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Coming One

December 8, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

JOHN AND JESUSADVENT 3/A (12/11/2022): Ps. 146; Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-11; Mt. 11:2-15

Coming One

John … said, “Are you the Coming One, or shall we expect another?” (vv. 2, 3).

Advent prepares for Christmas and Epiphany of the Lord’s coming to new Israel and Gentiles. Violet candles emphasize repentant faith, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”; today’s rose candle, directs us to the Lord’s Parousia gift (James 5:7) in a milder austerity. Our candle calendar, as well signifies John’s problem and solution, the gospel’s “La Vie En Rose” amid the language of doubt.

Faith discerns the Lord’s presence in word and Sacrament. Jesus is, not only the “Crucified, Risen, and Ascended One”, he reigns as the “Coming One”, Parousia gift. We don’t look for another; instead, we gaze upon our rose candle rejoicing in Christ’s coming.

One doesn’t usually associate Christmas with judgment; yet, forty days after his birth, Jesus brought to the temple was dedicated to God in accord with the Law that every Jewish firstborn male be presented to God and redeemed with sacrifice, either a lamb or five temple silver shekels (Ex. 13:1, 2, 13; Num. 18:15b, 16); not so Jesus.

At his Consecration Jesus was not redeemed, that at his Baptism JB would proclaim him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29, 36). On his Baptism Jesus was utterly the Father’s Son (Mt. 3:17). (Parenthetically, the turtledoves of Lk. 2:24 refer to Mary’s prescribed sacrifice for post-partum purification).

On his dedication Simeon prophesied, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel … so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34, 35).

Israel needed to repent, to “turn … to the Lord” (1:16). God’s salvation and judgment in Christ necessitated the fair warning from the prophets and JB, “prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3; Mt. 3:3; see also, Isa. 35:8a 9b, 10a; and 11:10).

Surprisingly, the final prophesy of the OT is not of Christ; but JB, God’s end time “Elijah”, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers … and children …” (Mal. 4:5, 6).

Advent’s preparation for Christ’s Nativity requires a relational response. If we love spouses, children, friends, teachers, and pastors we share our time and thoughts; with God, we share what distresses, our sin nature, activities and failures, “through my own fault, through my own fault, through my most grievous fault”.

We the Baptized are “greater than [John]” (Mt. 11:11b), still in the doubt of faith we are confronted with the hidden ways of God in Jesus, his crucified parousia reign, which offends the world’s reason. For those who reject Jesus, he is disqualified as Messiah (cf. Jn. 3:16) yet, those in faith who contend with human doubt, “reveal the thoughts from many hearts”.

Something like faith’s “receptive doubt” was experienced by JB. A strange thing occurs in the history of Scripture interpretation; with the exception of Tertullian, church fathers give JB a pass against his doubt, “Are you the Coming One or do we wait on another?”; pietistic excuses abound in John’s favor, not accorded Moses nor the Apostles, certainly not so called “Doubting Thomas”.

JB prophesied, “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30); his “decrease” came in spades; John was no longer inSpirited to his preaching mission, the fullness of which now imparted to Jesus. In prison John was on par with every other deaf, blind, lame, and dumb sinner who by faith were to be released by Messiah’s parousia gift (Isa. 35:5, 6). For John release would come in Elijah-like passion.

Separated from God’s incarnate Word, John sent a delegation seeking assurance about his own word, that God’s Lamb was expected to Baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt. 3:11). Previously, John thought his speech clear; but today we have clarity by Advent’s rose candle.

It fell to Jesus, God’s “Qoheleth” (Eccles. 1:1) Preacher of Wisdom to unpack John’s proclamation; “Announce to John the things that you are hearing and seeing: the blind are gaining their sight and the lame are walking, lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised and the poor are having the good news preached to them. And whoever is not caused to stumble because of me is blessed!” (Mt. 11:4-6).

Jesus’s explication was revelation of God’s new creation and parousia grace. Jesus’ Baptism betokens release from sin by his crucifixion fire, until the final Parousia, some for salvation and others for the judgment of unbelief.

Jesus taught, “[JB] is Elijah who is to come” (v. 14b). Centuries earlier Ahab called Elijah, the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kg. 18:17); today scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod leveled the same accusation against JB for calling Israel to conversion and repentance.

Elijah’s conflict with royal and religious authority came to a head when he slaughtered queen Jezebel’s 450 Baal priests; murderous threats ensued. Absorbed in fear, doubt, and self-pity Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb. Observing no turn of Israel’s heart, Elijah thought he had been on a fool’s errand.

As “Elijah”, John needed God’s word; there was no comfort in Horeb’s fire nor its quaking; rather Elijah was restored in the “small whisper” of God’s word (1 kg. 19:12) which is the meaning of today’s rose candle, calling us to rejoice amid Advent “mea culpas”. Similarly, John “decreased” before Jesus’ word rejoiced at the promise of the new creation coming through the “whispered” word.

Before Jesus’ Baptism, it appears Jesus was a disciple John, “A man is following me who has become my superior …” (Jn. 1:30); so also, Elisha who received a “double portion” of God’s Spirit, on Elijah’s translation to heaven in a chariot of fire.

This Sunday we have John’s catechism of the Christmas Babe, born our “Bridegroom of Blood” (Ex. 4:25). On the Last Day parousia, failure to receive the Church’s Betrothed comes judgment.

Jesus’ “whisper” for John’s rejoicing (formerly our “Gaudete Sunday”) commending the Church’s repentant-faith from sin and doubt on the parousia Babe’s breath; born to violence and joy of our salvation. Amen.

pem.