Third Sunday in Advent Sermon A.
"What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out to see?" Matthew 11:7-8.
The Saviour put this kind of a question to that blind people who followed Him because of curiosity. These blind people had, namely, gone into the wilderness to see John who preached of penitence and repentance. And the Saviour now asked the people, "What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?" Do you imagine that John is as soft as a twig which sways here and there from the wind of the world; do you imagine that John is a wavering man whose mind changes according to the wind of the world? Do you imagine that John bends as a reed bends before the wind of the world? Do you imagine that John humbles and bows himself before the world, that he serves the world's lords or preaches to the world to please the mind? John the Baptist was such a man who dared to speak the truth to the world. He was as firm as a tree against the world; he dared to say to the world's lords: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" And because of that barking all meek whores became angry at him and put him into prison. But the meek whore at whom he had barked did not get peace of conscience before she got John's head on a charger. Only then did this meek whore get peace of conscience, when she got to cut off John's head. And this same nature the world's whores are seen to have even now. They become terribly angry if someone is bold to bark at them as virtuous whores, and threaten to question their honor. The devil has given them such great honor that they do not care to hear the name whore; but if they are barked at as a whore, the seeds of the serpent especially begin to squirm at the bottom of the heart. But the blind wretches do not know who has given them honor. Virtuous whores imagine that God has given them honor; they do not understand that the world and the devil have given them honor. The Saviour has said, "How can you give honor to God, who receive honor from one another?" But that royal harlot who John barked at had such great honor that she did not receive peace of conscience from the devil before she got to cut the neck of John. But when he began to bark at the world's lords as a v generation of vipers, then the world's lords became terribly angry and said, "That man has a devil," and so they say even now. When some awakened person barks at the world's respectable people as whores and thieves, then the world's people say, "That man has a devil, the devil of pride has risen to his head." Even with his life John made the world's lords angry: he had given the people a bad example when he did not live so sumptuously as other world's lords. It also offended the liquor merchants that John did not put liquor into his mouth. The Saviour Himself spoke of John's manner of life, and said to the Jews, "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and you say, He hath a devil." Most likely the liquor merchants become angry at such a man who does not taste liquor; such a non-drinking man spoils their liquor business. Namely, if the country begins to follow his example, then the liquor business will end; and through that great misfortune will come to the liquor merchants and liquor distillers; first, because no one will buy devil's dung from them, and second, people will not allow themselves to be deceived by the liquor merchants because liquor, this intoxicating urine, has not confused the mind. There were still other reasons why the fine and meek whores had become angry at John. He had such poor clothing, namely one coarse shirt of camel hair. If people would now begin to follow his example, how would it then go for the world's meek whores who wear a cambric shirt, that it would be soft for the whorebucks when they come to their side. And how would it go for the world's merchants who take a large gain from all kinds of finery; how can they keep weddings and drink punch? If the country would take an example from John and throw away finery, then distress would come to the world's merchants; they would have to bring salt to the market, which are heavy goods to carry and from which does not come such a great gain that it would pay to build handsome mansions and to arrange guest banquets, although there is by no means a shortage of salt here. I quess that the peasants have during the last years bought so much salt that it does not lack even if they give salt to the lords of the world, too. Because of all this barking, and because of disregarding the world, the high lords of the world and the meek whores, and the liquor merchants have got angry to John, but they will indeed not get any peace of conscience before they get opportunity to cut off his neck. — However, John was so stiff against the world as a crowbar, and so unyielding that he did not leave the lords of the world in peace, but salted them strongly, because he saw that they were decaying in adultery, laziness, drunkenness [and] greediness. That is why the Saviour said to the people who had gone into the wilderness to see the man, about whom the lords of the world had said that he has a devil: What went you out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? Was it that kind of a man you went to see, whose mind bows by the wind of the world? Or what did you go to see? Was it a man who wears soft clothes. Was it such a high lord of the world thay you went to see? Or what did you go to see? Did you go to see a Prophet? I say unto you, he is higher than a prophet, because this is the one, about whom it is written, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” We hear from these words that John the Baptist is Lord’s angel who builds the road through which Lord Jesus can enter into the hearts of men. — If only Lord Jesus would now give him power to build this road so that the Lord of Glory would have opportunity to go forward. This road is namely totally distroyed by snowstorms and strong winds. While the builder of the road comes and begins to build the road for the Lord, he must walk in deep snow where only the footprints of the wolf are visible. Indeed we have that hope and that firm confidence to God that the road will be opened as long as the builder of the road digs snow with the iron spade and pries up all stones of offence with the crowbar of truth, so that the Lord of Glory gets opportunity to walk from above downwards, from the North to the South and from the East to the West. Pray the great Cross-bearer, All you poor and tired travellers who sit on the road and wait for the Lord of Glory, that He would give power and strength to chop, dig, pry, roll, grub, wrest and lift stumps, bushes, roots, rocks, trees and snow banks, that the Lord of Glory could travel through, and that the poor and weary travelers who sit upon the road and await the Lord of Glory, could with Him be able to travel to eternity. Hear, you praised King of Glory, the sigh of the poor and weary travelers. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matthew 11.
We hear from the above read gospel that John the Baptist in prison had sent two disciples to ask Jesus, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" This question did not come because of John's own unbelief, for John had received such an assurance from above that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Saviour that was to come; but John's own disciples surmised that: was he the one that should come, or was He the Saviour of Whom so much was spoken in the Scriptures. The Saviour commanded them to say to John what they had seen and heard: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, ... and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." With the guidance of these words at this time, we must also ask those who doubt, is this Christianity right which has now appeared in these places, or must we wait for another. What are the signs which testify that this Christianity is right? Yes, one sign is that the blind receive their sight; the second sign is that the lame walk; the third sign is that the lepers are cleansed; the fourth sign is that the dead are raised up; and the fifth sign is that the gospel is preached to the poor. We know that there are many who doubt if this Christianity is right. Not only the Pharisees, who see many faults in the lives of the Christians as they then saw many faults in the Saviour's life, but the disciples of John, who have not yet separated from John although he has wished that they should leave him and go unto the Saviour Jesus, are still wondering; is this the one that is to come? For the strengthening of their faith who are wondering if this Christianity is right, they are commanded to look upon those powerful works which have happened.
First: The blind receive their sight. It is not exactly written how many they are who are born blind; but we know that they are a great group who have formerly travelled in blindness 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 years, and now they see. While they were blind they travelled rashly toward the eternity. But at that time they travelled on the broad road of the abyss, because they did not see where the road which leads to heaven was. How can a blind one see the narrow road that leads into the life? He travels along the broad road that the whole County walks on. That is the road which the devils angels have built for the god of this world. But the wretched blind one does not see the narrow road that leads into the life. Nobody has asked each other during the time of blindness and darkness: Do you know where the road into heaven can be found? All of them have namely travelled the same road. And still today we hear that the blind ones believe that all people will come into the same place. But those few souls who have received their sight by the power of the Saviour can now say like the man who was born blind, but by the power of the Saviour received his sight: One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. This is now one sign for those who doubt about this doctrine, if it may be right.
The second sign is this: The halting walk. Even if the blind one’s eyes are opened so that he sees the road to heaven, thereof does not yet follow that he has powers to walk along that road, because he is lame and crippled. Many people have open eyes but they lack power to walk because their legs stiffen. That is why they sit down on the road and stay there. They do see how others pass by them but they have not power to follow them. These tired travellers are sitting on the road and they cry to those who pass by! Do not leave us! But they answer: You are lame and cripped, that is why you are not able to walk on the road of life. Why did you not creep to the mercy seat? Why don’t you cry with so strong voice in the depth that your voice will be heard in heaven: Merciful Lord Jesus, heal our feet, that we, too, should be able to follow the others before the snowstorm and severe wind take the road away, before darkness overtakes you. Crawl, you lame and maimed one, crawl before the mercy seat and pray that great Crossbearer that He would heal your legs, for He has said, "The lame walk." And through the prophet He says, "The lame leap as an hart." And Peter and John healed one beggar, who had been lame for many tens of years. This should be a sign to those who doubt whether this change could be right or wrong.
The third sign is that the lepers are cleansed, although many of the lepers are yet uncleansed; but this we know for sure, that ten have been cleansed. When Jesus said to them, "Go shew yourselves unto the priests." and as they went, they were cleansed; and the ten cleansed have also showed themselves to the priest and have received a testimony from him, as Moses has commanded them. But worse than that, not all cleansed souls have come back to thank Jesus for His great grace, for the Saviour asks, "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?" Undoubtedly they have become attached to the world, and only one stranger who is the poorest of all has come back to thank Jesus. Where are the nine? Where are you, you cleansed souls? Jesus longs for you, it is sad for Him to see that you are so unthankful, that because of love of the world you do not have time to come back from the world to thank Him for all of His good works. Remember anyway that you were once cleansed, and it should be a sign for those who doubt if this doctrine is right or not.
The fourth sign is that the dead are raised up, although many are still lying as dead and as a carcass and are already rotting, and worm? also gnaw at them, the worms who are called the dogs of hades; and some blind wretches have tried to kill those worms with devil's dung, but they have not yet died, although the wretches themselves lie dead and as a carcass. Nevertheless many a dead carcass has been lifted up from the grave of dead faith and has become alive through the power of Jesus; and those few souls who have become alive follow Jesus on the road of life. One is Lazarus who had lain in the grave for four days, a second is the son of the widow of Nain, who was carried out dead, the third is the daughter of a ruler in Capernaum, of whom the Saviour said, "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth." Besides are those who were raised up from their graves through the death of Jesus, and they had for a long time lain in their graves. But the leaders of natural meekness, Joseph and Nicodemus, have not become alive, for they have put Jesus' body into the grave of dead faith, and the world's lords, the enemies of Jesus' cross, have placed a lock upon the grave so that His disciples could not steal Him. And nevertheless He rose up although the soldiers tried to watch the tomb. But the soldiers became powerless when the Lord's angel stepped down from heaven and rolled the stone from the door of the tomb. This has also happened for a sign to those who doubt whether this could be the right doctrine. Try, try, you world's soldiers, to keep the body of Jesus in the grave of dead faith! Nevertheless you are not able. You become dead as soon as the Lord's angel steps down from heaven and rolls the stone from the door of the tomb; in the end you must lie that the disciples have stolen Him.
The fifth sign is that the Gospel is preached to the poor. Before the gospel has been preached to the rich, but now the gospel is preached to the poor. Truly before these times there were not many poor; people have been richer before, as long as they were well able to steal. But now many poor have come, then when the master of the house has gotten such dogs who bark at thieves, that they are no longer able to steal. Now the thieves have become poor because the dogs of hades bark so loud that the thieves must bring back the stolen goods. I do not know what sorcerer has incited the earthlings after those thieves, that they must reveal to the master what they have stolen before and owned with crookedness. All liquor merchants consider that strange, especially they who are accustomed to putting water into the wine, although their goods are not drunk any more because such good taste has come to the drunkards that they will not take into their mouths anything but pure and unmixed wine. Now the former thieves have become so poor that they do not have much of anything to put into the mouth. And to those poor, the gospel is preached. Surely the rich would wish that the gospel would be preached to them also; but when we know in what way they have prospered, namely by stealing, then we wish that they would first bring back all they have stolen. We wish that they would rightly become poor, wretched, naked, down pressed, broken and distressed; only then will the gospel be preached to them. But to those who are not thirsty, salt is given that thirst would come to them; to those who are not beggars, twigs are given, because they beg although there is no distress. Here are many of those hypocrites who make themselves poor and troubled, although the stores are full of stolen goods; and such want that the gospel should be preached to them. But to such goats, twigs should be given to chew.
Therefore five signs have been brought forth, which testify to those who doubt if this is that which was to come or should we wait for another; five signs of which the doubting ones can decide if this is the right Christianity or must they wait for another. We know that not all hold this Christianity to be right: the Pharisees criticized that it is entirely wrong; the Sadducees criticized that the raising up of the dead is spoken there; the scribes criticized that therein is lack of love; the pagans imagine that it is a wild disease; Nicodemus also wonders that a person must be born again. But the blind who now see, the lame who now walk, the dead who now live, the lepers who have now been cleansed, and the poor to whom the gospel is now preached, they know that this is a right doctrine, and yet pray that the Saviour's doctrine would always spread, that the lame, blind, and maimed would always come unto Him, that the lepers would be cleansed, and that the dead would be awakened to hear the Lord's voice; they pray that the poor, troubled, naked, sorrowful, weeping, hungering, thirsting, miserable, and down-pressed ones could hear that gospel every day, which is preached to the poor. Amen.