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Are You the One?
December 11, 2022*
(3rd Sunday of Advent)
By Pastor John Partridge
Isaiah 35:1-10 Matthew 11:2-11 James 5:7-10
In the blockbuster 1999 movie, The Matrix, Keanu Reeves, as the character Neo, is awakened from a pod and discovers that his entire life had been lived inside of a computer simulation. Over the course of the movie, Neo, and the audience, discover that he is the person known in their modern legend as “The One.” Although computers have taken over the universe, the computer program that makes the simulated world possible requires, as part of its vast program, an anomaly, a glitch, that is both necessary to making the whole thing work, and problematic to the machines that want to subjugate humanity. That glitch, that anomaly, is that one randomly selected person, known as the Prime Program, or The One, carries a special piece of program code that gives them superhuman abilities in the matrix. These abilities give that person the power to bend the rules of the matrix simulation, allowing them to ignore physics, gravity, and any other laws of nature.
In scripture, we also find a world that is waiting for the arrival of “the One.” In this case, we are dealing with the real world and with a spiritual world, and not a fictional computer simulation. But the movies have borrowed from this scriptural tradition and have created parallels that we see in both the theater and in the stories of the Old and New Testaments. What we find is that God, through his prophets, promised that one day he would send a messiah, a rescuer, and a redeemer, who would come to save Israel from their enemies and save the entire world from destruction, sin, and death.
But as the centuries passed, Israel asked the same question that the characters in the Matrix movie were asking. Is the story real? When will we see the One? And whenever they met someone who impressed them, they might even ask themselves if he might be “The One.” We begin this morning with Isaiah 35:1-10, as we hear God’s prophet tell of the things that the Messiah would do:
35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there;it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
It was these words that were repeated, taught, and remembered, when people thought and dreamed about the coming of the messiah. And so, when John the Baptist sees that Jesus isn’t doing the things that he thought that he would do, he begins to wonder if Jesus is really “The One.” And so, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus that very question, “Are you the One.” Matthew 11:2-11 records Jesus’ reply.
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
It was a fair question. It’s always been a fair question. We have been reading the promises of God in the writings of the prophets for thousands of years. Like many of Jesus’ own disciples, John thought that the Messiah should behave differently, and do things differently than Jesus was doing them. And Jesus’ reply was to echo Isaiah and say that the eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame are healed, the mute speak, the good news is proclaimed to the poor, and even the dead are raised.
But two thousand years later we are still asking the same question. Was Jesus really “The One”? If Jesus were really the Messiah, shouldn’t he have returned to do the rest of the things that Isaiah and the other prophets said that the Messiah would do? It’s a fair question because two thousand years is a long time. The people who had seen Jesus, even some of his disciples, were convinced that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. And then they were sure that he would return before the Apostle John died. And then they thought he would certainly return before the year 100, then the year 1000, then maybe it should be the year 2000. But the calendar keeps turning and we keep asking the question, “Is he really “The One”?” And that is exactly the question to which Jesus’ brother James was responding in James 5:7-11 when he said:
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
As in many other things, patience is the key. Students of a foreign language do not learn to speak fluently overnight, nor do students learn to play a musical instrument well during their first lesson, or even during the first year. In Star Wars, Master Yoda repeatedly admonished Luke Skywalker to have patience, and that is something with which we all have struggled. Like all these things that I mentioned that make sense to us, James uses an agricultural illustration that made sense to his audience. When we plant our gardens, or when a farmer plants an entire field, we cannot harvest until the appropriate time has come. We wait for sunshine, warm nights, and the rains that water the earth because plants have needs that must be met just as we do, and they need time to grow to maturity. In the same way, James tells us that there will be an appropriate time, that Jesus will come, and that his coming is near.
Rather than grumble and fight, we must be patient with one another, love, nurture, and support one another, and persevere through whatever this life throws at us. Rather than impatiently questioning whether Jesus is “The One,” we should remember the perseverance of Job and many others that we know from scripture, people who patiently endured and persevered through their trials and through their lives so that we could look back and see what God accomplished through them.
As we wait for the return of “The One” let us be patient in our waiting, patient with one another in our struggling, and remember the examples of scripture of those who struggled like us, but who endured so that God could demonstrate what could be accomplished with his help.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™