“MORE THAN A PROPHET”
Saint Matthew 11. 2-10
Gaudete: 14 December Anno + Domini 2014
Fr Jay Watson SSP
In The Name + of Jesus
Someone once wrote “the fact no gentleman is a hero to his butler is not because there are no heroes…but because all butlers are butlers.” He meant that the sin of pride and vanity is “old Adam” always tearing down the neighbor and harming the “other” in order to build up the slimy sinful self! Self-justification demands scape goating, demonization of others, and theological Manichaeism—the Satan inspired teaching that “I am the good guy and the other is the bad guy;” light and dark!
Adam was the first and is honored as such. But his place is diminished by his treason. Praise the Lord that the Second and perfect Adam has rescued him and his traitor wife from the tortures of hell (or as other monsters would say ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ of hades). Abram is Abraham our spiritual father. And Moses is Moses the greatest of Hebrew saints. King David is the “apple of our Lord’s eye” and Elias was blessed to not only “not die” but to stand with the Lord face-to-face on at Transfiguration. Yet these heroes of the faith, and all the other stalwart saints, bow the head in recognition at The Throne and thrones. They and the Apostles themselves, and Paul, recognize their Lord and God in the middle and those that flank Him on both sides. The trifecta at Calvary (Jesus and the two thieves) with Christ all-important: once and forever atoning and rescuing you by His “blood and merit” is joyfully transformed in Heaven’s throne room to a typological triptych of end-time worship. The Lamb in the middle at the “right hand of majesty” flanked by the Blessed Theotokos and The Baptizer.
For as the Godhead is Trinity in Unity—a communion of love, so too the worshipping Church, the Bride, shares in community of The Body…The Object of Worship—the ever incarnate God/Man, the worshippers—Virgin Mother and Kinsman (a picture of you iconned), and the peace and love flowing from The Giver to the given.
Today is Gaudete, the Third Sunday of Advent. The rose candle lit to symbolize that even in this season of repentance you join with Paul, Mary and John in singing your Introit “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice!” [Php. 4. 4]
To rejoice by oneself without being embraced by family is sectarian, dangerous, and bordering on heresy. There are no lone followers; there is only family, body, branches, sheepfold, and bride, of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Mary and John point to this because they point to Him! “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” “He must increase, but I must decrease,” “whatsoever He saith to you, do it.” [Jn. 1. 29, 2. 5b, 3.30]
Your song was her song, the Magnificat and the historical Christ carol which are so fitting for this day: “Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria virgine, gaudete!” [Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born, (out) of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!”]
And then there’s John.
“…John had heard in the prison the works of Christ.” Excellent. His strong adamant faith increases during his trials, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” [Rom. 10. 17] His ears were graced with the events his God Kinsman had been doing. His faith was first created by both the Word enfleshed—carried in Mary’s womb, and by her evangel greeting—Magnificat! His faith was so strong that his father, Zacharias, at his own birth could sing “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of The Lord to prepare His ways’…and the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit…” [Luke 1. 76, 80] Before that day at Jordan The Word spoke to John “the Word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” [Lk. 3. 2b]
Like you the Baptizer was a sinner. John needed and received the same Shepherd Savior as you all have. But, John did not lose his faith, and the events which Saint Matthew records are not part of a crisis of faith but simply a sermon preached by a pastor to his remaining tiny flock. John had the Spirit prepare him all his life. Jesus said “among those that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” [Mt. 11. 11a]
We need not pull John down and sinfully delight that he too cracked under pressure, crumbled under brutal imprisonment, and thought that Jesus had abandoned him to Herod’s axe-man; NO! What did you come to Augsburg to see, a booming, powerful, successful, modern American congregation? Behold, that abomination is found in theaters, stadiums, and corporate board rooms. Does “old Adam” secretly hope John was a shaken reed? John is a not a reed, and neither are you, he was a branch grafted by Blood into The Vine of Victory.
There is not one Biblical scholar, reformer, Patristic source, or exegete…before the age of higher criticism and rationalism…who ever said John had lost his faith and needed his two disciples to bring him back something…to bring him Jesus.
John was preaching one of his short sermons to the two themselves who needed it. They were doubting; they were weak; they wouldn’t leave their infatuation with John to put their faith in the Source of John.
The God/Man called him and make him His messenger; he was. His preaching was that of Elias “repent and believe;” “bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance;” [Lk 3.8] “he that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none;”  and “do violence to no man, neither accuse anyone falsely.”  John preached unvarnished straight 180 proof Law so that people could receive pure Gospel—forgiveness, life and salvation.
“You two hangers-on, what you doing here…this jail-tomb will soon be empty, and I will not be here. My headless corpse will be with Him in paradise and He shall be my new and everlasting Head and Groom even as He is to be yours. There can be no personality cults to once powerful and influential desert preachers; there is only The Kingdom of Heaven which is found only in the Body and Blood of the Nazarene Messias! Leave me and go see His signs and wonders which confirm His Words from High. He restores sight, He heals cripples, He cleans diseased, He raises up dead, and He is the Good News which you need.”
And blessed are you who are not offended by the scandal of the Cross, by the humility of the Holy + Washing of regeneration, and by the mystery of the Sacrament of Body and Blood given, shed, eaten and drunk.
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost