December 13, 2013

What Are You Looking For? (Advent 3)

The word "Advent" is from the Latin verb "veno" to come and the prefix "ad" which means before. We are focusing on how to prepare before Jesus comes to us personally in our own time. In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 11.2-11) Jesus is using the visit of the disciples of John the Baptist to explain what it was people were looking for in John the Baptist. He uses this to explain who He is. Jesus is clearly claiming to be the long awaited Messiah John was pointing to. You can not prepare to meet Jesus if you do not know what or who you are looking for.

1. Jesus asks if they were looking for a reed blowing in the wind?
Jesus is teaching about John and Himself by explaining what John was not. A reed is weak and is blown about by the wind. John the Baptist was the opposite. John was strong and unchanging in his message. It takes courage to step out of a comfortable life and call people to repent.
  • John was very serious about his faith. He was very angry at the way in which the religious leaders of his time had distorted the Hebrew faith. He went out to find the authentic God himself.
  • When God spoke to him he responded and made the sacrifices required. Jesus describes him as the greatest of the prophets because of his faithfulness.
  • Then Jesus says something astounding. He tells the people that even though John is great spiritually, the least spiritual person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John. Jesus is not speculating. Jesus is stating a fact. How does He know this? Jesus knows this because he has been there Himself. This is an indirect but clear claim to be the long expected Messiah. It is spoken in coded language but it is not ambiguous.
 2. Jesus asks the people if they went out to see a king?
Again Jesus is teaching about John and Himself by explaining what John was not. A king is wealthy and powerful and lives in luxury and comfort surrounded by admirers. In contrast John was poor, had no political power and lived alone in a very hostile environment. Why?
  • John wanted solitude. John wanted to be alone with God and pray. He wanted to avoid distractions. He wanted to get away from the polluted spiritual atmosphere of Jerusalem.
  • John wanted to live in a spiritual kingdom - an authentic spiritual kingdom. This is why he needed to get away from the crowds of people who were not really seeking a spiritual life.
  • This is also why other people, who were seeking an authentic spiritual life, came out to see him. These people also knew that they could not find an authentic spiritual experience of God in the city.
  •  The Good news is that they knew what they were looking for and that they found it.
 3. Do you know what you are looking for?
If you do not know what you are looking for you may not recognize Jesus when He comes to you as the Holy Spirit. The people in that particular crowd would have known what they were looking for. They were looking for a Messiah who would do the marvelous things prophesied by Isaiah 800 years earlier. They were looking for someone who would change peoples' lives as dramatically as pouring water in the desert, opening the eyes of the blind, curing leprosy and raising the dead.
  • Notice how Jesus communicates to the crowd and to John in prison in code. He never says He is the Messiah. That would cause a riot, attract the wrong people and get Him crucified.
  • When the disciples of John ask Him if He is the expected Messiah, Jesus lays out His answer in code. He instructs them to tell John what has happened. The good new is being preached to the poor. The eyes of the blind are being opened. People are being cured of leprosy. The dead are being raised. This is actually much clearer and more verifiable that a simple "yes".
 So what are you looking for?
Many people are not seriously looking for Jesus at all. Others may be looking for him in the wrong places. Many people underestimate Jesus. They may see Him very vaguely as a sort of Santa Clause who somehow takes away their sins and gets them into Heaven.
  • When you study the Bible you get a much different idea of what to look for when Jesus comes into your life.
  • If you feel guilt and shame because you have separated yourself from God by rebellion and sin, Jesus is the one who will take your guilt and shame to the Cross, forgive you and restore you to right-relationship with God
  • If your life has been a struggle for acceptance and attention you may find Jesus is the one who overwhelms you with love.
  • If you have been terribly wounded by life you are looking for the one who heals you.
  • If you have been abusive and selfish in your relationships you should look for Jesus as the one who weeps at the pain you have caused until you repent and weep with Him.
  • The experience of personally meeting Jesus is painful but transforming. Isaiah described how radical this will be long ago - "… the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped…Water will gush forth in the wilderness…" (Isaiah 35.5-7)
 Know what you are looking for –

 it will be an authentic personal experience of the Holy Spirit and lead you through the pain of repentance, forgiveness and healing to a life of love, joy and peace

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