Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we continue our approach to Your manger, fill our hearts with anticipation and with great joy. Also, inspire us to always put You first in our lives and to remain loyal to You no matter what—keeping in mind that You are always loyal to us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING
TEXT: Matthew 11: 2-11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Lately I’ve been reminded of the importance of loyalty in life. About 15 years ago my sisters and I got a little Westie puppy for my dad after he lost his beloved dog Heather. The agreement was that he would accept the puppy, but if he found he wasn’t up to the rigors of her, I would take her in. Well, a month passed and he shipped Zoe off to me. Looking back, it was the last long drive he made to the airport. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he really felt lousy and in less than a year he was in heaven.
Over the past 14 years I’ve kept my promise to my dad. I’ve been loyal to him and to her, despite all her various, serious ailments. She has bonded with me far more than with Debra Ann. To Zoe, I’m it! She always looks to me for comfort and love. And I must say, that loyalty goes both ways. Right now she is old, arthritic, and probably doesn’t have too many months to remain with me here. But she’s still loyal, loving Zoe and I am responsible for her. Certain days rip at my heart, but such is the nature of love, isn’t it?
Today, I want to discuss with you something much more profound and deep than animal/master loyalty. In view of this lesson, we all need to ponder our loyalty to the Baby Jesus and just what that means. And so I put before you this question:
ARE YOU LOYAL TO JESUS?
Jesus has begun his ministry, gathered some of His disciples, and is already drawing large crowds. John the Baptist is in prison. John, too, had gathered many disciples to his message of repentance and faith. He had pointed them to Jesus as the fulfillment of his work. Some, like the apostle John had already left him to work for Christ. But, others still remained emotionally connected with John the Baptist. We’d say: They were really loyal. And that is to be commended. They didn’t run away from him even when he was imprisoned. Apparently these disciples visited John in prison. We can only speculate on what must have been discussed. O, to have been a fly on the wall! They also filled him in on what Christ, his 2nd cousin was up to. Then, during one of these discussions, John told them to go to Jesus and ask him this question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Now, some will tell you that this question reveals that John had doubts and his faith in Christ as his Messiah was challenged—just like ours is at times. I disagree. John was taught directly by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. He knew without any doubt who and what Jesus was all about. In fact, Christ says later in our text: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” So, if John didn’t send this question to Christ out of personal doubt, why did he? Well, the answer is found in that word: loyalty. True loyalty is always motivated by love and respect. John both loved and respected Christ and also his loyal followers who remained at his side. He knows that Jesus will convince them that He is the promised Savior, if they would but go and talk to Him. So, John’s question wasn’t really about him at all. It was about them. It was a way to show them that Jesus deserved an even greater loyalty than they were showing John.
St. John the Baptist knew beyond any doubt that Jesus was his Savior. Recall that already in his mother’s womb, John leaped for joy when the newly pregnant Mary came to their home. Throughout his ministry, John had quoted Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah again and again, too. He didn’t want people to elevate him to special status, but to elevate Christ alone to such status in their lives. Remember when he pointed at Christ and told everyone: “He (Jesus) but increase, but I must decrease.” And of course, John’s faith in Jesus’ ability to convert these followers was not misplaced. Jesus’ answer to them is really a paraphrase of Isaiah 35 which prophesies about the Messiah who will open the eyes of the blind, unstop deaf ears, heal the lame, and even raise the dead all the while preaching good news (salvation) to those bankrupt in their souls.
As John’s disciples prepare to leave and go back to speak this message to him, Jesus addresses the crowd, and them. He reminds all that John was not about flash and glam. He was not about human riches or fame. John was about getting people to focus on their coming Lord and Savior. He was the messenger who would “prepare the way of the Lord” as Christ quotes from Isaiah. Then after reminding all of how vital and important John was, Jesus adds: “yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” In other words: “Loyalty to John is fine and noble, but since John pointed you to Me, your loyalty is made whole by transferring your hearts, your allegiance, to Me.” We don’t hear much more about these loyal fellows, but they certainly got the message and I believe you’ll see them in glory someday.
So, what does all this mean to you and me today? Well, Are You Loyal to Jesus? Or, do you let human emotional ties cloud your judgment? I’ve met Christians who pick and choose what Biblical teachings they like or don’t like. I’ve met people who idolize a particular pastor. I’ve met people who disliked the church body they worshipped with, yet still kept going because they felt human/emotional loyalty trumped everything else. A classic example of this is the old story about the Roman catholic who, when asked what they believed responded: “I believe what the Priest says.” The RC priest responded: “Well, I believe what the bishop says.” And the bishop then responds: “I believe what the Pope says.” That’s misplaced loyalty. Likewise, how about those who tout what some seminary professor says without every analyzing whether or not it’s true based on clear statements from the Bible? No, we should believe what Jesus says, period. We should believe what His Word, the Word of God in the Bible He wrote, says. And if a pastor, a friend, a relative, or someone else questions our loyalty to them in religious matters, we need to follow the example of the Bereans whom Paul commended because they “searched the Scriptures to see whether or not these things were from God.”
John the Baptist was a very wise man. He found a way to teach his loyal followers to make room in their hearts for Jesus alone. He wanted them saved. He knew he was not their Savior, but Jesus was. And most importantly, John knew that Christ was and is always loyal to suffering sinners and that Christ’s loyal love would clearly be seen by His upcoming death for them and His resurrection from the grave in their place. This same Jesus is loyal to each of you. So take your faith in Him seriously. Bow your soul, not to a particular denomination, or a particular pastor, or particular friends when it comes to your eternal salvation. No, bow to Christ because on the cross God’s Son stooped down to save you. Amen