The Regime of the King of Peace–Advent 4 Midweek Vespers 2016
Advent 4 Midweek (Vespers)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 21, 2016
The Regime of the King of Peace—adapted from Stoeckhardt’s Adventspredigten, “Siebzehnte Predigt”
Jesus is a King. That is what His name means: “Christ”—anointed one. King.
But where is Jesus’ kingdom? Do you know? Even those who can tell you the right answer are often embarrassed to say it, because it seems so impossible.
Yet there is nothing greater that a person could desire than the Kingdom of Jesus. Isaiah just pictured Jesus’ kingdom for us in the reading—as Paradise. And that is what it is to be part of Jesus’ Kingdom—Paradise. To be in Jesus’ Kingdom is to be in God’s gracious presence; and it is to have—peace.
But the problem with Jesus’ kingdom is that we can’t see it. He said this a long time ago to some fools who thought it was impossible that the Kingdom of God could come without them seeing it a long way off. The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you—or perhaps within you (Luke 17:20-21).
The Kingdom of God can only be seen through the Word of God. Otherwise we will see it and despise it. Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus about this Kingdom and its King. He describes Jesus as the King of Peace and Jesus’ Kingdom as a Reign of Peace.
Unless a person has eyes to see, he will laugh at Jesus’ Kingdom.. Isaiah foretold that this is how it would be. Jesus’ Kingdom looks like nothing in our eyes because its king looks like nothing in our eyes.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Jesse was King David’s father. David became the King of Israel, and God promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne and reign forever. Yet Isaiah says that David’s house would be torn down and left desolate, like a stump in the ground.
Imagine a big, five-hundred year old oak tree. It’s beautiful. Its branches spread far and wide; it give shade in the summertime. Someone ties a rope to a branch with a tire on the other end. Kids swing on it and laugh. When they get thirsty they run to the porch and their mom gives them a Dixie cup of Kool-Ade.
Then one dark day the family gets evicted and someone comes with a chainsaw and cuts that big tree down. What is left? Only a stump. Now when you go out to see that big old tree that you loved all that’s left is the stump. If it ever grows back, it won’t be in your lifetime. That tree is gone, along with the tire swing, the Kool-Ade, and the happy memories.
That is what happened to David’s house. The house of David was a big beautiful tree that had been cut down. And the Son of David that brings peace never came.
But Isaiah says: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. A little branch came up from the stump of David’s house. If you came out to see the tree that had been there before, you wouldn’t even look at it. You’d say, “If only we could have the old oak tree whose shade we played in as children.” You wouldn’t even see the twig sprouting from its roots.
That little twig was Jesus. His mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were from the house of David. They weren’t kings and queens anymore. The glory of David’s house was a thing in the history books; nobody remembered. Nobody cared.
When they went to Bethlehem to be taxed by a foreign king there wasn’t even a place for them to stay. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn or maybe a cave where they kept animals. Jesus was just a little twig growing from the stump of a once great tree.
But Isaiah prophesied that this branch from Jesse’s roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Is. 11:1-2) Jesus would “bear fruit” because He had something that the great branches of David’s house that had been before Him did not have. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him. The same Spirit that hovered over the empty waters at creation, in which there was no life, the same Spirit who caused order to come out of the chaos and life to spring forth out of barren darkness—rested on this little branch.
Though He was small and unimpressive as humans see things, in this little shoot was all the glory and power of God. “In Him all the fullness of [God] dwells bodily”, St. Paul wrote in the epistle to the Colossians [2:9]. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through Him and in Him all things hold together…” [Col 1:15-17].
This twig is the living God in our flesh, the God of abundant life in the body of a newborn. And so this little branch that seemed like nothing bore fruit that the great tree of the house of David, with all its grandeur, had not been able to bear.
The fruit Jesus bore was a life of complete obedience to God, of utter purity, a life that earned God’s seal of approval, His honor. And this priceless gem, never before seen by the world—a human life lived in unity with God—Jesus gave away. He offered up this precious life on behalf of those who had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. He offered it in exchange for the lives of all who had rebelled against God, of whatever stripe… He laid that life aside as though it were not His, and took up the guilty verdict that belonged to all of His brothers, and was condemned for our unfaithfulness. He endured the agony of body and the anguish of soul that was the just reward for the lives we have lived. In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether in earth or heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:19-20)
That is how Jesus is the king of Peace. He made peace for us with God. It is a perfect peace that cannot be added to or undone by you or me. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah prophesied in a later chapter [Is. 53:5].
If you’ve lived long enough, I am sure that there has been a time when you longed for peace—when your heart was full of anger or anguish or fear. Many of us have repeatedly cried out to God for peace. And some of you have probably had the experience of longing to feel that you were at peace with God.
That longing need no longer gnaw at you. This King, this little shoot from the stump of Jesse, has made peace with God for all people.
Your sentence has been served in full by this strange king of peace, when He was forsaken by God for your sins, and when He shouted in victory “It is finished.” [John 19:30] God is reconciled to you by this King, and desires you to no longer hide from Him, flinch at His presence—but be reconciled and enter back into Paradise through the gift of His Son.
That is how Jesus won His Kingdom of Peace. After He conquered in the battle with Satan, He ascended to His Father’s throne and began to reign.
But of course we don’t see Jesus reigning. What we see is those who refuse to accept Him as King behaving as though the world was theirs. How is Jesus reigning?
Isaiah says: He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked. [Is. 11:3-4]
In paintings a king often holds a scepter or a staff in his hand. It symbolizes the power by which a king maintains justice, defending the innocent and punishing those who oppress the weak.
Jesus does not hold a staff in His hand. His scepter comes from His mouth. The rod of His mouth by which He reigns in justice is His Word.
That sounds like a joke to the world and even to our own flesh. We know very well that evil is not restrained with words—it takes guns, tanks, missiles, armies.
But the rod of [Jesus’] mouth and the breath of His lips are not like everyone else’s words. With the rod of His mouth He laid the foundations of the earth; by the breath of His lips He stretched out the heavens. By the breath of His mouth He breathed into Adam’s nostrils and the man of dust became a living being. He speaks and it comes to be. His Words spoken in time are reality now and forever. Whether people listen or refuse to hear, the judgment Jesus pronounces through the Scriptures, through His preachers, will endure until it becomes visible on judgment day. The one who rejects me and does not receive My Words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day, he said in the gospel of John [12:48].
Jesus reigns. When He condemns the evil one, the demons, false teachers, unbelievers, it is not just an opinion. He slays the wicked with the breath of His mouth; the reality of His judgment will appear on the last day, In the same way, He gives justice to the poor by the rod of His mouth. Poor sinners who come desire relief from the oppression of sin and the devil receive a favorable decision from the King of Peace. He finds in their favor. He declares them innocent of all Satan’s accusation, free from condemnation and sin. From heaven Jesus extends the scepter of His Word and justifies us, the ungodly. When you hear this happening, you can be sure that you are in the presence of the King of Peace as He reigns. And when you believe His judgment, you know that you are in His Kingdom. And though His Word seems insubstantial to our eyes, be sure that it is more powerful and more real than the barrel of a gun, than an open grave. This Word is the power of the living God. What it declares, happens. When it justifies you and says you have peace, rejoice! It is more sure than the ground beneath your feet.
Soli Deo Gloria