December 11, 2016
Text: Isaiah 35:1-10
Who Did You Expect?
In the gospel reading this morning, John the Baptist is in jail- something he probably didn’t
expect to happen. And sitting there in the dark, cold rat infested jail, his mind began to wander
and entertain questions. We tend to put people we read about in the bible who have been used by
God in a mighty way and put them up on a pedestal. But he was human after-all- no different
from you and I really.
He had never once doubted about the message God had given Him to prepare the way of the
promised Messiah. He just wanted to know for sure. Perhaps he expected the Messiah to be
different- perhaps Jesus didn’t quite fit the mold of what he expected him to be like. And so he
sent some friends who had come to visit him to go and talk to Jesus and ask him right out if He
were the Messiah- or should they look for someone else?
And so they went and asked Jesus- and this is what he told them: “Go tell John what you see and
hear- 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.” That is the facts- now it is up to you
to decide who I am.
When we find ourselves in situations we didn’t expect to find ourselves in, when Jesus doesn’t
act the way we expect, we need to do what John the Baptist did- go directly to Jesus Himself.
And in those times we are blind to the ways of the Lord, unable to walk by faith, overcome with
guilt and shame, unable to hear God’s voice, in need of a word of encouragement, Jesus Himself
comes along side of us- breathes life into our hearts, makes known to us His faithfulness,
forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, and there in His presence, we hear good
news- words of hope and assurance-not only of salvation, but of His call and purpose in life.
Parents about to give birth to a baby are said to be “expecting”. From the moment they learn they
are going to have a bay, in their waiting and anticipation, they wonder what the new life will be
like- what kind of personality will they have? What will they grow up to be? Will they look more
like the dad or mom? Nine months can seem like a long time.
Come thou long expected Jesus. Imagine waiting for generations for the coming of the Messiah.
They weren’t told what He would look like- or what His personality would be- only that the
government would be upon His shoulders, and would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And so over the hundreds of years of waiting, expecting, of longing for the Messiah to be born,
they began to form opinions and dream of what He would be like. Those opinions and longings
took shape from their wants, needs, and desires. They perhaps reasoned that if the government
would be upon His shoulders, He would have to be a strong political leader, a warrior king who
would liberate them from whoever was oppressing them at the moment. Jesus came as a warrior
king for sure- but He came to save us and liberate us from the power of sin in our lives for all
people-not only the Jews, but for the Romans as well.
We do the same today, don’t we? Those of us who are parents- as we look at our own new born,
are overwhelmed with awe and wonder- of joy and with that, an immense sense of responsibility
to not only take care of them-but to teach them and guide them. I’m wondering if we maybe
unconsciously do the same thing at Christmas- take on the parent role- and think it is our
responsibility to raise Jesus to be the kind of savior who will act and live and say the things we
want, need, and desire- how and when we want it. But it is not Jesus who will be raised and
changed in the process- it will be you and I.
This new born baby lying in a manger has come to save us. He may not fit our mold of what we
want all the time- but we need to trust that He is what we need. And to do that we need to take a
knee and bow before Him as Lord of our lives- as king of our lives- and obey His call on our
In the gospel this morning, it is interesting to read that no sooner had Jesus answered their
questions about him, he asks the crowds what they thought of John the Baptist. What did you go
out into the wilderness to look at? What did you expect to find? Who did you expect? Were you
expecting someone who dressed like you and ate like you? Were you expecting him to be like a
reed shaken in the wind like someone who talks big when things are going good, but changes his
story, easily swayed to fit the mold of public opinion when thrown into jail?
You know why- in your heart you knew why you went out into the wilderness to hear what was
uncomfortable. It wasn’t the man, but the message he unashamedly and boldly spoke. And
although it was hard to hear- the message of repentance and a need for a savior resonated at the
core of your hearts. You knew it was the truth.
It brings us to the question then today- what do we value more- the way the messenger looks and
acts? Or by the message they bring? Think of all the people God had called and used down
through history. Moses- Abraham and Isaac- even Balaam’s donkey- unlikely people from a
human perspective. Think of Joseph and Mary, chosen to be the caretakers of Jesus while
growing up. What qualifications did they have? And then there was John the Baptist- when it
came to public relations, the mold went out the door.
Think of Saul the Pharisee- whose reputation of persecuting believers put fear in hearts. He was
from all practical purposes, the most unlikely person to become the greatest missionary of all
time. And yet there in the middle of a dusty road to Damascus, Jesus called him, got His
attention- and Saul surrendered his life to Jesus whom he had persecuted- and by God’s grace,
God changed not only his name but his purpose in life and it was God who was able to use him
in a mighty way. When God calls you, it isn’t our own strengths that are most important, but our
willingness to let God work through us. When God’s spirit is moving in and through us, it isn’t
the person, but the message that people will hear and be moved by the Holy Spirit.
We have all been called- you and I- imperfect people who but by the grace of God, can be used
by God in a mighty way. God’s doesn’t require that we fit a mold of what we think people expect
us to be- but trust He will use you where your gifts are best used, not someone else. What is
important is the message God has written on our hearts to share with the world.
Wise men of the East went on a journey to find the new born king. And finding Jesus, they
bowed in surrender, and laid down their gifts. There is a saying that wise men still seek Him. It is
up to each of us to decide for ourselves who this baby lying in a manger is.
May we be wise in things of God- surrender our agendas of what we expect Jesus to do and
simply bow down in worship. May we come anew this Christmas to the manger-to worship the
Messiah- God with us –in awe and wonder of what God has in store for us. Amen