Gaudete – Rejoice!

St. Matthew 11:2-11

In the name of Jesus, who is coming soon.  Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  Doubt is scary.  It smacks of mistrust; it’s ugly; it’s self defeating; it’s negative.  We try to cover up our doubt.  We think we desperately need to cover it.  “I can’t let God see my doubt!  If He did, how would I be saved?”  And our rejoicing gets dampened.

And doubt isn’t that you don’t know there is a God or that you don’t know who God is.  Doubt is not trusting God’s God-ness to get you out of what is going on with you.  Doubt is not trusting God to be God.

In our text from last Sunday and again for tonight, John the Baptist knew who Jesus was.  He had pointed Him out.  He baptized Him; he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Him like a dove.  He heard the voice, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”  John the Baptist even told His disciples that Jesus was to increase and he was to decrease.

And everyone thought they knew what the Christ was supposed to:  He would wreck the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel.   Things were supposed to work out.  They were supposed to be better.  The Kingdom of God was coming.  Jesus was supposed to fix everything.  “Bring it, Jesus!”

But now John was in prison.  He’s the greatest prophet of all time, the best of the best, number one!  But here in this lousy, rotten prison all he could probably think about was that he was going to die there in that hole.  It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.  Jesus wasn’t what He was supposed to be.  Things were supposed to be better; things were supposed to get better.  And that’s when the doubts set in – when we don’t see the words become deeds, and when we do not and cannot see things as God has them working out.

We know who Jesus is, too.  We were baptized.  In that water we were washed, we were forgiven, and we were saved.  We were rescued from our sins, death, and the power of devil with the holy precious blood of the Lamb of God slain for the sin of the world.  Every terrible thing we have done has been absolved, forgiven, and not counted against us.  We have been fed the very Body and Blood of our crucified and now risen Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet, life isn’t working out.  Things are not going right.  Our little universe isn’t right.  Things aren’t going as planned; they aren’t improving.  The wheels are coming off our proverbial wagon, and we’re headed for the ditch.

And people in general aren’t getting any better.  They are hurtful and mean and nasty – even sometimes in church.  Or they are two faced – one way in public and another way in private.  They hurt us.  We watch them hurt others, and we watch them hurt the people we love.

“Jesus should fix things.   I’m going to church.  I’m putting in the work.  He should improve my life.  He should heal my illnesses; He should fix the people I love; He should change me in a real and substantial way.”

Well, maybe we don’t believe enough.   We look at our lives and see that our battle with sin is an abysmal failure!  For heaven’s sake, you’d think that if we would believe enough or believe sincerely enough that we could be able to just say no to sin.

But we can’t.  And because we can’t, we end up being the mean person, or the two-faced person, or the one who hurts others way too often.  If they only knew what we do and what we think…  Why, who would love us?

So we have doubts.  Our doubts about ourselves become so crippling, so scary, that we hide them, and then we try to keep them from God.  We’re like a wounded animal that hides its injury – we try to hide our doubts and we desperately hope they will get better, or desperately hope that we will get better.

Then, John the Baptist points us – again – even from His prison cell – he points us to Jesus.  From within John’s temptation to doubt what Jesus has said, He points us most specifically, to Jesus’ words: “Go tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”

And from this we learn – again! – not look at ourselves, not to look at our doubts, not to look at our circumstances, not even to look at how we are doing.

No, we are to look to Jesus.  We are to watch Him.  We are to see Him.  But most importantly, we are to hear Him, and then see how His Words have become action.  Here is how God is for you:  If you know nothing else about Him, this is how He is:   He comes to you and He saves you.

Dear friends, Jesus is for you.  He does what He does for you – all of it: all the healing, all the preaching, all the horror and pain of His cross, all the power and death-defeating glory of His resurrection – it’s all to save you.  He is your Savior.  You and I are the reason He did this, and all from His endless and unfathomable vat of love and forgiveness.

For you He suffered.  For you He went to the Cross, and to death.  And then, after three days, He shows us how it’s really going to be.  He’s going to rise from the dead; and when He does that, He raises you from the dead too.

Dear friends, this Advent, find your joy in learning from John where to bring your doubts and the cure for them:  the Works and Words of Jesus.

And then, repent and believe.  Watch Jesus do His thing.  Prepare for what He is doing.  Brace yourself for His fix.  He’s a better God than you could ever come up with on your own.  Think of it: who could come up with a Baby in a manger?  Who could come up with God dead on the Cross?  Who could come up with God raised from the dead on Easter?   You didn’t.  I didn’t.  But He did.  Rejoice that He did!

Which means, dear fellow redeemed, that Jesus is already working out what is going on your world.   Whatever problems you have, whatever annoyances are bugging the heck out of you, whatever challenges are driving you nuts, or whatever difficulties are besetting you, He already has them figured out and done away with.  We, in simple child-like faith, simply get to be the recipients of His pre-ordained work for us.  Which means, when all is said and done, that we will sit there and say, “Huh!  THAT’S how God was working this out!  I had no idea!”  And you rejoice!

For what happened to John didn’t just happen for John, it happened for his disciples, and for you and me, so that we would be directed back again to Jesus, the Coming One.

Watch Jesus.  Prepare for Him.  Give Him your doubts – you know, sort of like a present to Him.  And don’t worry; He’s a big enough God to deal with them.  He’s the only One who can.

Dear fellow redeemed, things are looking up.  The Lord is coming.  He’s coming in the Manger for the purpose of heading to the Cross.  Soon He’s coming again with the clouds of heaven to rescue you.  He is the coming One.  He is the answer to your sins and your doubts.  You, like John, need not look for anyone else.

There IS nowhere else to look and no one else to look to.  For when all you have is Jesus, rejoice, for He is all you will ever need.

In the name of Jesus who is coming soon.  Amen.