Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sermon - Midweek Advent 3 - "Christ our King"

1 Samuel 16:1-13 David is anointed as king
Philippians 2:1-11 “Every knee shall bow”
Matthew 2:1-12 “Where is he that is born king?”

So far in this Advent Season we've seen Christ as our prophet – the appointed messenger of God's word, the ultimate messenger, who himself is the message, the very Word of God made flesh, now dwelling among us.

And we've also seen Christ as our great High Priest, who has offered the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin, the sacrifice of himself on the cross, and yet still intercedes for us his people. He even makes us, believers, together, a royal priesthood – with sacrifices and prayers of our own to offer to God in his name.

And the final office of this Old Testament triad – the king – Christ also fulfills most excellently. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as Handel's Messiah joyfully sings, and as John saw written on his robes and thigh in the vision of Revelation.

But just as there's more to it than first appears when it comes to his role as prophet and priest, so also his office of king. Jesus as king shows us more than just his awesome, almighty, top-dog in creation power. It's far more to us than just an acknowledgment of his omnipotence. Yes, he's the most powerful, we get that. But how does that benefit us? Why is it such good news that he is king?

Once again we turn to the Old Testament for some direction. There we see the office of king held by many mere men, none of whom did so perfectly. But if there is one who was regarded as the greatest, it was surely king David. David, the shepherd boy who felled the giant Goliath with a sling. David, who killed tens of thousands of Philistines and brought honor and glory to Israel. David, who though anointed to be king even as a youth - would wait patiently for his time, even when King Saul wanted him dead. David, a man after God's own heart, whom God promised to build a house, a dynasty, that would last forever.

Now, David wasn't perfect. We know his sin with Bathsheba, and his murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite. We know who the consequences of this sin reverberated in David's own family, and though his son Solomon would inherit the throne, he too was far from perfect. And in the next generation the kingdom split into two, never to unite on earth again. Both kingdoms saw a succession of kings, some good but mostly bad, some faithful but most of them turning to other gods. And so God, through the Assyrians and then the Babylonians, brought and end to the kings of Israel. He cut down the mighty tree of David's royal family, into a stump – the stump of Jesse. And the monarchy was done. Davidic dynasty over. David's house had fallen.

But God had made a promise. And our God keeps his promises.  And so a shoot would come forth from that stump of Jesse. God would restore the fallen booth of David into a mighty house. The king would rise again, and his throne is established forever. Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Yes, of course, it's Jesus. Jesus the long-expected king.

The wise men knew it.  They saw his star in the East and they came to worship this king.  They asked the worldly king, Herod, but he could see only a threat to his own power.  Nonetheless, we remember the visit of the magi and their gifts fit for a king, fit for the Christ.

When we think of a king, we think mostly of his authority to rule and govern.  The king is the singular head of a government, the big dog that sets all the smaller dogs to yapping.  His word is law.  We as Americans may pride ourselves on breaking away from King George and governing ourselves.  At least if you have to have a king you hope for a just and fair king, who applies his laws equally.

But a king is not only meant to be a ruler.  He's also supposed to be a protector.  He doesn't just send the armies into battle, but he leads the charge.  He who governs well keeps his people safe from the enemy.  This is one reason King David got into trouble with Bathsheba – he wasn't doing what he was supposed to as king – leading the armies – but shirked his duty, sat in the safety of his palace and succumbed to temptations.

In Jesus Christ, we have a perfect king.  David's Son, but also David's Lord.  He rules the peoples with equity.  His justice is fair, he does not show favoritism, but applies the same law to all his subjects.  But even though we are a rebellious people, still our King leaves his royal throne behind to come walk our streets, breathe our poisoned air, and bear upon himself our burden of sin. He takes the rightful punishment for all-law-breaking law-breakers.  He who would judge all, puts himself under the sentence of death.

And thus he is also our protector.  While earthly kings ride horses and chariots into battle against their enemies in battles near and far, this king fights for us, our champion, the valiant one.  He conquers, not by sword or spear, but by being pierced, bruised, stricken and smitten.  He brings peace not by glorious victory, but in the humble suffering and sacrifice of the cross.  There is his throne, our king, our Christ.  Our Lord and Protector.  A crown of thorns.  A staff they used to beat him.  A mocking purple robe put on him and ripped off.  Homage paid by soldiers spitting and pharisees wagging heads.  His royal court – condemned thieves, Roman dogs, and grieving onlookers.  And the sign above him, written by the earthly governor who condemned him, “This is the king of the Jews”.

Our King has come.  He came as a babe in Bethlehem, but a humble king.  Honored by wise foreigners and lowly shepherds, but despised by the kings of this world.  Our king has come, humble and riding a donkey, a prince of peace, who comes to bring us peace.  Our king has come into his glory, in the dark shame and bleak suffering of the cross.  And our king has conquered death and brought life and immortality to light.  Death cannot contain him.  He rises again, for you, for all.  Death has no victory.  Death has no sting.

Now it's true, his kingdom is not of this world.  So he told the king's representative who gave the order to crucify him.  Jesus' kingdom is far more than this world.  The Kingdom of God is the reign and rule of God in the hearts of men.  It is the gracious activity of God to bring about his purposes, in accord with his plan.  It is the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, to convict the world in regard to sin, and to point us, drive us to Christ for our forgiveness.  Jesus' kingdom is a kingdom not only of power, but also of grace.  It is a kingdom exercised in the church, through the proclamation of the Good News, and through the administration of the Sacraments.  You want to see Jesus as king? See him in the water of baptism, claiming sinners as his own.  See him under humble bread and wine, his body and blood truly present.  The king has come, and the king still comes to his people to rule, and to protect.

But the king will come again.  He will come again in glory, to judge both the living and the dead.  And his kingdom will have no end.  We think on this at the end of the church year, and also at its beginning, in Advent.  He came, he comes, and will come again.  And when he comes again it will not be in humility but in all the glory of God that is rightly his.  All eyes will see him.  There will be no mistaking it.  And, we are told, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  Every knee will bow, either in faith as his righteous children and loyal subjects, or in fear of the just punishment to come for those that reject his grace.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy from prison,

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;  (2 Timothy 2:8-12a)

Take heart, you loyal subjects, for you also share in this reign.  For you are a priesthood after your great high priest, and you are a royal priesthood, for your priest is also the king.  And his reign and rule he shares with those who are his own.  We have what even the angels cannot claim, a promised crown of righteousness awaiting us in glory.  We have access to the king forever, who will dwell among us and has become and will always remain one of us.  True God, True Man, Prophet, Priest and King forever.  Join the angels, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs and all the saints of God in singing the praises of our King, for he has done all things well.

Sermon - Christmas Eve - John 1:1-14 (15-18)

“Word, Light, Life.”
John 1:1-14 (15-18)
Christmas Eve 2015

In the beginning...

John begins his Gospel of Jesus Christ with the same words that start the creation account of Genesis.  “In the beginning”.  It's no accident, of course.  The same Son of God who was there in the beginning is the one who comes in the flesh to save us.  His origins are from of old, even, from the beginning.

Quantum physicists have tried to plumb the secrets of the universe, examining how the smallest particles that make up our world might fit together.  And using their admittedly extensive intellect they've come to the conclusion that everything had a beginning – at the Big Bang.  There and then, they believe, everything started with an explosion – and all matter spread out from a single point.  Of course, this is extrapolation.  No one was there to see it.  And when pressed, even they admit their best theories break down into absurdity when pushed to the limit.  Time itself becomes meaningless.  Thus far modern physics on “the beginning” (or at least, my brief summary of it).

But we Christians have another word about the beginning, and that word is Christ.  He was with God in the beginning, for he is God.  All things, therefore, begin with him.  By him all things were made.  Nothing exists that wasn't created through him.  Not even smarty-pants physicists.  Not even you or me.  

That this Child born in Bethlehem is the Creator of all things is not something to lightly pass over.  It's impossible to comprehend, really, that the ultimate being, the ground of all reality, God of Gods, Lord of Lords, Supernal, Eternal, All-knowing and all-powerful – would come down... (and down, fails to entail the fullness of this thing), that he would come down, to be one of us, to be conceived and born, born in the most everyday way we humans are.  That he would empty himself of such glory and majesty that even to look on him was surely death, but now he's a baby and everything that it means – crying, needing his mother, making dirty diapers and all.  God of the universe, here in time, for you.  The one from before the beginning, now makes his beginning as one of us.  Wonder for a moment at that.

Was the word...

And this agent of Creation is described by John as the “Word”, the “Logos” (in the Greek).  And how can a word be alive?  How can a word be eternal?  How can all things depend on this word?

In our everyday experience, words can mean little.  You say something, but you don't mean it.  You hear words, words, words... advertisements.  The latest political debate analysis.  The store checker trying to sign you up for their credit card.  None of these words mean all that much.  None of them are likely to last, to be remembered.  None of them will change your life, in most cases.  They're background noise.  But they are the words of man.

Furthermore, our words are tainted by sin.  We say things that aren't true, or aren't very nice.  We make  pie-crust promises – easily made, and easily broken.  We curse, swear, lie and deceive.  We talk of ourselves, when we should be listening to others.  We tear others down under the pretense of concern.  We repeat the lies of Satan that make us feel good about ourselves, and sometimes give only lipservice to things that we know should be said.  Our words are so often poisonous, bubbling out of the polluted heart and doing nothing but tearing down and spreading the chaos of sin and death.  We must confess with our lips, our unclean lips, that we are ruined if not for the saving Word of Christ, the very living Word of God.

The Word of God is in a class by itself.  This word is creative.  It made all things.  It is powerful, holding all the authority of the one who speaks it.  The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword.  It cuts both ways, piercing us with the law's accusations, but also severing us from guilt and shame by the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The Word of God is eternal – it is the first word spoken, and none of his words will pass away – even though the heavens and the earth will.  This Word stands alone.

And Jesus Christ is that living Word.  This is John's Christmas account – a more theological word about the meaning of the incarnation.  That in Jesus Christ, God became flesh.  And this is how it began.  Here in the manger, the silent Word is pleading for us.  Here in the manger, the Word that one day will be pierced by nails and spear, but still has come to speak a word of comfort.  A word of Gospel.

In him was life and that life was the light of men...

Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is both Life and Light.

He is the source of all Life, since by him all things were made.  He is the Light of Lights, from whom even light itself has its existence.

Life mystifies the scientists and philosophers.  It's hard to define, and far harder to explain.  The search for life on other planets continues to be a quest that preoccupies many.  And the explanations of life's origin continue to elude even those most steeped in Darwin's theories.  How is it so complex?  Where did this information come from?  DNA, RNA, microscopic systems that exceed the most cutting edge technology we can design.  Wetware that far exceeds our hardware creations.  Life, which overcomes obstacles and seems adapted for every challenge to its existence.  Life in all of its wonderful variety yet miraculous order.  Let alone human life, in a category of its own.  A PhD in biology won't even scratch the surface of the mysteries of life. But we Christians know from whence life comes.  It is from him.  The life was in him, from the beginning.  The life that is the light of men.  And it is found in him, even today.

But life is not where we “live”, in our sinful nature.  The First Adam brought death.  And the Old Adam is a dead man walking.  We sinners know little of life, but we are well acquainted with death.  We see it all around us.  We see its effects creeping in on us.  We hear of this shooting and that cancer.  He dies, she is dying.  Though we often speak of it in whispers, or hide it in hospitals, or try to sanitize it with euphemisms.  We know well the wages of our sin.  It's like a dark cloud that follows us everywhere and eventually swallows us up.  

But Christ is the life.  In him is life.  And he brings that life to us.  Through, of all things, his death. But he is so much life, that death cannot hold him.  And risen from the dead, he gives life to all who believe on his name.  He gives them the same life, he makes us children of God.  We're in the family.  We're blood.  Not born of flesh and blood, but born of God.  Because he was born of flesh and blood, for us.

And light.  Another thing of mystery to the scientists.  It's nature, still not fully understood.  It's speed is constant, and nothing can go faster.  Yet it can bend and warp.  It's a wave and a particle, depending on when and how you're looking.  And yet, though one of the simplest and basic elements of creation, still its true nature eludes our brightest and best minds.  So common, so integral to our experience as humans, and yet a mystery.

Who can see anything without light?  And who can see anything without Christ?  Especially for us who sit in darkness.  Oh, like death, we know the darkness well.  Our sin loves the darkness, for there it thinks it can hide.  It skulks and snivels in fear of exposure.  And woe to anyone who tries to cast the light upon it!  Who are you to judge me!?  You've got your own sin, too!  So your darkness is worse than my darkness, I tell myself, and the darkness further obscures things for both of us.  

But the light of Christ casts out all darkness.  It shines through and not only exposes sin, but chases it away.  Purifies, vaporizes the darkness with the light of his truth.  The true light, the ultimate light, who gives light to all now comes into the world.  

John came, baptizing, calling broods of vipers broods of vipers.  Preparing the way and making straight the path for the greater one to come.  The one John didn't even deserve to touch his sandals.  Who ranks far before John.  The one whose origins are from of old, even from before the beginning.  John wasn't the light, but he testified to it, pointed to him, Jesus Christ the light of the world.  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Glory of God now revealed in human flesh.

Some will see him, with eyes enlightened by faith.  Others will remain in the darkness.  He came to his own, the people who should have known him, but they did not.  And so many others who you wouldn't think would, would come to the light.  Some will prefer the shadows of sin and death.  But others will believe in him and live.  So for you: grace upon grace.  Life.  Light.  And an eternal word.

In the love and hope and joy and peace that God gives this Christmas, we see a child, born to die, a perfect little one innocent in every way, who is much more than meets the eye.  The Word made Flesh.  The Light of the World.  The Life of all mankind, wrapped up in this little bundle of Bethlehem joy.  Thanks be to God for this one, this Jesus, the Christ, who brings us grace and truth, even today.  In the beginning, at the manger, from the cross, and always.  In Jesus' Name.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sermon - Midweek Advent 2 - "Christ Our Priest"

Christ our Priest 
Exodus 19:1-8 “A royal priesthood”
Hebrews 9:11-22 “Christ appeared as a high priest...”
John 17:1-26 Jesus' High Priestly Prayer

So far we've seen Christ as our Prophet – fulfilling the Old Testament role of the one who speaks for God, and indeed who is the very Word of God.  He is the prophet to whom all prophets testify.

But our Lord Jesus Christ also fulfills the office of priest in a most excellent way.  Such that he is the everlasting High Priest of the highest order, a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  But to get a better grasp on his priesthood, and why it is such good news for us, we again take a step back into the Old Testament.
The priesthood of Moses' brother Aaron was established with the sacrificial system at Mt. Sinai.  The anointing of Aaron as the first High Priest of Israel was a day of great joy for God's people.  
They would sing of it in the Psalm (133):

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!

The priest, and especially the High Priest, we see, was especially beloved for he was a representative of the people before God.  He stood in the place of the people and offered sacrifices and prayers to God on their behalf.

Sacrifices – yes, the priesthood was a bloody business.  More akin to a butcher than a paper-pusher, the Old Testament priest was well acquainted with the blood of beasts.  How many millions of animals were slain on the altars of Israel over the years by the hands of the priests.  And why?  Why did the high priest, once a year, place his hands onto the head of the scapegoat and then send it out to die in the wilderness?  And then take another goat, kill it, and sprinkle its blood on in the Holy of Holies?  Why were bulls and rams and pigeons slain and sacrificed?  It was all for this:  for the sins of the people.  The wages of sin – death.  Sin means blood.
I often wonder whether the ancients saw this more clearly – how sin leads to death.  And seeing all these animals die... We've made death so clinical and sanitized it today, but it's only a thin veneer over the ugliness. We don't even like to think that our cheeseburger was once a cow.  But the priests dealt with death.  Day in, day out. 

For his part, Jesus is the priest to end all priests.  He came not only to make the greatest sacrifice, but to be it. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Your sin.  Mine.  Everyone's.  Christ the victim, Christ the priest.  He willingly sheds his own blood, offers his own life, gives up his own spirit – for you.  
To save you from the bloodguilt of your sin.  To rescue you from a well deserved temporal and eternal punishment.  To satisfy the just wrath of God over your sin.  And to create in you a clean heart and a right spirit.

Jesus your priest stands before God the Father and says, “I stand in their place.  My blood for theirs, my life for theirs.  I have paid the price, I drank the cup, I have done it all.  It is finished.”

You see the high priest of old was anointed with oil, but Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  The high priest of old would wear bejeweled robes.  But Jesus was stripped of his garments.  The high priest of old would make his sacrifices year after year.  But Jesus died once for all.

Hebrews goes to great lengths to show us how Jesus' priesthood far exceeds all others, and how as the priest of the New Covenant, he sprinkles us with and purifies us with his blood, and so our sins are forgiven.  All the Old Testament sacrifices, while they dealt with sin, did so in a way which found root and fulfillment in Christ. Thus, no more temple sacrifices continue, as the true temple is Christ, and the ultimate sacrifice has been fulfilled in him and by him.  

But a priest is good for more than just making sacrifices.  He stands as a representative of the people, before God, also in prayer.  He sums up the concerns and petitions of the people and presents them on their behalf. He is a mediator in both word and deed.  An intercessor, a go-between.  A priest prays for the people.
Certainly Jesus prayed for us.  John 17 records his longest prayer, what is even called his “High Priestly Prayer”.  

There he prays for his disciples, and for the church that would be built through the Gospel they would preach. That they, we, would not be taken out of the world, but kept faithful while we remain here.  That we would have joy.  That we would be sanctified, made holy, but the truth of God's word.  That standing in that truth, we would also be united.  It is a beautiful prayer of spiritual blessings, notable for what he does NOT pray for as for what he does.  He doesn't ask the Father to keep us from ever suffering, or having to bear persecution.  He doesn't plead that we would all be healthy and wealthy.  Instead he prays, “keep them from the evil one”.  And finally, that we may be with Jesus where he is.

Jesus prayed often, not simply as an example for us, but he prayed for us.  Throughout his earthly ministry, in times of apparent success and through all opposition, Jesus prayed.  In his last hours before death, he took his disciples to a favorite spot for prayer – Gethesmane – Judas knew it well for they would often go there.  Even in the midst of his dying, from the cross itself, Jesus prayed to his Father, prayed for us, for our forgiveness.
But make no mistake. Even now that he is ascended into heaven.  Even now that he sits at the right hand of the Father and rules all things for the good of the church.  Even now that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.  Still, Jesus prays.  He intercedes with the Father for us.  He is still very much our good and great High Priest pleading with his Father on behalf of his people.  

His people, by the way, who are also priests.  Even the Old Testament people were declared to be a “royal priesthood, a holy nation”.  But now we, too, New Testament believers – are called the priesthood of all believers.

So what sacrifices do we make?  Not for sin, that's certain.  Jesus has already done it all.  But we are told to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  We lead holy lives in response to his holy word.  We serve God by serving our neighbor.  We offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, joyfully returning to God a portion of what he has given to us.  In your support of the church and the work of the Gospel, you fulfill this priestly role.
And prayer, too, makes us priestly.  We can go directly to God in prayer for he government and those in authority, for our neighbor, for the unbeliever, even for our enemies.

Even in the most frustrating moments of life, when you're at your wit's end, and you feel powerless to effect any positive change.  When you're beating your head against the wall trying to help someone, or solve some crisis of the day, you are still a priest.  You still have access to God through Jesus Christ, and that is no small thing.  You can, you are graciously and lovingly invited to pray to the very God of heaven who sits on his throne.  And we know our prayers will be heard for the sake of the one by whose name we pray, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

I remember with fondness old Helen, a dear 105 year old lady whom I would visit.  Her hearing had gotten hard, her eyesight poor, and her legs were mostly useless.  But her mind was sharp, even at her age.  Helen would often wonder aloud, “Why am I here?  What purpose do I serve?  All my friends and family are gone on ahead of me.  Why doesn't the Lord take me?  I'm no good to anyone!”  And I would gently remind her, “but you can pray”, and I know she did.  Even when all else fails, every one of us still claims this vocation.  The priests of God, the royal priests, pray to him through Jesus Christ.  We pray, young and old, rich and poor, a ceaseless stream of prayer rising to God like a pleasing incense ever rising to him.

Thanks and praise to Christ our prophet, who brings us the word of God, even his very self.  The prophet to whom all prophets testified.

And thanks and praise to Christ our priest, who offers the ultimate sacrifice of himself, and even still prays for us his people.  He is the Great High Priest whom all prior priesthood anticipated, and who has now come.
As we continue to anticipate his coming in glory, and look forward to celebrating his coming in the flesh long ago, may we continue to fulfill our priestly calling in loving response to his many and ongoing gifts.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Sermon - Midweek Advent 1 - "Christ the Prophet"

Christ our Prophet
Micah 5:1-5a “You, oh, Bethlehem”
2 Peter 1:16-21 “The prophetic word more fully confirmed”
Luke 13:31-35 “Oh Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets”

This Advent Season we meditate on the three-fold office of Christ, who is our Prophet, Priest and King.

We will see how Jesus fulfills these three Old Testament offices, which, like all of the Scriptures, testify to him.  We will draw on the saints of old who held these offices and set forth the pattern, but we'll also see how they reach their apex and perfection in Christ.  And finally, we will consider how, in each of these offices, our Lord Jesus still serves his people as Prophet, as Priest, and as King.

Today, Christ the Prophet.

An average person on the street might think of a prophet as akin to a fortune teller or psychic.  Someone who has a special knowledge, particularly about the future.  Maybe they can predict the outcome of sporting events, or tell you what profession you'll one day have.  Or maybe they can foretell the course of events on a national scale.  Nostradamus, guys like that, who write cryptic poems that people try to decipher in the events of history.

But the biblical definition of prophet is quite different.  Now, it is true that often the prophets of the Bible have a special knowledge, and can even predict the future.  But this message they bring is not one of superstitious origins, it comes from God himself.  It is not a vague and cryptic message to be decoded and shrouded in mystery, but it is as straightforward and clear as the Word of God always is – for that is the message they bring.  And while the role of the prophets is sometimes to tell the future, it is just as often to speak a present word to the people of God.  Repent!  Turn away from your sins, and turn to God today while he is near!  And so forth.

We might survey the prophets and some of their more notable prophecies:  You have the major prophets:

Isaiah – who warns both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of judgment, but also predicts a restoration after exile in Babylon.  He also shows the Messiah as a suffering servant of God.

Jeremiah – the weeping prophet who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and then lived to see it.  But he also foretold of a New Covenant in which God remembers sin no more.

Ezekiel -  Who preached doom and gloom for both Israel and other nations who had mocked Yahweh, but also had a word of hope perhaps best seen in his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, restored to life.

Daniel – who lived during the captivity and also received prophetic messages through interpreting dreams and receiving visions – and who prophesied the rise and fall of empires and the coming Messiah

Then 12 minor prophets, for example:

Hosea – who married a prostitute as a living object lesson that God's people where unfaithful to him by following other gods.

Amos – A shepherd and vinedresser from the South, turned prophet to the North – with a word of warning for those people.

Jonah – the reluctant prophet, whose 4 word sermon brought Nineveh, the world capital of wickedness to sincere repentance... an even greater miracle than being swallowed by a fish.  But even in this sign of Jonah, the prophet pointed to the Ultimate Prophet.

And Micah, who tells the Savior will be born in “You, oh Bethlehem, Ephrathah”.

Then those many other prophets whose messages weren't written as Holy Scripture for us, but some of whom we hear about, like Nathan, the prophet who stood eye to eye with King David, called him out on his sin with Bathsheba, “You are the man!”  And when David confessed his sin, immediately Nathan also spoke that word of comfort, “You will not die.  Your sin has been put away”

And of course Elijah, who stands for “all the prophets” and meets Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration.  Elijah, spokesman for God against the wicked pagans of his day, Ahab and Jezebel and their false gods Baal and Asherah.

All these men were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”, given the words to speak, inspired to write and act on behalf of God with a prophetic word – a word not their own – a word from God himself.

And there is one more prophet worth mentioning here, the last of the prophets, the voice of one crying in the wilderness “Prepare the way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist, who says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  John, who preached a harsh word of repentance, and called a brood of vipers when he's see it.  But John who also preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And who recognized the greater prophet to come, whose sandal he wasn't worthy to untie. Jesus says John is a prophet, and more, the greatest man to ever live – yet whoever is least in the kingdom is greater than even he.

Which brings us back to Jesus, of course.  The one who is the greatest because he makes himself least.  The one who is a prophet's prophet.  He is the one of whom all true prophets prophesy.  He is the ultimate bearer of the message, for he himself IS the message - the very Word of God by whom all things were made, the eternal word now made flesh and dwelling among us.

Jesus would speak all that the Father had given him, for his people and for our benefit.  When many came to him for healing and other miraculous signs, he would say, “Let's go to the other towns, so that I may preach there too, for that is why I came”.

Many received his message with great interest and even joy.  “What is this, a new teaching, and with authority?”  But others were offended at his prophetic word.  Even at his hometown, where he declared himself the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, they tried to push him off a cliff.  “A prophet is never accepted in his home town”.

And while some today think that Jesus only message was one of love and cheer and no rough edges, he certainly could call down prophetic fire and brimstone.  He excoriated the pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs and sons of Satan.  He cleared out the temple, even made a whip, and demanded his Father's house be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves.  He called a sin a sin, though sometimes gently, too, “now go and sin no more”.  Today, too, he calls you to repentance by his prophetic word.

But the best prophetic word that Jesus brings is his Gospel.  The good news about himself.  That in Him, the Kingdom of God has come.  That in him, the promises and prophecies of old are fulfilled.  That in him, the sins of the world, and your sins, are forgiven.

A prophetic word he spoke even from the cross - “Father forgive them...”, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, “It is finished”.  Yes, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, would also kill the greatest prophet on a Roman cross.  But Jesus knew it, and prophesied it many times.  Take Luke 18 for example:

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

One of the marks of a true prophet, then, is if his predictions come true.  But what prophet ever went so far as to predict his own arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection?  And then delivered on it, just as promised?  Only Jesus.

The God who knows both past and future, has provided a prophet for you.  He declares the sins of your past forgiven.  And he promises blessings now and in the future.  He speaks with all the authority that is his – all authority in heaven and on earth.  And while he speaks a word of law to show you your sin, that word is followed by his word of comfort.  In Christ, your sins are forgiven.  In Christ, your future with God is secure.

We know that some of his prophecies yet remain to be fulfilled.  He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.  All flesh will rise and see him.  He will separate the sheep from the goats.  And of those that belong to him, not one will be snatched from his hand, but he will say to them, to us, “enter into your rest”.

Thanks be to God for Christ the Prophet, who came once in blessing, and will come again in glory. Trust in his prophetic word, for it will never fail you.