Sermon for January 3, 2020 — Listen to What I Say!
2“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 3Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 4He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5aAnd he will be our peace.
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
lightning and hail, stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds.
Praise him kings of the earth and all rulers on earth,
young men and maidens, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
10In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
40On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
Well, another Christmas season has just about passed us by; it will end in two days on the Twelfth Night, the day before Epiphany. To the world, it has already passed. All the decorations in the stores are down. Christmas trees are being kicked to the curbside all around Appleton. And, on Wednesday of this past week, the 24/7 Christmas music station has gone back to playing adult contemporary music. I always get a little misty eyed when the Christmas music goes away. One Christmas song that I enjoy almost every time I hear it is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It was written by by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne in October 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and spoke of their hope that the peace that the angels spoke about could bring earthly peace. Today, as we say goodbye to the Christmas season, we use the words of this song to speak of the reactions that people have to the Christ Child. First, we hear Jesus ask a question and then we hear the response from the different people in the crowd.
Listen to What I Say!
I. Do you hear what I hear?
II. Do you see what I see?
III. Do you know what I know?
This is something that happened about halfway through the ministry of Jesus. He had been in the area of Jerusalem earlier in his ministry and had healed Aman who was unable to walk on the Sabbath day. This had happened at the pool of Bethesda when Jesus simply told the man to get up , take his bed, and walk. Because he had done this on the Sabbath day, he had angered the rulers of the people. They had threatened to take his life , so Jesus retreated to the area of Galilee to conduct his ministry for about a year. Now Jesus was back in Jerusalem for the festival of tabernacles. This was a harvest festival where the people lived in tents for a week to remember the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Tored the end of the festival, Jesus went into the temple area and began to teach. The gospel writer John tells of the encounter that he had there. There were a good number of people who were interested in seeing him because they had heard of reports of the miracles that he had been performing throughout the time of his ministry. Jesus, though, did not perform any miracles at that time period instead, he preached to them the powerful word of God. We were told that there were people who were amazed that he could teach with such wise words even though he had received no formal instruction in the schools of the rabbis. Our text takes place way tored the end of that time of teaching. We are told that when he was finished, there were different groups of people in the crowds who had different reactions to what Jesus had to say.
One group of people, when they heard what Jesus had to say, said , in essence, do you hear what I hear? They were amazed at what he said and they counted him as a great Prophet, maybe even the Prophet that Moses foretold when he led them in the wilderness. What they meant by this was that they believed that he was someone who was blessed with the words of God. They thought that they should listen to what he had to say. However, they did not think that he was anymore than that. They thought that he was simply one of the best preachers that they had ever heard and that his message Was true.
There are a lot of people today who have a similar opinion of Jesus. They pick and choose the things that Jesus said in his ministry and they regard him as a great teacher, but nothing more than that. Many of the times that people call Jesus a great teacher, they will simply quote the things that Jesus said that they agree with and discount other things he said. Old, they love to hear how Jesus encourage people to love your neighbor and to turn the other cheek . However, when it comes to him saying that he is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through him, they are quick too disregard that. It is kind of frustrating when I have a chance to talk to people who have this kind of opinion about Jesus. That’s because they have a fairly high opinion of him . They have an opinion that comes basically from their own way of thinking. However, it is a difficult thing to convince them that Jesus is anymore than that. We see this opinion expressed around this time of the year fairly often. People will talk about how it is a shame that there is not the peace on earth that Jesus spoke about. They forget that he wasn’t talking about peace between nations or peace between sinful people, but peace between God and man.
There was another group of people in the crowd who had an even lower opinion of Jesus. They heard what the others were saying . They heard how they were saying that he was a great Prophet or even something more special than that, but they disregarded that entirely. They let their on knowledge and opinion get in the way of them seeing exactly who Jesus was. When the crowd said that Jesus was the Prophet or the Messiah, They said, in essence, do you see what I see? All they could see was an ordinary human being. They were looking for something much more spectacular then Jesus. They were looking for some great and mighty warrior to bring them deliverance from the Romans, and Jesus just did not fit that bill. The excuse that came up with in order that they give Jesus no honor and glory was that Jesus did not come from Bethlehem. Of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He had lived most of his life, though, in the little insignificant town of Nazareth. Because he didn’t show all the great power that they imagined the Messiah showing and because they did not see that he came from Bethlehem, they simply discounted him.
This is the same sort of attitude that so many people have in our day and age. Around this time of year, you can kind of see it. People see that image of a little baby born in humble circumstances. When many people see that, they say that Jesus cannot be anything great special. They look upon him as just another man. They see him as no better than or no worse than anyone else who’s ever lived. They don’t see how it is possible that he could be their savior period of course, this is all tide up with their ideas that they don’t really need a savior anyway. They look upon themselves as their own savior. They look upon themselves as the master of their own fate. What do they need Jesus for? What do they see in Jesus? They see absolutely nothing special.
There were those, though, who were led to see something special about Jesus. There were those in the crowd who saw him as the Messiah. And when John speaks of people seeing Jesus as the Messiah, he means that they saw him as their savior from sin. Jesus had just spoken about the water of life that he could give them. He said that this water would be something that would be alive and flowing in each of them through the power of the Spirit. These people we’re led by the spirit to say, in essence, do you know what I know? They knew that they needed a savior. They also knew that Jesus was that savior that they needed.
This is what we, by the grace of God, have learned to know. The Holy Spirit, working through word and sacrament, has led us to know that we need a savior from sin. He is also let us to know that this Jesus is that savior. This is why the festival of Christmas is such a joyous one for us. It isn’t just a celebration for us too get together with family and friends and to give and to receive gifts. It also isn’t just the celebration of the birth of someone who could change the world by the things that he said. We celebrate this festival so gladly and joyously because we know that this marks that time in history where God made himself our brother in order to live the life that we could not live and to die a death that pays for all of our sins. We have been led to know this as the greatest truth in our life and the one thing that gives us the sure hope of eternal life.
That is something that also makes the celebration of Christmas such a joyous thing. We know that, at least for a little while, the eyes of the world are on Jesus. Be me only look upon him as a great teacher and pick out the messages that they really want to listen to, mostly earthly messages. They may regard him as just a human being born in humble circumstances. However, we know who Jesus is and what he has done. We can use this time of year 2 simply tell the world what it is that God has accomplished in Jesus birth at Bethlehem. After that, we let the Holy Spirit take over and we let him do the work that he does through the word that we are given the privilege of proclaiming. We can do that at Christmas when the eyes of the world are on the savior, but it is also our privilege to share what we know with others. We can ask the people of this world, do you know what I know? And then we can share with them that simple and beautiful truth that this Jesus is our savior and their savior. We have listened to what our God has said , we know that it is true and that it is saving, and we can proclaim this message throughout all the world. Amen.