O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
For What Has He Come?
For What Has He Come?
Based on Isaiah 2:1-5
Preached Dec. 10, 2014
Fellow baptized saints, in AD 43 the newly minted Emperor Claudius demanded an easy victory over the Celtic peoples of Britain to prove his mettle to a skeptical Roman people. Roman envoys did much to prepare the way for the Roman legions by developing friendly alliances with some of the British tribes. Diplomacy, however, did not turn swords into plowshares. The Romans spent three turbulent centuries trying to subdue the island and never fully succeeded. Human efforts never dulled the sword or turned spears into pruning hooks. Human wickedness always kept sharp the instruments of war.
I read the most disturbing sign only yesterday. It read, "I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they'd never expect it."
Our warring madness can be cured only by the intervention of the Christ. Like alcoholics, human beings are drunk on the need for conquest and power over others. We see it even between the youngest of siblings. We need an intervention, and only Christ's coming will do. Into the bloodied mess of human existence comes One who will bring harmony among the nations. Christ comes to do what no human emperor or king ever could. He comes to bring peace.
The Lord through His speaking brings judgment upon His people. His Law crushes human claims to righteousness. No greater burden could be placed on the human heart than to face the judging and powerful word of God's Law. When God speaks His Law against us, we have been marched forward into a pitched battle in which God is our adversary (Psalm 55:12). God challenges our works and status and slays us with the breath of His mouth. We are people undone. The Lord's promised coming includes a threat against us, because this God is the Lord of Hosts. "Out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
Often Advent becomes merely pre-Christmas, a time to prepare to meet the Baby in the manger. Such preparation is foolish. We cannot prepare for an event that has already occurred. The first coming of the Messiah, the incarnation, enables us to look forward with joy to Christ's second coming in judgment. Because of Jesus' path from manger to cross to grave to resurrection, we can lift up our heads to see the kingdom of Christ coming to its fulfillment among us (Luke 21:28).
Jesus comes to judge all people now, and this judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). Judgment falls on us every day and brings us suffering that blossoms forth in the fruit of repentance. Through the Word made flesh, God brings judgment to His people. But it is not the "eye for an eye" justice that the world expects from the Law. Instead, God graciously grants us favor in Christ, whose perfect life, suffering, and death satisfies God's demands for justice. Thus the psalmist said of God's justifying work, "[The LORD] will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday" (Psalm 37:6).
The Lord who comes - comes to judge His children not guilty through the incarnate Christ. He has sent out holy emissaries from Zion, His shepherds, His pastors, to proclaim that our warfare has ended, that our iniquity is pardoned, and that our Lord Christ has suffered for all sins that we might receive double forgiveness in return (Isaiah 40:2). Christ commissions men to speak for Him, telling us that in His first coming there is the Spirit and life - Spirit and life that will stand at His second coming in judgment.
Christ's second coming on the Last Day holds no terror for us Christians because Christ's first coming in the incarnation tells us the meaning of His ultimate return. In these last days, through His speaking we will be vindicated, and there will be no more warfare between our God and us. Christ paid the ultimate price that we might have peace now and at the last.
Christ comes to bring peace with God, a peace that ever remains a gift of God. If it were up to us, we would ever be sharpening the instruments of war to turn them on God. Like a child who pitches a tantrum, we are on the warpath against our gracious God. And like a parent who holds tightly a child who is raging out of control, our God smothers our warring madness by enfolding us in the weakness of His body offered for us, wrestling us into the submission of faith as He did Jacob of old.
Christ leads us in the way of peace. He alone rescues those who desire to make war on God - that is you and me. He alone gives "light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79). Not only has Christ defeated all our enemies of sin, death, and the devil, but He has also defeated war itself. Through the new testament of His body and blood, Christ declares all enmity between Himself and Adam's children to be over.
In the end, instruments of war will become signs of peace. After World War II, tons of naval scrap iron was converted into raw material for cruise ships, skyscrapers, and automobiles. Weapons were melted and reused to make signs of peace and prosperity. But the ultimate sign of warfare with God is the cross of Christ. God converted that which had been our weapon against His Son into the sign of our new life in Christ, who died in the fight to save us.
In the end, instruments of war will be agents of fruitfulness. Herman Melville wrote, "War being the greatest of evils, all its accessories necessarily partake of the same character" (Herman Melville, Omoo, vol. 2 of The Writings of Herman Melville, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle ). When the Lord undoes war, He will undo the instruments of death too. The tree that brought death to Adam and plunged humanity into warring madness has become the tree of life. Eden's denuded tree has been plunged into the ground and watered by the blood of the only true Soldier of the cross. It has not been left barren, but now it has sprouted the life that provides fruit. Jesus promised, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).
In the end, war will be unlearned. When Christ comes again to harvest the fruit of His death, war will no longer be necessary. A new universe of peace will open before us war-wearied militants. A new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. And there we will live in the light of the Lord.
The LORD has written a new sign. And it reads, "I can picture a world full of war, full of hate. And I can picture myself going and dying for that world, because no, they would never expect it."
Christ comes - and He comes to bring peace. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr