THE GOOD NEWS: John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord
John arrives on the scene, and it is his God-given job to announce the coming of Christ and to prepare His way, to a people who knew not their Savior. Not surprising to anyone, people were curious about this strange man. He undoubtedly had a strong personage. He preached unlike anyone they’d heard before. It’s no surprise when the people start to be a little confused. Is this man the Messiah? They are blind to see or know who the Savior is.
When God created mankind, there was unity between God and His perfect creation. Adam and Eve knew God and recognized Him naturally. Since the fall of man, mankind does not naturally recognize or confess their savior. Sin has blinded man.
John knows the people’s confusion and answers honestly. He is NOT the Christ. The coming one is so great that John claims he’s not worthy of bending over and removing the man’s sandals. How are we to recognize this great Savior who is coming? Is it because Jesus was going to be so much smarter, richer, taller, stronger, or handsome than John? No. John lists nothing of the physical characteristics of Jesus. What John turns to is what is truly important. What Jesus is to do!
Jesus would come baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. Christ came to this earth to reveal Himself to mankind by accomplishing what the Word promised would be accomplished through Him.
In our blindness, we cannot see God. We’re impressed by many things, but a baby in a manger, and an average looking man on a cross are not among them. Water, bread, wine, a simple book. They’re not counted among them. However, Christ came to reveal that He is no ordinary baby in a manger and He’s not just some criminal on a cross. He is mankind’s savior.
Jesus Christ was born and was baptized. And in His baptism, He took on our sin, bearing our guilt for our sake. He instituted His Holy Supper by His own body and blood. He suffered, died, and rose again. These are the things that make Jesus the Christ. This is how we recognize Him. For He is doing that which God’s Word spoke He’d do. And this is how Jesus identifies Himself. He is the one that is fulfilling the prophecies, that’s acting according to the Word and Will of God.
We seek Christ and recognize Him by what He has given us to see and recognize Him by. His Word, which He fulfills. His Baptism. His Holy Supper. These things don’t impress our eyes. In that sense, we stand like the crowds did, confused and blind to Christ. How is baptism anything special? How does some bread and wine equal Jesus? These things confuse the senses. To help, Christ gives us faith. He calls us by the Gospel, revealing Himself to us by faith.
In faith, we don’t stand like the crowd, confused as to who the Christ is. We know where to find Him. His Word. His Works, that is, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. The means of Grace.
In these means of Grace, Christ doesn’t just reveal Himself to us. But rather, He unites us with Him! He places His Word on our hearts. He unites us in Baptism. In Communion, He literally places Himself within us.
Our God is great and mighty, but He comes in humble form. Word. Water. Bread. Wine. Things the faithless, blind eye cannot see or recognize. However, praise be to God, that the Spirit we have been gifted has opened our eyes in faith to see these and to confess them. We know their power and to take great consolation in them. Let us ever yearn for God’s Word. Let us ever remember our blessed baptism into Christ. Let us ever hunger for the Lord’s Supper. And by the grace of God, let us ever recognize our God and Savior in these grace-filled gifts which He works and accomplishes for us.
May God guard us from wandering and seeking Him where He has not promised to be. May God guard us from not recognizing our Savior in His Word and Sacraments. But that, by the grace of God, the last day will come, and by the union we have with Christ in baptism and by His Word, we shall recognize Him faithfully as we fall to our knees and receive the life eternal that He has won for us. May He make us to be the expectant crowd that waits for Him eagerly and confesses His holy Name.
The Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.