In the name + of Jesus.
“What do you say about yourself?” they asked John.John the Baptist had caused quite a stir among the people. They may have thought he was weird or loud-mouthed, but they all recognized that he was a prophet. John testified what his role was: He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23)
There is only one way to make straight the way of the Lord, and that is through repentance. It is recognizing that you are sinful, through and through. Most, if not all, of you here are Christians. That means you confess the Christian faith, and it means that you believe that Jesus Christ has taken away your sins. And yet, you continue to confess your sins as well as your faith. That’s because your sinful nature clings to you, no matter how badly you’d like to be rid of it. You don’t have the energy or the desire to do the good works God desires. Rather than fight temptation, you find it easier to just give in again.
You want so badly to think that you are a good person. All people do. But you also know the horrible thoughts that dwell in your heart and in your head. Though you may not act out on your desires, you delight in your desires—hating, lusting, coveting, envying, or finding satisfaction in the misfortunes of others. You are like a package under the tree. You cover yourself and make yourself look as good as you can, but no one knows the shame or sin that is hidden underneath. And while others may tell you how wonderful you are, the heart is exposed before the Lord. You cannot fool him. You cannot hide from him. And therefore, John the Baptist preaches, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Repent of your sins! And flee to Jesus for your only hope.
John the Baptist described Jesus by saying, “Among you stands one you do not know….” (John 1:26) There is only one way to know Jesus. He is the one who comes to suffer and die for sinners. If you do not think you are a sinner, you will have no use for Jesus. If you are saddened, terrified, or frustrated because of your sins, then you will find Jesus a most welcome guest. He does not care how many, how vile, or how public your sins are. He takes them all. He pays the price. God tells you that sins have consequences. The guilty must be punished. But Jesus takes all of your sin and guilt. And so he also takes all your punishment.
Therefore, you do not have to pretend. You do not need to put on a good face, hide your sin, and try to garner praise from family and friends. Be honest to your God. Confess your sin. And God will be honest with you. He will not tell you that your sins are excused. He will show you the Savior who has paid the price for them. It is through the blood of Jesus that your sins are washed away. Forrest had his sin washed away this morning, just as most of you have been baptized in the name of Jesus. You have been cleansed by Jesus. And Jesus comes to you again from this altar—his body and blood for you, for your forgiveness, for your salvation.
If you want to know Jesus rightly, you will see him as your only hope, your only joy, and your only Savior. And you will also flee to him again and again for your comfort, for your peace, and your salvation. This is the proper way to prepare for the Lord’s coming. And then rejoice; for, he has come for you. And he has given you all the gifts you need and you crave.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.