Advent 2019 – Week 3 Notes

By December 15, 2019Sermon Notes

My wife and I have had a foster boy with us for the past seven weeks – Typically, when a child is placed in your home you meet the child’s social worker fairly quickly and get to know some of the details of the child’s situation – But, for various reasons, we were not able to connect with this boy’s worker until late last week

Up to that point, only contact we’d had with her was a few email exchanges – So, I’d gather some information about her through the emails we exchanged – I’d read some things – And I’d also gathered some things about her from a couple of conversations we’d had with our own social worker – I’d heard some things – And, for better or worse, my perception of her was shaped by experiences I’ve had with numerous other social workers I’ve met – I made some assumptions

Then, last week, I went to juvenile court for this boy’s quarterly hearing – And I knew social worker was going to be there – So I walk in to this large waiting area and there are scores of people hanging around waiting for spot on docket – People of all ages, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, you name it – And, in this chaos, I start looking for a woman who looks vaguely similar to this social worker I’ve got in my head – Walking around looking for someone else who looks like they are looking for someone else – Awkward – Thankfully, it’s pretty normal in that context

Long story short, I did finally meet the social worker – And, surprise, she was not who I expected her to be – She was not image I had in my head – I’d read some things, I’d heard some things, I’d made some assumptions – But they did not help me recognize this woman in that moment – There was a gap between reality of who she was and my expectations of who she would be – But when it became clear that she was the woman I’d been looking for, I filled that gap with trust and we were able to talk about some of things we needed to talk about

This morning is the third week of Advent – The first week, Jim talked about hope – How God came to be with us in Jesus Christ and how the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled – Last week, Rodney talked about the virgin birth, Jesus’ humanity, and how He can relate with our humanness

This morning we are going to talk about Jesus’ mission on earth – Yes, He was born in a manger – Yes, He was hung on a cross – Yes, He was raised from a tomb – But for what purpose? – To what end? – What is it at the core of Christmas that is truly worth celebrating?

The answer is, in large part, that Jesus came as the Messiah of Israel – That He came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth – In fact, this was Jesus’ primary message during His ministry: the Kingdom of God had come to earth – That reality is at the core of Christmas – But what does that mean? – What is the Kingdom of God? – And what are the implications for our lives? – How does it relate to Advent?

My intent this morning is to answer those questions – It will come in three parts: 1) Jewish expectations of Messiah; 2) Reality of Jesus’ Messiahship; 3) Application

Let’s start by talking about the Messianic Expectation of the Jews

Important to remember that Jesus was not born into 21st century America – Nor was He born into a social/political/religious vacuum – He was born into an environment that was charged with Jewish national and religious expectation – In Jesus’ day, Jews were waiting for an Advent – They were waiting for Good News – They were waiting for a Messiah

Messiah: “anointed” or “anointed one” – Pregnant with royal meaning – In OT, “messiah” is primarily used to refer to the ruling king – Originally, literal meaning: king would literally be anointed with oil – But gained metaphorical meaning as “one chosen by God to be used as His instrument”[1] – “Messiah” translated into Greek as “Christos” – The “Christ” – So, when we say “Jesus Christ” we are giving Jesus’ name and title – We are saying “Jesus, the Anointed One” – “Jesus, The Ruling King”

This messianic expectation developed dramatically throughout Jewish history as a result of two big factors: Jewish Scriptures, Jewish predicament

First, the Jewish expectation was shaped by their Scriptures – As Jewish Scriptures developed over time, so, too, did expectation of healing, redemption, and restoration at hands of a messianic deliverer – OT is rich with Messianic promise

Notable is God’s promise to give King David an heir and to establish his throne forever – Having establish Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, David asks God for permission to build Him a permanent house there, in city – But God replies and says, “the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (2 Sam 7:11-12, 16)

And while part of God’s promise in this passage is fulfilled in Solomon, David’s son, Israel continued to cling to this promise in time following Solomon’s reign – Jews continued to view God’s promise here as being, in part, future – God would send a King and establish His Kingdom forever – Foundation of Israel’s belief in a future King

Psalmists and prophets continued to build on foundation – Take Daniel 2, for example – Daniel was a Jew who had been exiled to Babylon following the Babylonian defeat of Jerusalem – In Babylon, Daniel quickly gained esteem with Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar – When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that Babylonian mystics could not interpret, Daniel stepped in to interpret dream

To us, dream is very odd and mysterious – King had seen great statue with a head of fine gold, chest and arms of silver, a middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet partly of iron and partly of clay – And then he saw a stone, a stone that was cut out by no human hand – And stone came and struck statues’ feet and broke them in pieces – And, the feet being broken in pieces, the whole statue collapsed and dissolved like dust – And a wind came and blew away the dust like the chaff of the field – But the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth – Odd dream – Listen to Daniel’s interpretation

“You, O king…you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these…And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” (Daniel 2:37-45)

One of many OT passages that gave life to Jewish expectation of a Messiah – Jesus was born into an environment that was charged with Jewish national and religious expectation – The Jews were waiting for a descendant of David to come and establish an everlasting Kingdom – They were waiting for a stone not cut by human hands to come and break in pieces all kingdoms of earth – The Jews were expecting an Advent – They were expecting a King – And they were expecting a Kingdom

They’d read some things about this Messiah – They’d heard some things about this Messiah – And they’d also made some assumptions about this Messiah – Their expectation was also informed by their predicament

Jewish history is marked by oppression, violence and anguish – Slavery in Egypt, wandering in dessert, generation after generation of corrupt leadership, destruction at hands of its enemies, exile into foreign nations – Right up to Jesus’ day, the Jews were a hard-pressed people – Time after time, a foreign king would rise up in power and push them down into oppression – That is a rhythm of Jewish history

This rhythm added fuel to fire of messianic expectation – They yearned for deliverance – “When will we be free? When, oh God, will you deliver? When will you raise us up and trample everyone else down?” – They were waiting for a Messiah to lead them – They’d read some things – They’d heard some things – They’d experienced some things – And they had developed an image in their minds of what this King would look like

Jewish writings in time directly preceding Jesus’ life reveal this image – Predominant Jewish view of the coming messiah was that he would be a warrior-king – He would rise up to destroy the unrighteous rulers of the earth (like Rome), overthrow the unlawful nations, and purge Jerusalem of sinners – In a spectacular and even apocalyptic way, He would overthrow Israel’s enemies and return the nation to the glories of the united kingdom under David – He would establish God’s rule in power and glory[2]

Messianic Reality

And then came a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a feeding trough in the small town of Bethlehem – That baby would grow up and spend most of his life helping out with the family business, carving furniture with his father in relative obscurity

Then, one day, he’d step into the spotlight – He’d have a supernatural baptism and a harrowing period of testing – And then, He’d speak these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) – He got peoples’ attention – People came from all over to see Jesus, to hear Him speak, to have Him heal the sick and diseased – “Could this truly be the anointed one of Israel?”

And, yet, over and over, Jesus was not what they expected – Jesus would say: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:5, 9) – Some surely thought: “But, Jesus, I’ve read some things. You are going to rise up and crush Rome, right?”

Jesus would say, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39) – Some surely thought: “But, Jesus, I’ve heard some thing. You are going to devour all evil with the sword and purge Jerusalem of sinners, right?”

Jesus would say, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:19) – And because they’d made some assumptions some of them surely thought: “But, Jesus, you are going to restore to us the riches and glory of Israel as in the day of David, right?”

Jesus was not what they expected – There was a gap between reality of who Jesus was and their expectations of who He would be – Even John, who baptized Jesus, would later send his disciples to Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3)

Even James and John sent their mother to Jesus with a request, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” – Jesus replies, “You do not know what you are asking.” (Matt. 20:21-22)

Even Peter, when crowd came to arrest Jesus at Gethsemane, drew out his sword and cut off ear of one of those in crowd – Jesus replies, “Put your sword away” (Matt. 26:47-56)

Jesus was a King, but He was not the King many of the Jews were expecting – And, purposing to humiliate him, they enthroned Him – His head was adorned with a twisted crown of thorns – His mutilated body covered with a majestic, purple robe – He was exalted to a high place for all to see on a cross – His reign was announced by a rugged sign fixed above His head: “King of the Jews” – Jesus was a King, but He was not the King many of the Jews were expecting – And Jesus established a Kingdom, but it was not the Kingdom many of the Jews were expecting

Scholar G.E. Ladd says this, “His mission, as well as His Messiahship, was a ‘mystery’; it was not to bring the evil Age to its end and inaugurate The Age to Come. It was rather to bring the powers of the future Age to men in the midst of the present evil Age; and this mission involved His death…Although the old Age goes on, the Kingdom of God has invaded the realm of Satan to deliver men from his rule. This was the mystery, the new disclosure of the divine purpose in the mission of our Lord.”[3]

That is not what many expected – But it is reality – At the core of Christmas is reality that, in Christ, God’s rule and reign have come to earth – His Kingdom has been established – His Kingdom can be experienced – His will and His rule can be honored – The mystery of the Kingdom is that God’s power is present here among us in fullness, but not in completeness – We still live in an evil age, marred by sin and death – But now, the power and righteousness and goodness of God that characterizes the future age has invaded to deliver us from Satan and death – We live in the already but not yet Kingdom of God – We can sample, now, the banquet meal we will share with Christ in eternity

So, what of the Jewish Scriptures? – Are they wrong? – Was Daniel wrong? – No – Not even the Jews in Jesus’ day were completely wrong – They just had the timing wrong – Jesus, in His first Advent, came as a Suffering Servant to inaugurate the Kingdom – But Jesus, in His second Advent, will come as a Warrior-King to consummate it – And, at that time, He will execute complete righteousness and justice – He will establish complete healing and redemption and restoration – The broken present age will dissolve like chaff and be blown away – And He will wipe away every tear

And we look forward to that day – But, for now, we live between two Advents – Already, not yet – We can look back to first advent and celebrate God’s Kingdom breaking into earth – And we can look forward to the second advent and anticipate the completeness of God’s Kingdom that is to come

How, then, shall we live between these two Advents?

Important to know: Living between two Advents is a paradox – The Kingdom of God has come in Christ – But it grows up in midst present, evil age, which is under rule of Satan – We find ourselves caught between the two present realities, constantly faced with the decision of whether we will submit to the reign of Christ the King or to the reign of our world, our flesh, ultimately, the reign of Satan, sin, and death

The Kingdom confronts us with a choice – Jesus says it this way: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

My cousin, Levi, who is my age, was born with cancer – As an infant, he had to undergo chemotherapy – The chemotherapy killed the cancer, but nearly killed him, too – As a result of chemo, Levi has faced significant medical issues throughout his life – In 2013, he had to have a heart transplant – The doctors had hoped this new heart would be a long-term solution for Levi but, over the past few months, his heart function began to deteriorate

Three weeks ago, Levi went into cardiac arrest during a fairly simple procedure – They were able to resuscitate him, but they knew his heart would not last much longer – The quickly put him on the transplant list and, two weeks ago today, he had his second heart transplant

I don’t know what conversation the doctors had with Levi before they performed the second heart transplant, but I can imagine it went something like this:

“Levi, you are dying. You have two options: 1) You can go on living for today, but you will likely die tomorrow. 2) You can crawl up on this operating table and willingly die today – we are going to take your heart out of your chest and put a different one in – and you can go on living tomorrow.” – Levi had two options: 1) to try to “save” his life and lose it; 2) to willingly lose his life in order to save it

Our lives are like that – Kingdom confronts us – Jesus says we have two options – The first is to “save” our lives – That’s the prevailing desire of our culture today: to “save” our lives – At top of priority list: comfort, freedom, prosperity, success, advancement, authority, individualism, autonomy – It’s a world that revolves around “me getting mine” – Any type of difficulty becomes an obstacle to “saving” our lives; something to be avoided, evaded, side-stepped, hedged at all costs

Last week I was driving to work complaining under my breath about taking care of two small children who constantly need my help: changing diapers, feeding them, getting them ready for bed, taking them to doctor, doing their dishes, helping them pick up toys, sitting by them and playing the same game over and over and over – I was thinking: “All these things keep me from the things I selfishly want: autonomy, independence, freedom, comfort, cleanliness, order, sleep” – And Spirit nudged me in my heart and said, “All these ‘obstacles’ you’re complaining about are actually opportunities for you to experience me. These ‘obstacles’ are opportunities. But you’re too busy trying to evade them to get what you want.”

Jesus says that losing our lives for His sake and for His Kingdom is actually how we find life – In the Kingdom of God, dying to ourselves in love and service to Christ and others is not an obstacle it is an opportunity – And that sounds like a nice a “churchy” thing to say on Sunday, but Jesus was not talking theory here – This wasn’t “pie in the sky” stuff for Jesus – He put His money where His mouth was – “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) – Jesus had the ability to see the cross as not just an obstacle, but an opportunity – “For the joy set before Him…”

What peasant is greater than his King? – Jesus poured out His life to establish the Kingdom – We pour out our lives to enter it – Jesus calls us to die to the present, broken age – He calls us to die to self-rule – He calls us to die to desires of flesh – And He promises that, in this dying, we will find life

To live that way is a struggle – But struggle is okay – In fact, to live between the two Advents is to struggle – To live between the two Advents is to experience both the cross and the resurrection, death and life – And, many times, to experience the cross and the resurrection in the very same circumstance – That is reality of “already, not yet”

You may be sitting there thinking, this is not what I expected – I don’t want a Suffering Servant, I want a Warrior-King – I don’t want “already, not yet” – I just want God to destroy all unrighteousness and overthrow struggle and purge all pain and vanquish the Enemy once and for all – I want the fullness of His riches and glory and deliverance now

I want my chronic pain to go away – I want freedom from my anxiety and depression – I want restoration in my relationships – I want healing for my wounds – I want blatant evil in our world to face swift justice – You be thinking, this is not what I expected – This is not what I want – If that’s you this Christmas season, know that God sees you – God hears your cry – He is still good – He is still powerful – He is still on the throne – And it’s okay to struggle

But as you struggle, question you need to ask yourself is this: What am I going to put in the gap? – There is a gap between my expectations and reality – What am I going to choose to put in the gap? – Anger? Frustration? Doubt? Despair?

Or hope? – Jim said this a couple of weeks ago: biblical hope is not wishful thinking – Biblical hope is a settled expectation that God will come through on His promises – Hope and trust are sisters

In the “already, not yet” struggle, when you feel like “losing” your life isn’t worth it – When you are tempted to “save” your life – When your reality does not meet your expectations – Will you put your hope in the Messiah? – Will you trust that the Anointed One knows what He’s doing? – Will you trust that what the King says is true? – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

[1]Strauss, M. L. (2016). Messiah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2]Ibid.

[3] Ladd, G. E. (1959). The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (p. 110-111). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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