Mid-week Advent I
“Behold, he is coming!”
This isn’t the message of some crazed street-corner preacher. Nevertheless, even if it was, he would be right!
This is the message of St. John in his Apocalypse. “Behold, he is coming…” John wrote of Jesus, the King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and everything in between. All of that is a poetic way of saying, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:3-4) So, the Creator of all things in Whom is life is coming.
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” “Every eye will see him,” John wrote. I said it once a couple of weeks ago: When Jesus comes, every eye will see it, know that it s Jesus, and know why He is coming. He will come on the clouds of heaven, return a glorious king, much to the consternation of those who derided Him and denied His being the Messiah. “Even so. Amen.”
He is the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty… That is how He will be coming when He comes, and, “Behold, he is coming!” He is coming not as an infant; He’s done that already. He is coming not as a teacher; He’s done that already. He is coming not as a sacrifice—as THE Sacrifice—He’s done that already. He is coming not as a conqueror; for He’s done that already, too. He came once before in grace and favor: conceived and born into a royal lineage, but appearing as little more than a common teacher.
In fact, in His coming once, He came in blessing. He addressed your ill—the ill of your sin; yet came in a lowly likeness. He ruffled some feathers, for His first coming was just as the prophets predicted, but those in power were not interested in having their power base pulled out from under them. So, in that lowly likeness, He bore the cross—but He bore it as your punishment for sin, gave His life as your ransom, to give you hope and freedom. If this sounds very much like a familiar hymn, that’s because it is, and you’ll be singing it on Sunday.
So, if He is not coming as any of those things, how will He be coming? He will be coming as the Almighty, as the King who has conquered and is victorious. He has conquered your enemy—the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. Now, He will return as the one who has put that enemy under His feet and yours. He comes as the King, just as Daniel saw in his night visions: “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)
Is it any wonder, then, that those who pierced Him and denied Him would wail on account of His return? They have been conquered in their piercing of Him—and He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven—now He will return to take what is His to be with Him forever, and they are not His. He will proclaim to them, “I do not know you.” (cf. Matthew 25:12) They wanted no part with Him, and He will give them exactly that.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds of heaven, with His angels, and with the glory of His Father.
Behold, He is coming for you!
You heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel this evening that He will repay each person according to what he has done. (cf. Matthew 16:27) You’ve heard what “those who pierced Him” will be getting, or to state it better, what they won’t be getting. But, as for those who wept for Jesus at His crucifixion and rejoice over His resurrection, the repayment will be the opposite; it will not be, “I do not know you,” but, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) But what have you done?
Well, you might just say you have only done your duty, that you are an unworthy servant. (cf. Luke 17:10) And when given the list of things you have done, you may even wonder when you did those things. (cf. Matthew 25:37-39) But, to put it simply, the thing that you have done is trusted in this King for your Salvation, not trusted in your own worth or merit, and even that was not your own doing, but His. God has given His Word, and you’ve taken Him at His Word. His Word declares to you that you are a sinner in need of redemption, and Jesus is your redemption.
And with Jesus as your Redemption, you are prepared for when He comes with the clouds of heaven, with His angels, and with the glory of His Father. That preparation comes through Jesus, your King’s, call to repentance. Remember that repentance has two parts: first, that you confess your sins (and your confession is given to you by God), and second, that you receive forgiveness from God. Confession and absolution—it happens again and again, and each time, you are readied for the return of the Son of God.
That’s why, following tonight’s text, John relayed seven letters to seven churches. These letters contain praise for the churches and warnings—calls to repentance. In these letters, Jesus is preparing His Church for His return, preparing you, for these seven letters are meant for the Church on Earth, and for you, Her members. In some way, at one time or another, you are like the members of one or all of these seven churches, worthy of praise for one or another work, but Jesus has something against you for which He calls you to repent. He is preparing them—preparing you—so that when He comes on the clouds of heaven, with His angels, and with the glory of His Father, He will take you to be where He is, in the room that He has prepared for you in His Father’s house. (cf. John 14:2-3)
Therefore, for you, who trust in Christ as your Redeemer, the coming of the King in the clouds of heaven is nothing for which to be afraid. For those who pierced Him, it is, but not for you. Jesus is coming for you, to take you into His glorious, eternal presence. You’ll hear it again on Sunday, that Jesus said,
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:25-28)
“…Straigthen up and raise your heads,” Jesus said. This isn’t just encouragement to look to the clouds for Jesus’ coming, but that when He comes with those accompanying signs, you can stop looking down in shame and fear for the world around you, but up in relief and joy, “because your redemption is drawing near.” This you can do because in Christ you have done well, as mentioned in this evening’s Gospel—that is to say, you have been accounted as righteous for His sake. Jesus say, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades,” and with those keys, He binds up these enemies of yours.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds of heaven, with His angels, and with the glory of His Father; holding the keys to Death and Hades, He comes to take you to Himself, because for His sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.