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First Sunday in Advent

Mark 11:1–10

James T. Batchelor

Advent 1, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Nov 30, 2014 

Although last Sunday was the end of the past church year and today is the beginning of a new church year, the readings for these two Sundays contain a common theme 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 reveal Himself constantly to us forever.

In the Sundays leading up to the end of the church year, we once again heard that not everyone will enjoy the revealed presence of the Lord forever.  Some will be cast into the eternal outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As we begin this new church year, we focus on the three-fold coming of our Lord.  First of all, we consider how He came to earn forgiveness for us with His holy life and His sacrificial death.  Secondly, we consider how He now comes to deliver that forgiveness to us in Word and Sacrament.  Finally, we consider how He will come to destroy this sinful world and create a new heaven and earth.  On that day, He will raise all the dead and our mortal bodies will put on immortality.  He will send those who rejected His forgiveness to eternal fire.  Those who received forgiveness through the Holy Spirits gift of faith will be left behind to enjoy Christs presence forever.

The fact that forgiveness forms the central theme for all three comings of the Christ also reminds us that it is we who need forgiveness for we are the sinners.  There would be no need for the three-fold coming of Christ if it were not for our sin.  If it were not for our sin, God would have revealed Himself openly from the days of Adam and Eve in Eden until this very day.

Never the less, we did sin and God veiled His presence so that His glory would not lash out against our sin and destroy us.  When the time was perfect, God took our humanity into Himself and dwelt among us in the person of the Christ the Christ who came, who is coming, and who will come again.  During this season we repent of our sin the sin that caused God to hide His presence from us.  Thus our joy is restrained during this time that we look for His coming.

The name of this season comes from Latin.  Since Latin was the universal language when the church began celebrating this season, it was called Tempus Adventus.  This means the season of coming.  We call it Advent.

Todays Gospel is Marks account of the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem.  He is coming to offer Himself up as the propitiation for all our sin.  He is entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and become the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb whose blood earns salvation for all people.

It is part of Gods nature to come and be with His people.  We can see the coming of God throughout Holy Scripture.  Clear back in Genesis we see Gods desire to be with us as He came to be with Adam in Eden to show Adam that all of creation was his to care for as Gods representative here on earth.  Even the act of creation shows Gods hands on attitude as He formed Adam from the dust of the earth.

How Gods heart must have broken when He came to His beloved people and they were afraid of Him.  How sad it must have been for Him when Adam and Eve did not confess their sin, but blamed others instead.  We cannot imagine how He grieved at the terror Adam and Eve had in His presence because of their sin.

Ever since that day in Eden, Humanity has been afraid of and even hated God.  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 terror and hatred of Him.

Down through the centuries, God continued to come in love to His people, but always in a way that was hidden so that His holy presence did not overwhelm them.  He came in tabernacle and Ark and eventually in the temple always there, but always hidden.  Only a sacrifice allowed people into the presence of God and even then it was only one person who came into the Holy of Holies and then only once a year.  Gods holy presence was too much for our sinful condition.

Finally, when the fullness of time had come, God came in a temple was that not made with stone, but was made of human flesh and blood.  The Holy Spirit performed a miracle and the Son of God came in a new way in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  The Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

In todays Gospel, we see God coming in order to fulfill His mission to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for all our sin.  Jesus is coming to Jerusalem.  God in His temple of flesh and blood is coming to His temple made of stone God in His temple of humanness is coming to the temple of His hiddenness.  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.

As the Son of God came to Jerusalem on that day, the Passover Pilgrims shouted His praise.  It is very likely that few if any of them understood the full meaning of Christs coming.  Although their songs spoke of coming in the name of the Lord and the kingdom of David, they did not understand what that meant.  They quite rightly called Jesus their Messiah, but they would not know what that meant until the coming week was over.  For Jesus, God, in the flesh, had come to die.  He had come to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world.  His death on the cross was the culmination of His first coming.

The Son of God had taken on human flesh in order to take our place.  He had come to Jerusalem to experience the full guilt of our sin and take the punishment for that guilt.  He had come to remove the guilt that caused our terror at His coming.  Jesus came to Jerusalem on that Sunday so that on that Friday He could suffer and die on a Roman cross and so make the full payment for the sins of the world.

Christs sacrifice on the cross changed the temple of stone as well.  Inside that temple was a curtain that hid God from the people.  When Christ conquered sin, death, and the devil with His sacrifice on the cross, [Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38] the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  God was no longer hidden from His people.  The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say, [1 Corinthians 6:15] Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ, and [1 Corinthians 6:19] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? With the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirits gift of faith, God now makes His temple in us.  The temple of stone became unnecessary because God lives among us in a whole new way.

Even as God lives with us, He still comes to us.  He comes into our ears as we hear His word.  He comes into our mouths in His flesh and blood as we eat and drink the bread and the wine of His table.

As Jesus comes into us by ear, we hear Him bring forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.  As the pastor speaks the word of absolution, we hear Jesus enter our ears with the forgiveness He earned for us on the cross.  As pastor reads the Word of scripture and preaches on that Word, Jesus enters our ears to give us the confidence, comfort, and reassurance of the promise of the Christ.

As Jesus comes into us by mouth, we eat the very flesh that He sacrificed for us on the cross and drink the very blood that He shed for us on the cross.  However, this flesh and blood are not dead things.  For the Son of God did not remain dead and buried in the tomb, but He came to life.  He rose from the dead.  The flesh and blood He gives to us are not just the flesh and blood of crucifixion, but they are also the flesh and blood of resurrection.  In this sacrament He comes to us with the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

God will continue to come to us until the day of his last coming.  On that day He will reveal Himself to all flesh.  On that day He will raise all the dead.

He will send away those who are still terrified of Him those who still retain their guilt because they refused the gift of His coming His forgiveness.  They will never experience His coming again.  Instead, they will experience the eternal presence of the holy, righteous, wrath of God as they suffer the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

On the other hand, those who received the gift of His coming those who believe in Him will rejoice on that day.  He will always be with them and they will always be with Him.  They shall enjoy the presence of His grace forever.

Consider God and His coming during this Advent.  Consider His coming at Christmas, but dont limit your consideration just to Christmas.  Consider the love that God shows in His coming in that even while sin causes terror and hatred, He continues to come in love by means of His Word and sacraments.  Consider how He came to save us with His suffering, death, and resurrection.  Consider how He now comes in Word and Sacrament.  Consider how He will come to dwell with His people in joy.  Consider the blessings that He once gave when He came the blessings that He gives as He now comes and the blessings that He will give when He comes again.  Amen

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