The Coming Kingdom

Audio here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we, like Jesus and His disciples, begin again to draw near to Jerusalem. It may seem strange to hear of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Advent but, in fact, this is the reading that has always been assigned for the First Sunday in Advent. Recently, there has been an option to hear again about the end of this creation, but the Triumphal Entry has historically been heard in the Church on the First Sunday in Advent. This is a reminder to us that Advent is not primarily a preparation for the birth of Jesus. We certainly do celebrate His birth but we celebrate it as something that happened in the past. Advent wants to prepare us not for His first coming as the Son of Mary, but for His second coming in the glory of His Father with all His angels. So we are prepared by John the Baptist, and we are prepared by hearing that He is King.

When He rides into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, the people welcome Him as King. The people say, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Whatever the people think that Jesus is going to actually do at that moment—overthrow the Romans, set up His throne in Jerusalem—they recognize that He is the one promised throughout the history of Israel. It goes all the way back to David Himself, who wanted to build a house, a temple, for God. But God said, No, I will build a house for you. I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name and I will establish his kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Even though David’s son, Solomon, would build a temple, this prophecy cannot have been fulfilled in him. Solomon’s kingdom was indeed glorious and wealthy, but he was drawn into idolatry, and after his death, the kingdom was split, and both Israel and Judah went into exile.

So, the prophecy waited for its fulfillment. Isaiah promised that the Son of David was coming: The government will be upon His shoulders. He will sit on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and and uphold it, with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore (Isaiah 9:6, 7). A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, David’s father (Isaiah 11:1). The kingdom that was like a mighty cedar has been reduced to a stump. But Israel’s unfaithfulness will never stop God from keeping His promises. So a new growth will come from the old stump, from the house and line of David, born of the flesh of Mary.

And so Jesus says, “The kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the Gospel.” This is the kingdom of David, restored and fulfilled. It is the kingdom where the sick are healed, the dead are raised, the Gospel is preached, and Jesus suffers, dies, and rises from the dead. This is what the Kingdom of God looks like in this creation where there are those who are sick and those who die; in this creation where sinners need to be forgiven by a work done outside of and for them; in this creation where God reigns but it looks like weakness, in suffering and on the cross. And so, at the end of the Gospel according to Mark, right at the beginning of chapter 16, the women hear from the angel that Jesus is not dead, but alive. But they don’t see Him, and they run from the tomb in trembling and astonishment, and they are afraid.

This is how the Kingdom of God comes: by a promise and a word, where we see only death, but hope only in resurrection. This creation is full of rulers and authorities, but none of them seems to be able to bring peace and justice. Injustice, corruption, oppression seem to be the order of the day. When will our King come? When will He overcome all evil and bring the fullness of His authority? We still long for the same things for which Israel was hoping when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. No one will bring the Kingdom of God in its fullness as long as this creation persists. Jesus, who reigns as the crucified one, brings a new creation for His Kingdom. It is not of this world or this age, but of the world and age to come.

And so Advent reminds us that Jesus is still King. The King of which Herod was terrified and that Pilate didn’t understand and that the rulers of that generation wanted to kill is indeed the risen Lord who will come in glory and power. And Advent tells us that though that day hasn’t come, though our Lord reigns still in the weakness of words and water and bread and wine, the day will come when all authorities, all rulers, all powers, all kingdoms will give way and yield to the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Kingdom of God has come near to us and we have been given faith to kneel before Him already in the midst of this creation. Those who believe it here and now will see it there and then. And we will cry out with the people at the gate of Jerusalem, “Hosanna in the highest! Salvation has come down!” We rejoice now with those who have gone before us and those who come after us: Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord! He comes to save us, our God and our King, Son of David and Son of Mary and Son of God. I am coming soon, He says. Amen, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/2/17

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