserve the wrath of God.
But the good news has been preached. They heard the news that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The good news that on account of faith they are counted righteous by God. The good news that despite their filth and unworthiness God has lifted them up out of the dust and made them his children in baptism. So now there is no reason to be bent down. There is no place in the life of a Christian for self-condemnation, for such is nothing other than lack of faith in the forgiveness of sins. The good news is that Jesus came to seek the lost sheep, the sinner, and to pick him up and bring him into the fold of God’s flock. That is you! The one who was lost, but Jesus came to find you and has carried you right here into the household of God. That celebration you hear right now going on in heaven is the celebration for you, the lost sheep who was found and today all heaven rejoices and makes merry because you have been found.
Yes, John is the one of whom it was written: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” And so John sent his disciples to Jesus that they too could know the one who came to save them from their sins. He was the messenger who came to point the way to Jesus and that is why he sent his disciples to Jesus, that they would see and hear Jesus for themselves.
And that is why you too have been sent to be God’s messengers. To point the way to Jesus. Point your loved ones, your family, your friends, your enemies and all people to the one true God, Jesus Christ, who died for them and gives them eternal life. For he is the one who gives sight to the blind and makes the lame walk and cleanses the lepers and makes the deaf hear and raises the dead. You are the messenger sent to preach the good news to those in your family and all around you.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. Jesus speaks a word of blessing upon the disciples of John and all disciples everywhere who are not offended by him. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” This blessing rings down through the ages to you and me today. Blessed are you who is not offended by Jesus. Amen.