“Prepare Ye The Way: Who?”
This year in Advent our theme is “Prepare ye the way!” Throughout Advent we’re looking at some questions as to why it is important to prepare the way. The first week of Advent we looked at “when?” When will Jesus be coming? Unfortunately we don’t know that answer, Jesus doesn’t tell us when he will return. But what we did learn as that we always need to be ready. We built on the boy scout and girl guide mottos, “Be prepared.” If we are always ready, the ‘when’ doesn’t really matter anymore.
Last week we talked about “why?” Why is it important to be ready? Why does it really matter if we’re ready? We looked at the words from John the Baptist as he baptized people in the river and told them the Messiah is on the way, the one who will gather the good fruit of the harvest and the rest will burn in the unquenchable fire. Why is it important? Because Jesus is coming to gather his people to join him in God’s glorious kingdom, and we want to be there because the warnings of not being there don’t sound very pleasant at all.
This week we look at the question “Who?”
John the Baptist has been caught and sent to prison. I guess he stirred up a little too much trouble with his preaching and the Romans decided he had done enough. So they put him away.
While in prison, John keeps track of what Jesus has been doing since he baptized him. Seeking confirmation, John sends a message to Jesus asking him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
I’m not sure why John felt the need to ask this question. When John saw Jesus when he came to be baptized, John seemed pretty sure who Jesus was then. I suppose once you’re thrown in jail for causing a commotion proclaiming someone has come, you’d want to be sure you’re suffering for the right reason. You wouldn’t want to learn you’ve been wasting all this time in jail when the real Messiah hasn’t even come yet.
The words Jesus sends back are words to comfort John. To let him know he was correct. The one he predicted was coming, has indeed come.
Jesus sent the message through John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”
John was right. The one who has come to do great things is here. The kingdom of God has come to the earth to make things right.
Jesus makes many claims about himself. Most significant is the claim to be directly from God, as an equal to God, sent by God and a God among men.
This reminds me of a quote from a great book written by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was an atheist, abandoning the church in his teens and embracing the occult. Yet he made his way back to the church and became one of the greatest Christian writers in the 20th century. You may have heard a bit about this author recently as he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia books which have been slowly turned into movies. The third of which came out just this weekend. The book I am reminded of this weekend is called Mere Christianity. If you haven’t read it, please do. It is a classic book on Christ and the importance of being a Christian.
At one point in the book his is exploring the identity of Jesus Christ, and he said:
“Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different than anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips…
… I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity” Macmillan Publishing Co, New York, NY. Copyright 1952.)
Who do you think Jesus is? Is Jesus a moral teacher, a good example of how someone might live in the world? Is Jesus a character from stories long ago? Was he just a man who lived a long time ago and told us some timeless stories?
Or, is he the King of kings, Lord of lords, very God of very God, the Messiah, the Saviour, the Son of our great and almighty Father, Lord of heaven and earth?
I love the C.S. Lewis quote, because he states is very plainly. Either Jesus is God, or he’s a madman. There is no middle ground. Jesus never gave us a middle ground, because there is none. Let’s look at a couple examples of what he said about himself.
It began early in his life, in Luke 2 we hear a story of when Jesus was 12 years old. Jesus remained in Jerusalem as his parents left for home, when they realized he was not with them, they panicked and went looking for him. When they found him, he was back in the temple in Jerusalem. The exchange when they were reunited went like this, “’Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’”
In Luke 22, a dispute broke out between the disciples over who was the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
In John 14, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said , “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”
These are but a few examples of some things that Jesus said where he, if he we a mere man, could be interpreted as mad for the claims he makes. As a child he claims the temple to be his Father’s house when he does not follow his parents back to their home. He makes promises to the disciples that they will be with him in heaven because he is seated on the throne as judge of the world. He claims that he is one with God.
Are these the words of a madman? If they are, then why are we here? 2000 years have held that this man is the Son of God, the one sent to earth to show us the way back to God. A Son who came to show us how we have perverted God’s word for our own purposes and not followed the basic principle of being a child of God.
That is to love.
Remember how this love works in the world according to the words in the message Jesus sent to John in prison. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”
May we be blessed by the one who God sent into the world to bring love and to show us the way back to the God who loves us.
So who do we prepare the way for?
The King of kings, Lord of lords, God made flesh, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah who comes to save the world.