15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I’d like to begin my sermon this morning by taking a very brief informal poll. And I want you to be honest. With only 4 shopping days left till Christmas, how many of you have all your Christmas shopping done? Please raise your hand. And how many of you do not have your shopping done? Please raise your hand.
Well, for those of you who are still looking for that perfect gift for that special man in your life I have a suggestion. In fact, I brought a sample of it with me this morning. DUCT TAPE! As we all know, men are very practical creatures and few things are more practical than duct tape. In fact, would you believe that some years ago there was even a best-selling book out which highlighted some of the many ingenious uses of duct tape? In case you want to get that for that special man in your life along with some duct tape – and what a package that would be! – it’s called Duct Tape – Real Stories. It describes how the use of duct tape is limited only by the bounds of your own creativity and imagination. It can be used for packing and storage, for home improvement, for automobile repair, for clothing repair, even for medical emergencies. Now I have to confess I wondered about that last one. Medical emergencies? What are they going to do, use duct tape to repair an aneurysm?
Well, in spite of all the hype and hoopla that duct tape receives in that book, that still doesn’t do away with the fact that duct tape is only a temporary fix. It cannot hold things together forever. It will wear out sooner or later. And that’s why today I want to talk to you about One who is far better than duct tape, One who can offer us more than just a temporary fix, One whom I’ve referred to in my sermon title as “The Permanent Fix.” And his name is Jesus.
Now in our text for today we’re told that the people were waiting expectantly. And what exactly were they waiting for? Well, they were waiting for the Messiah, the One whom God had promised throughout history who would come into this world to permanently fix the broken relationship between himself and sinful human beings. And to be sure, there had been many great ones who had already come, but none of whom had fit the bill; none of whom could be classified as the permanent fix.
For example, there was Abraham, the recognized father of the Jewish nation. And yet as great and faithful and obedient to God as he was, he was not the Promised One. There was Moses, who was a savior of sorts. He’s the one whom God used to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt, to bring all those plagues upon the Egyptians, to part the waters of the Red Sea, to call forth water from a rock, and to whom God gave his holy laws on Mt. Sinai. And yet as great a Savior as he was, he was not the true Savior God had promised to send.
There was David, perhaps the greatest king Israel ever knew. Early on in his life he was described as a man after God’s own heart. He was definitely God’s choice to lead his people through a very difficult time in their history. And under his leadership, the nation of Israel enjoyed one conquest after another and prospered as it had never prospered before. And yet as great a king as he was, he was not the true King God had promised to send, a King who would rule his people forever.
And then there was Elijah. He was a great prophet who boldly and unashamedly proclaimed the Word of God in the midst of a wicked and idolatrous generation. He was not afraid to confront the sin of his day. And through his efforts, many of the Israelites were led back to God. And yet as great a prophet as he was, he was not the true Prophet whom God had promised to send.
Not even John the Baptist, as great and powerful a preacher as he was, was the permanent fix that the people were waiting for. Now granted, some of the folks who went out to see him thought he was, but he was quick to remind them: “One more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
And later this week we will have the privilege of once again celebrating the coming of that powerful One into our world, the One who came as God’s permanent fix. Now I know I’ve referred to Jesus a number of times this morning in that way, but I haven’t really explained exactly what I mean by that term. So I want to spend the remainder of our time this morning taking a look at 3 things that Jesus can permanently fix.
First of all, he is a permanent fix for broken lives, and by broken lives I mean lives that have been battered and beaten and broken by sin. You know, sin will do that to you. Perhaps nobody understood that better than the fellow I referred to before as a man after God’s own heart, namely, David. After David had an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and she informed him she was pregnant with his child, David tried to sweep everything under the rug, even going so far as to have her husband killed in battle. But God who knows all and sees all sent a prophet to David by the name of Nathan who made it crystal clear to David that he hadn’t hidden anything from God. Later on in Psalm 32 David wrote of the brokenness that all that sin and deceit had brought into his life. He said: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”
David needed a permanent fix, didn’t he? So what did he do? Where did he find that fix? Well, in the very next verse he says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” So David found his fix, his relief for his broken life in confessing his sins to God and receiving by faith the grace and forgiveness that only God can give.
And so it is with us, my friends. Has your life been broken by sin? Has your heart been bruised by guilt? Are you looking for relief? Are you looking for a permanent fix? If so, then look no farther than the cross where a Savior named Jesus suffered your punishment and died in your place so that you could be fully, completely, and permanently forgiven.
But not only can Jesus fix our broken lives, he can also fix our broken hearts. And let’s face it, nothing breaks our hearts more than when we lose a loved one – a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend. Some of you have come here today with a broken heart because this is the first Christmas that you’re having to spend without a very dear and precious loved one by your side. And the thought of having to do that is almost more than you can bear. That’s why it’s so important that you stay close and connected to the One who is in the business of fixing broken hearts.
Let me show you just how good he is at doing this. Come with me for a moment to a cave-like tomb located just outside the small village of Bethany. Inside of that tomb lies the body of Lazarus, the beloved brother of Mary and Martha, all 3 of whom were good friends of Jesus. Lazarus had become very ill and things quickly went from bad to worse so the two sisters had sent a message to Jesus asking him to come as quickly as possible in the hopes that he would heal their brother as they had probably witnessed Jesus do with many others before. But the days passed and there was no sign of Jesus. And finally poor Lazarus couldn’t hold on any longer. He drew his final breath and he died. And the hearts of his two sisters were broken as they had never been broken before, not only because of their brother’s loss, but also because they felt Jesus, their best friend, had let them down.
Well, four days later, guess who finally shows up? That’s right – Jesus. And oh does the grief-stricken, heartbroken Martha, ever have an earful for him. She goes out to meet him and says, “Lord, where have you been? If you would have only come when we asked you to come none of this would have happened and our brother would still be alive and Mary and I wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.” And I love how Jesus responds to her. He doesn’t scold her for speaking to him like that. He doesn’t turn around and walk away from her, leaving her alone to deal with her grief. Rather he says, “Martha, your brother will rise again.” To which Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Which I feel was kind of like her way of saying, “Well, that’s fine and dandy, but what good is that doing us now? We’re hurting now!” To which Jesus replies, “Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” And just to prove to Martha and everyone there that day that he wasn’t blowing smoke, that he could back up his words with actions, he went out to the tomb where Lazarus was and did the unthinkable. No, he did the impossible. He ordered that the stone be removed from the entrance to the tomb and then in a loud voice that even the dead can hear, he called out, “Lazarus, come out.” And all of a sudden the once dead, but now very much alive brother of Mary and Martha stepped from the darkness of that tomb into the light of life, and we’re told Jesus gave him back to his sisters, thus providing a permanent fix for their broken hearts.
And that’s the same permanent fix that he offers to us when our hearts are broken by the loss of a Christian loved one. It’s the permanent fix of knowing that an eternal reunion awaits us in heaven where all our tears will be wiped away and death shall never touch us, affect us, or separate us again.
And that really leads right in to the final permanent fix that Jesus offers us, and that is a permanent fix for broken bodies. Let’s face it, my friends, we are all getting older. And the older we get, the more our bodies become broken. The more they wear out. Just the other morning when I got up and looked in the mirror, I rubbed my skin just below my eye and it took a little while before that skin went back to its original shape. In other words, my skin is losing its youthful elasticity. In addition to that, I have regular back pain, though not nearly as bad as some of you. My hearing is horrible because I have something called tinnitus, which is a loud ringing in my ears at all times. This forced me years ago to get hearing aids which do help tremendously. My eyes are getting weaker and weaker and there is no way I could ever read a book anymore without my glasses on. Put simply, my body is broken. It’s running down. It’s losing the battle against the aging process and losing it faster than I’d like it to.
And yet I know that my problems are nothing compared to what many of you are facing: painful arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart complications, cataracts, and so on. What a comfort it is to know that one day, namely, the day of the resurrection of all flesh, there is going to be a permanent fix for these beaten up, broken down old bodies. And that permanent fix will consist of a brand new glorious body, a perfect body that will no longer be subject to the aches and pains, the diseases and illnesses that are so prevalent in our world today. The Apostle Paul looked forward to that day Phil. 3:20-21 where he wrote: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
So my friends, while duct tape is nice and makes for a very practical Christmas gift, remember it offers only a temporary fix when it comes to that for which it is used. But there’s a much better and more practical gift that we can give others this year and that we ourselves can receive. It’s the same Gift God gave to the world over 2000 years ago. It’s the gift of Jesus, the permanent fix for broken lives, for broken hearts, and for broken bodies.