Our Struggles
Tuesday of Advent 3
18 December 2018
Why was John the Baptist stuck in the jail of Herod (Lk 7:18-23)? Why was he at the beck and call of this tin pot king, who was himself subject to the Roman authorities? Why was he the plaything of this sexually depraved playboy? John told Herod that he could not have his brother's wife, but he got no thanks for it. Herod listened to him only as a form of entertainment sought by a bored potentate. But John thought he should continue to call debauched Herod to repentance. And Herod protected him...until he didn't anymore, and John literally had his head handed to Herodias on Herod's birthday. But this was yet in God's future.

We should not be too hard on John if he appears uncertain about the ministry of Jesus. We should not gripe at John if he is truly uncertain and decides to send messengers from among his disciples to ask Jesus again to answer, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Sometimes we presume that John was not asking the question for himself but hoping to solidify the confidence of his disciples in the messianic ministry of Jesus.

We needn't seek to vindicate John in this way. Like all of us, John struggled with his own doubts and uncertainties. And who wouldn't have while incarcerated in Herod's filthy jail? "Could this really be the kingdom for which I hoped?" John wondered. John might have been the greatest man born of woman, but he was still just a man. There is something quite comforting to know that this last and greatest prophet of the Old Testament may well have had his own struggles and doubts.

When we have our doubts, when we feel we've been thrown into the dungeons of death, or oppressed by our playboy culture, when we feel like our head is being handed to us, it is comforting to know that this man, John the Baptist, also struggled with the messianic ministry of Jesus. If Jesus has come, if the Messiah is among us, why do I feel down in the dumps? If Jesus comes to bring the peace that surpasses all human understanding, why am I having trouble sleeping at night? If God is guarding my heart and mind, why do I feel locked up in the prison house of my own sin? If I am to rejoice in the presence of the Lord, why do I struggle to offer prayer. Why do I doubt that God is hearing me when I call upon him in the day of trouble? John was not alone in his struggles. We have them too.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Martin Luther
"It pleases me greatly and is salutary for us to hear of the weaknesses of the saints, for these examples of weakness are more necessary for us and bring more consolation than the examples of that heroic and very great fortitude and other virtues. Thus the fact that David killed Goliath, a bear, a lion, etc., does not edify me much. For I cannot imitate such things, since they surpass my strength and all my thinking. Although they commend the saints in their strength and heroic fortitude, they do not concern us; for they are too sublime for us to be able to match or imitate them. But when examples of weakness, sins, trepidation, and trials are set forth in the saints-as when I read David's complaints, sobs, fears, and feelings of despair-they buoy me up in a wonderful manner and give great consolation. For I see how they, fearful and terrified though they were, did not perish but buoyed themselves up with the promises they had received; and from this I conclude that there is no need for me to despair either. For in this struggle with hell, in fears and struggles of conscience, they feel and speak as if they had no promises at all. Nevertheless, they are finally preserved and sustained by the Word."

 Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 28.22
Psalm 32:1-5

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer. 

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, You know the weakness, struggles, and trials of Your saints. Through such crosses they learn to depend solely on You. Grant them the faith to expect your timely rescue according to the abundant promises of Your Word. Amen.

For doctors, nurses, public safety officers and others who must work over Christmas, that they would be blessed in their service to others and receive abundant thanks from those for whom they care

For Florence Brimberry, who has broken arms, that her Lord Jesus would grant her full and complete healing

For those who have been enticed by the temptations and allurements of the world to arrange their lives without any concern for the gifts of Christ and the eternal life promised to all who trust in Him, that they would be called to repentance
Art: Raffaellino dell Garbo  The Annunciation (c. 1510)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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