Dec 1, 2019 Advent 1 – Jesus and Jerusalem
Happy New Year and a happy start to the Advent season. Today marks the first Sunday in the church new year. We begin again on that part of the church year that celebrates and remembers the earthly life and work of Jesus Christ. Today being the first Sunday in Advent, we have lit the first candle on the Advent wreath. That candle is often referred to as the prophecy candle. It’s the candle that reminds us that the coming of Christ to earth was told ahead of time.
Jesus coming was foretold so that when it came to pass, people would remember God’s promise and again be reminded of God’s faithfulness. So, we’ve lit this candle to remind us that Christ has come, and God has, indeed, kept His promise.
There’s a beautiful Hebrew legend of two brothers who lived side by side on adjoining lands. One was the head of a large family, the other lived alone. One night, the brother with a large family lay awake and thought: “My brother lives alone, he doesn’t have the companionship of wife and children to cheer his heart as I have. While he sleeps, I’ll carry some of my harvest into his field.”
At the same late-night hour, the other brother reasoned: “My brother has a large family, and his necessities are much greater than mine. As he sleeps, I will put some of my harvest into his field.” So, the two brothers went out, each carrying out his plan and each laden with harvest for the other and met… at the dividing line of their properties. And there they embraced. The legend says that years later, at that very place stood the temple in Jerusalem, and on the very spot of their meeting stood the temple’s altar.
Of course, that legend is meant to instill the virtue of self-sacrifice. It teaches the merits of placing the needs of others before your own; of seeking the welfare of your brother above yours. And that, of course, is the very nature of what God did, in sending Jesus, our brother to the city of Jerusalem, to where the legendary brothers in the story met.
In today’s gospel, we read the story of Christ coming to Jerusalem, to the city where God meets man. It’s the place where sacrifice is made, like the brothers did for each other. It’s the place of atonement for sin. Now the context of what we read was Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. That’s not a time we normally associate with Christmas.
But remember we’re in Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. And today is about the prophecy of Christ coming, as was promised, to do the work of salvation. That work was done at Jerusalem. But before that saving work was done at the end of the week that we read about, Jesus had come to Jerusalem many times before.
Jerusalem is the place where things that are absolutely core to our religion happened. But we don’t need to go there ourselves for our religion to be authentic. Our touchstone, the location of intersection between God and us is not the place where the core events happened. Yes, the place is significant, but it’s not what we need in order to worship – in order to meet God. The place of touching God, for us, has moved from Jerusalem. The place has shifted.
For us, that place of meeting God is now in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He entered as the sacrifice. He came as the Son of David, as the Lamb of God who’d come to take away the sin of the world. He came to Jerusalem and He did that work on the cross, dying the innocent death in the place of sinful man. He came in fulfillment of the promises of God, the prophecies, as the candle on the Advent wreath reminds us of today.
And when Jesus left Jerusalem, He left it as the victor; the conqueror. He moved the place where we touch God from the stones and mortar of the temple… to the bread and blood of Himself. We don’t need to go to Jerusalem to be touched by God. That now happens for us through the person of Jesus Christ coming to us in Word, Baptism , and Holy Communion.
When you come and you take communion, you receive the fullness of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself, by His word of promise, comes here and meets you! We don’t need to go to Jerusalem, Jerusalem has come to us.
And in Jesus coming to us, in Jerusalem coming to us, we’ve been given the power to freely live life in faithful service to the One who kept His promise to us and to the world. We then strive to keep our promises of faithful living and service and love to one another as Christ has kept His promise to us. In so doing, we seek to prepare for His coming so we may all be ready with our glad hosannas.
Most of us are familiar with the fate of the city of Pompeii on the Bay of Naples in Italy. It was destroyed in 79 A.D. by a volcano. The ruins of the city have been carefully excavated. It’s clear that most people tried to flee the city during the volcanic eruption, but the hot poisonous gasses overcame everyone. At the city gate, however, excavators found the skeleton of one man who didn’t try to flee the eruption. He was a Roman guard who remained at his post with both of his hands on his weapon. Even when the ground on which he stood trembled and shook and the fiery ashes descended on the city, he remained faithfully at his post.
We too remain faithfully at our post, faithful to the work the Lord Jesus has given us to do, even if the world shakes under our feet and goes to pieces around us. When the Lord again keeps His promise, and again comes to earth, may He find us faithfully striving to do His will and to live lives faithful to the One who has made peace with God for all people. And yet again, we do His will not out of fear or a compulsion so we may earn heaven, but to respond in joyful service so as to be prepared for His glad return.
Jerusalem, the city, has completed its role of the place where peace with God, for all people everywhere has been accomplished. Our brother, Jesus, has sacrificed Himself there for us. He came as the sacrifice. He left as the Victor. And He moved the location of where we place our trust, from the city, to Him alone.
When Jesus ascended from this earth it was not from Jerusalem but from a different mountain. That’s hugely significant. It’s not that Jerusalem was no longer important but, as we said, its importance has been overshadowed by the cross. The cross where Jesus died transferred, if you will, the place of our faith. God’s promise has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ not in the place of Jerusalem.
Yes, Jerusalem still plays a part, but for us it now represents what Jesus has done. He is the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 that will return from heaven. Jerusalem has now been made perfect and complete and whole, because that is what Jesus has accomplished by coming… as prophesied and promised, fulfilling the work of the Lamb of God who came to Jerusalem to take away the sin of the world.
Remember we said that Jesus came to Jerusalem many times. Today He came as the sacrifice, yes. But before that, He came as the teacher during the three years of His earthly ministry.
He came before that to Jerusalem as a boy. Remember the boy-Jesus remaining behind in the temple after the family had gone up for Passover. Jesus, the boy, came to Jerusalem and to the temple to be, as He said, “in my father’s house.”
And Jesus also came to Jerusalem as an infant. He came on the 8th day after His birth, brought there to the temple by Joseph and Mary, to be circumcised according to the law. And in doing that, by shedding His blood in circumcision they began Jesus’ process of fulfilling the law for us all that was finished by shedding His blood on the cross. Jesus completes all the stages of the law, beginning on the 8th day after His arrival on earth. Which arrival we’re looking forward to celebrating when Advent ends, and Christmas arrives.
Advent helps us to remember that Jesus kept God’s promise and came to earth; came to Jerusalem. He comes to us still through His promise to be with us in all the stages of our lives. He promises to come to us in word, water, bread and wine.
Remember the legend of the two brothers and the virtue of self-sacrifice. Remember the value of placing the needs of others before your own. Remember the solder at his post and the importance of remaining faithful. Remember Christ has been faithful to us. And faithfulness is what God demonstrated, in sending Jesus, our brother, to the city of Jerusalem.
That’s what Advent is for us, the reminder that God keeps His promises to come to us. That’s the significance of the prophecy candle we lit today. It reminds that Jesus keeps all His promises.
Throughout all of our days, God comes to us just as Jesus came to Jerusalem. We put our hope and faith in Him, and we pray, maranatha, come again Lord Jesus, and come swiftly. Amen.
Sermon #1057 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Isaiah 2:1-5
2 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Epistle Romans 13:8-14
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Holy Gospel Matthew 21:1-11
21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”