Midweek Advent 3, December 14th 2011
Jesus the Fulfillment of Prophecy
Savior of the nations come, Virgin's son, make here your home. Marvel now, O heav'n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth. Amen.
We've been looking at the beginning of each Gospel this Advent series, and examining how the evangelists begin their accounts about Jesus. Mark's beginning is abrupt, and he emphasizes the call to repentance preached by John the baptist. In John's Gospel, the deep and profound mystery of the Word made flesh is revealed, and we see Jesus' as divine with eternal origins.
Today we consider Matthew's beginning, and as Christmas draws nearer so does a more familiar Christmas Gospel. Matthew tells of the birth of Jesus, though not as extensively as Luke does. And as each Gospel writer brings a certain emphasis to the story, a unique perspective, we can see the same with Matthew. Here Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of messianic prophecy.
First Matthew offers a genealogy of Jesus. Luke contains a genealogy, too, which goes back to Adam, and to God. But Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus as far back as Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Matthew is likely written primarily to Jewish Christians, or at least to those early Christians who knew their Old Testament scriptures well. And so Matthew pays attention to show how Jesus is the promised Messiah, the seed of Abraham, the one whose coming has been so long awaited.
He is also descended from David, another giant of the Old Testament, a king and man after God's own heart. Jesus is later hailed as the Son of David, and rightly, for David's son is David's Lord. Though Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, King David pointed forward to the birth of this king of kings.
Why is all this important? Do we really need to know the names of Azor the father of Zadok, the father of Achim, etc? Well, for one, it sets Jesus in a real historical context. These things actually happened. But it also shows how faithful God is in keeping his promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring. And how faithful believers clung to that promise through the generations.
So for us. Though we are children of Adam, conceived and born in sin, we are children of Abraham, by faith in Christ, the promised and fulfilled offspring of Abraham. We are part of the “all nations” who have found blessing in Jesus Christ. And just as the Old Testament believers waited in faith for the fulfillment of God's promises, so do we hold fast to the promises we have yet to see come due. Jesus will come again. We will rise to live in glory. This broken world will pass away, and a new heaven and earth will come forth. These, and so many other promises, we can believe – because we've seen how God kept his promises all along.
And then take Matthew's narrative account of Jesus' birth. He summarizes the key points which we'll see fleshed out even more in Luke. But Matthew relates the virgin birth, and Joseph's dream about it. Very simply, Matthew shows again how Jesus fulfills the word of the prophet (from Isaiah chapter 7) that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Was it unbelievable that God could bring any descendants from old Abraham and Sarah? Sure. Even nations? More unbelievable. Even the savior of the world? Nigh impossible. Except with God, who keeps his promises.
Was it unbelievable that a virgin could conceive a child? Sure. That the child would be from the Holy Spirit? Amazing. But that the child would be the very son of God, God made flesh, God with us – Immanuel? Only possible if God keeps his promises, which he does.
Jesus, too, would fulfill all prophecies. Everything laid out for him to do, he did. Even down to his declaration, “I thirst”. Matthew's Gospel contains some 68 references to fulfillment of scripture, by one count. Maybe there's even more. The wise men, the flight to Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, John the Baptist, Jesus ministry in the North, the many healings and miracles, even his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. All of this was promised, and fulfilled. He foretells Peter's denial in dramatic fashion. He even foretold the destruction of the temple, which would happen within a generation from his prediction.
But best of all, was his primary work – also promised and fulfilled, by his own mouth. That the son of man would be handed over, that he would suffer, be crucified, and rise on the third day. All of this Jesus does, just as he promised, it is fulfilled. All of this, for you, dear sinner now saint.
And yes, his promises continue. He will come again, like a thief, with power and great glory. He will gather his elect from the four winds, he will welcome his people, the sheep, into their rest.
And Matthew's Gospel ends on another note of promise, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age”. That promise is fulfilled when he is with us in Baptism, when we gather around his word, and when we kneel together at his altar. He is with us, in real ways, fulfilling his promises, and strengthening us in faith to look for the fulfillment of them all.
Though he may seem far off, though he may seem deaf to your prayers, though it may appear that God has forgotten or cast you off – remember his promises. Remember how he brought them to fulfillment in Christ. Look to history, and see him working, for years, centuries, even – and he still did what he said he would. And know that he will not forget his promises to you in your short life.
Jesus was born. Son of Abraham. Child of a virgin. Fulfillment of prophecy. He would continue, and still continues to bring his promises to fruition. And one day he will bring them all to conclusion, when he comes again in glory. Come, Lord Jesus. Come and fulfill your promises in full. We await and watch in faith. Amen.