What Did You Want to See?

Advent 3A – What Did you Want to See?

December 11-12, 2010

Matthew 11:2-11

 

Three times Jesus asks the crowd,

What did you go into the wilderness to see?

 

What do you want to see this Advent?

Picture John the Baptist for a moment.

He was never going to be on a cover for GQ magazine,

but now, in jail, he looks even a little bit more worse for wear.

 

His beard is matted and scruffy.

He’s lost weight and that camel’s hair coat he once had is nowhere to be found.

There’s a nasty looking rash on his arms

and something ugly oozing on his leg.

 

Not a pretty picture.

John  was used to the physical hardships which came with life in the wilderness.

 

Yet this time was different.

It wasn’t so much the physical hardship that was bothering him.

It was something far more distressing…

It was his spiritual questioning.

 

He’d spent his lifetime preaching the word of God;

Telling people that the kingdom of God was coming;

Urging them to repent;

Preparing them for the arrival of the messiah;

Baptizing them; and then

Pointing them to Jesus.

 

“Jesus is the one who is coming,” he proclaimed.

Jesus is the one who will judge at the last day.

Jesus is the one who brings forgiveness.

Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Day in and day out.

His life was all about Jesus.

But now….

Here he was, sitting in jail.

And at the end of his life he had some questions…

 

Sometimes being by yourself can do that to you.

In the hospital or at home alone or awake at night or sitting in prison,

some of the hardest of life’s questions come to us.

 

And John wondered,

Is it Jesus after all?

Or have I spent my entire life pointing people to the wrong messiah?

 

So John sends his followers to Jesus to ask him.

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

 

Or perhaps what John really means to ask is

“Is this the way it’s supposed to turn out?”
“With me here, in prison, waiting to die?”

“Because I’m not so sure I like this ending.”

 

Haven’t we all had times like this?

God – are you sure this is how it’s supposed to turn out?

Because I’m not so sure I like this ending.

 

A couple of weeks ago, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson

asked God that question for the world to see on Twitter.

 

After dropping a potentially game winning pass, he tweeted God:

“I praise you 24/7!!!!! And this how you do me!!!!!

You expect me to learn from this??? How???!!

I’ll never forget this! Ever!”

 

“Is this how it’s supposed to turn out?

“Because I’m not so sure I like this ending.”

Johnson ended his message more humbly, “Thx tho…”

 

Jesus says to John and to Steve, “It’s not the real ending.”

“Go and tell John what you hear and see”

and he echoes the words of Isaiah,

“The blind receive their sight; the lame walk;

the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear;

the dead are raised; the poor have good news brought to them.”

 

You may be dying now – but in the end the dead are raised.

You may be deaf to the promises of God now – but in the end you will hear.

You may not see God’s hand now – but in the end you will see everything.

You may be poor now – but in the end there is good news especially for you.

 

And who will bring this about?

“Well let’s just say,” says Jesus, “that let anyone try to stop me!”

(Actually the translation is, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me!”)

 

John’s followers are sent back to deliver the message,

and then Jesus turns to the crowds.

 

Jesus asks, “What did you expect?

What  did you go out into the wilderness to see?”

A man in soft robes?  A reed shaken by the wind?

 

What did we want to see in the wilderness?

What do we want to see this Advent?

 

I think I know what I want to see!

I want to see the soft robes too.

 

When I go to the mall,

I want to see an open parking space, the perfect gift, and free shipping.

 

When I go to the hospital,

I want to see signs of improvement,  and rehab progressing well.

 

This morning at Holiday Family Outreach,

I wanted to see all happy and smiling faces.

 

And sometimes – oftentimes – what we want to see is indeed what we do see.

But sometimes we see something different.

We see something unexpected.

It’s not the ending we liked.

 

Instead of the open parking space,

we see the guy standing in front of the store with a sign asking for help.

 

Instead of signs of improvement,

we see increased pain or worsening breathing.

 

Instead of smiling faces,

we see worn down faces and hear stories of missing fathers and mothers out of work.

 

So Jesus turns to us and says,

“Go and tell the world, “The blind receive their sight; the lame walk;

the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear;

the dead are raised; the poor have good news brought to them.”

 

You may be dying now – but in the end the dead are raised.

You may be deaf to the promises of God now – but in the end you will hear.

You may not see God’s hand now – but in the end you will see everything.

You may be poor now – but in the end there is good news especially for you.

 

What did you want to see this Advent?

Watch for it!

 

And then Jesus adds, “Let anyone try to stop me!”  Amen.

 

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