NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
The Forerunner of Christ
June 24, 2018
ST. LUKE 1
Two Nativities Surpassed By Only One Other
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Samson the Judge and John the Baptist have much in common.
They both were men were given special work to do the Lord's work.
They both died violent deaths.
They both were Nazirites, which meant they lived under rules from the Lord. They were not to drink wine or eat raisins. Their hair wasn't to be cut. They were to avoid dead bodies.
And they both had barren mothers, women who couldn't have children… until the next thing they have in common happens: an angel shows up.
An angel appeared to Samson's mother; an angel appeared to John's father.
JUDGES 13:3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to [Samson's mother] and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION 2016
ST. LUKE 1:11–13 An angel of the Lord appeared to [John's father], standing on the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw [the angel], he was startled and overcome by fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son for you, and you are to name him John.” ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
These nativities are amazing and going beyond understanding. In short, they are miracles. But both these miracles are surpassed by another nativity: Jesus' incarnation. Samson and John were sons of fathers and mothers. Jesus' mother is the Virgin Mary, but He is the eternal Son of God. This alone makes Jesus unique in the history of pregnancy. But there's more that sets Jesus apart: His death.
Samson died a violent death because of his own sinful choices: he chased after women and he was very proud of his strength. In the end, this led to his downfall. On the other hand, John was beheaded because by God's grace, he had remained faithful to his work, which the angel of the Lord spells out:
ST LUKE 1:16–17 He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to prepare a people who are ready for the Lord. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
Yet, not even the death of faithful John saved anyone, not even John himself! John's whole life had been dedicated to this truth: John and all other sinners needed a sinless Savior to sacrifice Himself for sinners. And Jesus is that Savior. John pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, which meant that Jesus was going to be sacrificed for us.
ST JOHN 1:29–31 The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed before me.’ I myself did not know who he was, but I came baptizing with water so that he would be revealed to Israel.” ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
John's whole life was about Jesus. John took joy in being second fiddle, while playing up his Savior, Jesus. When John's disciples were worried that Jesus was stealing his thunder,
ST. JOHN 3:27–30 John answered, “A man cannot receive a single thing, unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves are witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and listens for him, is overjoyed when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
Even though our births are not on the order of John's nativity, let us join him in praising the nativity, life, and death of the Lamb of God. Decrease yourself and increase Jesus by rising in the morning and saying this truth: “I am a sinner, and I need Jesus.” These words of Law and Gospel will give you all the joy of the world. Even when faced with trouble and sadness, as John was, let Jesus' reassuring words to John, reassure you that He is the One who calls us to feast with Him today and forevermore.
ST. LUKE 7:18–28 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of his disciples to him, he sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come or should we look for someone else?” When the men had arrived, they said to Jesus, “John the Baptist sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the one who was to come or should we look for someone else?’”
21–23 At that time Jesus healed many people of their diseases, afflictions, and evil spirits. And he gave many blind people the ability to see. Jesus answered them, “Go, tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me.”
24–28 After John’s messengers had left, Jesus began to talk to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? No. Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Yet those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Yes, I tell you, among those born of women there is no prophet greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!