Think About It
While last Sunday was the last Sunday of the church year and today the first Sunday of a new church year, the readings for these two Sundays contain a common theme, that is: The Coming of the Christ. Last Sunday, we focused on the final coming of Christ … the day when He will come to re-create a new heaven and a new earth and fully reveal Himself to us for all eternity.
In the Sundays leading up to the end of the church year, we once again heard that not everyone will look at His final coming the same way. Some will see Him and be fill with joy and others with great fear.
As we begin this new church year, we focus on the three-fold coming of our Lord. First of all, we’ll consider how He came to earn forgiveness for us with His holy life and His sacrificial death. Secondly, we’ll consider how He now comes to deliver that forgiveness to us through Word and Sacrament. Finally, we’ll consider Christ coming to destroying of this sinful world and creating a new heaven and a new earth.
The central theme for all three of Christ comings is forgiveness which should remind us we are sinners in need of forgiveness. You see there is no reason for this three-fold coming of Christ except our sin. I mean if it weren’t for sin God would to this very day still be revealing Himself openly as He did in the days of Adam and Eve.
But the truth is we did and do sin and so in mercy God veiled His presence so that His glory would not destroy us. But at a time God had chosen, He sent His Son who took on our humanity and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus the One who came, who is coming, and who will come again. During this season we focus on our repentance for the sin that caused God to hide His face from us. And so even now our joy is tempered.
Today’s Gospel reading is Mark’s account of Jesus coming to Jerusalem. He’s entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and to be the Passover Lamb whose blood would earn salvation for all people. You see it’s part of God’s nature to come and be with His people. We can see the coming of God throughout Holy Scripture. Clear back in Genesis we see God’s desire is to be with us as He was with Adam in Eden in the garden.
And sadly, since that day in Eden when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God … all of humanity has been afraid of and hated God. Since that day the last thing our sinful nature wants is for God to come to us. Even though God has nothing but love for us, our sin and its guilt produce in us fear and hatred of Him who created us.
Throughout the centuries, God continued to come in love to His people, but always in a way that was hidden so that His holy presence wouldn’t overwhelm them. He was there in tabernacle and Ark and eventually in the temple – always with them, but always hidden. Only with sacrifice could God’s people come into His presence and even then, it was one person who went into the Holy of Holies and that just once a year. Finally, when the time had come, God came to His people in a temple was that not made with stone, but was made of human flesh and blood.
In today’s reading, we see God coming that He might fulfill His work and offer Himself up as a sacrifice for all sin. God in His temple of humanness is coming to the temple of His hiddenness. And in His temple of flesh and blood, Christ will die in order to fulfill the promise of the sacrifices made on the altar in the temple of His hidden presence that is the temple of stone.
As the Son of God entered Jerusalem the Passover Pilgrims shouted His praise. Chances are good that few if any understood the full meaning of Christ’s coming. Although their songs spoke of coming in the name of the Lord and the kingdom of David, they did not understand what they were saying. They quite rightly called Jesus their Messiah, but they would not know what that meant for another week. Because as you know, Jesus had come to die. He had come to Jerusalem to offer Himself as the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. His being, lifted up upon the cross, was the culmination of His first coming.
The Son of God had taken on human flesh that He might take our place. He had come to Jerusalem to experience the fullness of our sin and take our punishment. That is He came to take away the guilt that causes our fear at His coming. Jesus came to Jerusalem on that Sunday so that on that Friday He could suffer and die on a cross and so atone or pay for the sins of the world.
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross changed the temple of stone as well. When Christ conquered sin, death, and the devil on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom and God was no longer hidden from His people.
As God lead St. Paul to write: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? That is with the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, God now makes His temple in you and all who believe in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
And now, as only He can, God lives within us even as He continues to come to us. As a pastor speaks the words of absolution, we hear Jesus offering us forgiveness. As a pastor reads the Scriptures and preaches on that Word, Jesus works in our hearts the confidence, comfort, and assurance that all of His promises are true.
As we come to His Table we take and eat the very flesh that Christ sacrificed for us and drink the blood that He shed for us and for all on the cross. But remember this flesh and blood are not dead things. For the Son of God did not remain dead but He rose from the dead. The flesh and blood He now gives to us are not just the flesh and blood of crucifixion, they are also the flesh and blood of resurrection.
And God will continue to come for all people until that final day when He comes to bring all who trusted in His salvation to be with Him in both body and soul to our heavenly home. On that day He will reveal Himself to all flesh both the living and the dead and He will send away those who refused to listen to Him. And they will experience the wrath of God as they suffer the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. But those who listened to Him will received the gift of His coming with pure joy and will be with and worship Him for all eternity.
So take some time during this Advent season and actually stop and think about God and His comings. Think about the love that He showed by His coming into a world that you well know is filled with the fear and hatred sin brings with it. Think about how He continues to come to you in love through His Means of Grace that is His Word and Sacraments bringing life and salvation. Think about the suffering and death Christ endured in your place and His resurrection that is your justification. Think about the blessings that He gave when He first came into the world … the blessings of forgiveness that He gives now … and the blessing of life as He intended it to be when He comes again.
In His Name, Amen.