As we celebrate the Third Sunday in Advent, we focus on the Gospel text with a devotional reading from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 11:2–20:34.
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We wait. Like the sick desperately waiting for God to heal them and John waiting for Jesus to arrive, during this Advent season we wait for Christ to come again. Just as God fulfilled His promise to send a Savior and daily fulfills His promise to forgive us through the waters of our Baptism, Christ will fulfill His promise to return. We can trust that.
In terms of Scripture’s wider context, there are any number of parallels to John’s journey from faith to doubt and back to faith again. The disappointment and frustration of Moses (Exodus 5:22–23), Elijah (1 Kings 18–19), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14–18), and others give ample support for the view that John sends his disciples to Jesus with a question that is truly his own: “Are you the Coming One, or shall we expect another?” (Matthew 11:3). We need not conclude that John has lost all faith, and we can surely believe that his faith is strengthened by the answer that Jesus sends back to him. The question, nevertheless, is John’s own, and it is real.
Jesus’ answer in [Matthew] 11:4–6 exhibits a twofold character. On the one hand, His words offer the strongest possible “yes!” to the first part of the Baptist’s question. The deeds that Jesus has been performing are the long-expected signs of renewal and restoration in Israel. God is at work, establishing the new age of salvation! Physical infirmity signifies that the creation is a fallen and broken place because of man’s sin. OT prophecy, especially in Isaiah, promises that God would come to restore and to heal. Good news is being preached to the poor, as promised in Isaiah 61:1. The OT promises are being fulfilled in Jesus. The age of salvation is here; He is the One who was to come.
On the other hand, Jesus’ words invite John to accept in faith the strangest of all paradoxes in the history of the world. The reign of God has broken into history in the person of Jesus, and He is the Coming One. But the power of evil men remains strong, and Christ will not overthrow that evil—yet. Jesus has come to save His people from their sins ([Matthew] 1:21), yet He teaches His followers to expect opposition and hatred ([Matthew] 10:24–39). God has come to rule and restore through this Jesus, and through Him alone. But only God can reveal to people the knowledge of Jesus’ identity, and many will be caused to fall into unbelief because of Jesus and His hidden ways of revealing God’s reign.
Nevertheless, to the Baptist and to all hearers since Jesus uttered these words, His final saying reaches out, inviting to faith and discipleship: “Blessed is the one who is not caused to stumble because of Me!” (the literal Greek word order of [Matthew] 11:6). One can easily imagine that John, in prison and poor in spirit, heard the Lord’s message as truly good news filled with salvation and hope. Believers today, who struggle in the paradox of salvation already won and salvation not yet fully experienced, can hear Jesus’ invitation and, not stumbling over Him, rejoice in God’s gracious and hidden reign in the Savior.
Devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 11:2–20:34, pages 556–57 © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Prayer for the Day
Lord Jesus, strength of the weary and a very present help to all who are in distress . . . teach me to believe that Your abiding presence will uphold me from hour to hour. Give me peaceful days and restful nights. Bless me with a refreshing sleep. Come to me with healing in Your wings. Speak to my soul the comforting promises of Your Word, and keep me steadfast in the faith to the end. . . . I ask this of You who has redeemed me with Your own blood. Amen.
Prayer is from Lutheran Book of Prayer, 5th Edition, page 230 © 2005 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.