Witnesses to the Acts of Jesus Matt. 11:2-15
Advent IIIA December 11, 2022 St. John, New Orleans
Credible witness testimony is often the key evidence needed to convict a criminal.
Credibility of testimony depends upon several things.
The reputation of the speaker,
their past history,
the consistency of their testimony,
and how one carries themselves under interrogation.
When prosecuting a case, an attorney may choose not to call a witness to testify if they fear their credibility can easily be put into question.
Credibility is determined by the greater context of a witness’s life and actions.
When witness testimony is weak
or the witness is deemed unreliable or discredited, other evidence is needed.
We see this at work in our lives.
We ask our neighbors to recommend service people and tradespersons who do good work.
We look up reviews for restaurants on apps like Yelp and other review sites.
When diagnosed with seriousness illness we might seek a second opinion from a specialist.
We want reliable testimony to nor only provide the best result, but to give us Peace of Mind.
In today's gospel we hear this situation being played out before us.
Two weeks ago we heard about John baptizing Jesus and the voice of God declaring him to be God's son.
It seems to be a miraculous open and shut case for Jesus to be the Messiah.
Not only was John prophesying the power of Jesus and his work as savior,
but an audible voice from heaven concurred and solidified who Jesus is.
Old Testament prophets like Isaiah filled page after page telling us that the Messiah would set things right again.
Things broken or corrupted would be fixed and purified.
Pain would turn to comfort.
Conflict to peace.
The hungry would be satisfied.
Yet, this Jesus, John's own cousin, whom he had been promoting, isn't getting much traction in the world.
In fact, the powers that be hate him.
And Jesus himself does nothing to assert himself into power.
Moreover, John is now imprisoned because of his promotion of Jesus as the next great king of Israel.
What he is preaching seems to be treasonous to those in power at the present.
And there doesn't seem to be a way out of there.
In fact, John will soon lose his head at Herod's command.
So, perhaps questioning his faith, John sends his disciples to Jesus
This was a bold move if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, let alone the Son of God.
To question his legitimacy in front of others would be very insulting.
But it was also a bid for attention to John's plight.
They wanted to remind Jesus about just who was there when he started his ministry.
It was John who baptized him in the Jordan.
John said he was the promised Messiah.
John was the messenger appointed by God to introduce him to the world; to, “prepare the way of the Lord.”
“IF you really are the son of God, prove it and help us get John out of prison.”
“You make water into wine,
you feed thousands with a few loaves and fish,
you raise the dead,
surely, you can get John a get out of jail free card?”
but Jesus doesn't come to John's aid, rather he answers his question directly.
John asked if Jesus was the one.
John wondered if all his preaching of repentance and baptisms in the Jordan were for nothing.
John, sensing his number was up, wanted to be sure it wasn't all for nothing,
that everything he had done was done in vain.
So Jesus answered him, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”
Don’t tell him what you think or believe.
Not only is John not interested, but it wouldn't be helpful.
John wants Jesus to confirm he is who he says he is.
Not to hear another informed opinion about Jesus.
Rather, Jesus says, “tell him about what I've done and said.
I've done things only God can do in my miracles
and I've said things that only the son of God can claim or explain.
Also, what else have you heard but not seen?
There are credible witnesses who saw me do other things
and if you listen to them it all adds up.
Jesus is telling the disciples of John, “don't take my word alone, look at the evidence before you.”
“Could I be anything but the Messiah, the savior of the world?
How could I not be the son of God sent from above to be born to my mother Mary?”
And that's what they did. And John still died.
Jesus's mission was not to heal and raise the dead so that believers could be helped and made whole.
Rather, Jesus heals and makes whole so that sinners would believe and be given new life.
His actions were not to give aid to those he affected, but to show the authority by which he did so.
If Jesus did not establish his authority as the son of God
by his miraculous powers of healing and life,
then his own sacrifice would have been met with doubt.
In his day the people rushed to Jesus for personal reasons.
Whether to be healed in body or for the comfort of their soul,
people followed him in droves in hopes of being the beneficiary of his healing one day.
And at times, the crowds became quite pushy and pressed against him as they got bigger.
But even in their desire for healing of body, they also received healing of spirit.
As he proclaimed his forgiveness for their sins,
a lifetime of physical disability or disease was also erased.
And so even those who may have come under selfish notions, left him knowing his global desire to heal and make whole through forgiveness and mercy.
As they departed him after healing he verbally told them,
“rise and go home, your faith has made you well.”
“go show yourselves to the priest, your faith has made you well.”
“depart from here and tell the good news to all you see of what the Lord has done for you.”
I think we often come to church like those people in the gospels, even John the Baptist, at times.
We come expecting Jesus to make it all better.
We want healing of our body and mind.
We want relief from the pressures of life, family, and work.
we want him to resolve conflict between us.
And like those people in the gospels, we keep coming back frequently, sometimes getting very close to him, but usually seeing no results.
Our prayers go unanswered as our sickness gets worse.
Our darkness gets deeper as we dig our own hole deeper and deeper.
Perhaps we even express doubts openly and publicly
as John did, “are you the one who is to come?”
as the thief on the cross said, “if you are the Christ then save yourself and us!”
as many Christians do, “Lord if my faith is genuine, give me a sign.”
but Jesus says the same thing to us, “what do you see and hear?”
and that is why we are here; To see and hear that which confirms him as the Messiah.
to see and hear proof that he is our savior.
Only if we see him for who he is, rather than what he has done for us, can we move forward in faith.
Surely John the Baptist had great faith, but it didn't save his neck.
He was still beheaded because of a jealousy in the royal house hood.
Knowing Jesus and being a blood relative to him did give him anything in life except an execution.
Neither are we promised a worldly benefit from our relationship with Jesus.
Christians are one of the most persecuted religions where they are in the minority.
And as church membership has fallen below 50% in the US, we will probably witness the same thing here eventually.
Neither are we promised health and wealth due to our faith.
Jesus died for all because all needed to be saved.
He said you will always have the poor with you.
And what we all needed to be saved from was not any problem of the world except for sin.
There is no disease which bars us from heaven except the disease of sin.
And there is no poverty that keeps us from heaven except a lack of faith.
The only promise from God that we have and that we need is this:
he is God,
he loves us all,
and he alone has the power to save us from death eternal death
through faith in him.
In a few minutes we will encapsulate that as we recite the creed.
It's as much a statement about who and what we believe God to be
as it is a statement of his promise to save.
By creating, redeeming, and sanctifying us, he transforms our perspective from pleading Sinner to celebratory saint.
In a way, it is our witness to what we have seen and heard.
From the amazing witness of creation itself
To the testimony of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us
to the very faith planted in our own hearts
we have a high correlation of credibility to what we profess to the world.
And this profession is what Advent is all about.
we the church ask the world around us to listen up and hear the testimony.
From the scriptures that prophesied his life, death, and resurrection,
to the accounts of how he miraculously aided the early church in its spread around the world.
We invite the world to see what he has done
as he forgives sinners by his body and blood shed on the cross and made available in the sacrament,
and as he grows his church and faith itself in the waters of baptism.
So that, all the believers gathered there can work together to benefit all the world around them.
And to see the change which comes to a person who is forgiven and believes in Jesus for that new life forgiveness affords them.
It's why the symbols for advent point to light and hope.
The Advent wreath with its candles give more light as the day approaches
and the blue colors and images of stars give us hope
that from that darkness we peer into daily, that somewhere in that darkness is the light of Christ.
And it and it is why on the last night of Advent, Christmas Eve, we light even more candles
as we sing songs of hope and celebration of the savior
of which we have seen and heard and who promised we would see again,
returning just as he left us,
in his body and descending from the clouds.
We will also demonstrate that hope when we move into our assembly meeting immediately after the service.
While not life and death, as John experienced, we have some serious matters to inform you about and to discuss.
But we also have good news to repeat of things that we have seen and heard around Saint John these last months
that show us hope that God is still God
and Jesus is still Lord of his church.
And so I encourage all our members to stick around for as long as you can
so that we can be impactful witnesses personally,
but also to what he continues to do through our church and school and the spaces we make available to our neighborhood as well.
May each of you be blessed to be witness to his great and mighty acts in your life this Advent and through the coming year. Amen.