During Advent we stand so close to Christmas that we almost exclusively think of Christ sleeping in His manger, cradled in Mary’s arms. We think of “Peace on earth, good will to men!” We get ready for snow, and while cleaning it up may be a pain, the peaceful falling, the beautiful calm of it lying so white, so pure on the ground warms – ironically – the heart. We look forward to it.
But just last Sunday Jesus calls Himself a thief: “If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming.” He comes to rob and take away. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” Jesus compared Himself to the Flood, the opposite of calm blankets of snow. As in Noah’s day, so it will be when Thief Jesus returns – surprise, pain, anguish, terror, destruction! The great wipe-out!
For He will return angry. Wouldn’t you? Remember Jesus’ parable about a man going off to be crowned king. His people “hated him.” They sent a delegation to say, “Don’t crown Him.” He was made king and later said, “Those enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be king over them….kill them in front of me.”
What about the King throwing a wedding party? Most of the invitees rejected the invitation – they had better offers. He burned down their city. One guy showed up in the wrong clothes. The King? “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Or there was the King who sent servants to check on those working his lands. They beat up and killed His servants. The King sent His Son to check on them and they killed the Son, foolishly thinking, “Then we’ll get the inheritance.”
They don’t get it. Neither did David. He asks in Psalm 2: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.” Only fools nip at the LORD’s heels, literally biting the hand feeding you?
The conspiring ones say, “Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters!” The LORD laughs. He mocks. “Done yet? That’s your best?” Worse, He gets angry. And you don’t want to see the LORD angry. You don’t want to see Jesus angry.
In Advent, we remember that this Jesus to whom we pray, this Child whose birth we celebrate, whose flesh and blood we receive in the Holy Supper, is none other than the LORD. He is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Savior, but for all that He is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” Our Lord.
Luther teaches us that in catechism. You learned his memorable words: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.” My Lord. So vital is that word that Luther spends all His time in the Large Catechism on that word, “Lord.” Ruler. Master. King. Supreme. He who holds all authority in His hands lays in the manger sleeping and later nurses at the virgin’s breast.
Luther teaches us in hymns too: “Made like yourselves of flesh and blood, your brother is the eternal God.” Again, “There you will find an infant laid by whom the heaven’s and earth were made.”
He has come: the LORD, the Son of the Father. To Mary, God’s angel Gabriel said, “He…will be called the Son of the Most High.” Twice the Father called Jesus “Son,” at His Baptism and at His Transfiguration. Just as Psalm 2 foretold, “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
And if this Son is what the Father says: “My Son, My King, My Anointed One,” then we’d best take Him seriously, for the Father says to the Son, “Ask and it’s yours. I will give you the nations.” That which the Devil boastfully claimed to have in his power – the kingdoms of the earth – the LORD actually gives to His Son. Remember Jesus’ parting words? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” To Jesus, not the devil, not kings and princes and governments, and least of all, not to you.
Foolishly we speak like those kings and princes. We gather and growl against God, His Word, His Son. We forget where authority comes from. We forget how foolish it is to rebel, or even conspire, as if our conspiracies go unnoticed. We fail to honor the Son as we honor the Father, and even fail to honor the Father in our madcap desire to clutch power. We tempt and test God. We have a skewed view of authority, both God’s and our own. We forget that we are fading flowers, dust, mortal. We elevate our own rights, our own power, our own authority. We run to so many places for refuge, but all the wrong ones.
We hear God point to Jesus and say, “This is my Son, listen to Him!” We hear God say, “I have installed Him as King!” We hear God say, “I have put an iron scepter in His hand to smash and destroy!” We hear God say, “Submit yourself to my Son, give Him the kiss of obedience and love lest He be angry and destroy you!”
We hear that, and yet persist in goading that Son, that King, that Lord into anger. We refuse to give Him anything but Judas’ kiss. And then we’re shocked, shocked to hear words about wrath flaring up, shocked to hear words about destruction, punishment and judgment. “But God is love! What about baby Jesus?!?!”
No, we don’t want to see Jesus angry, because we can’t really handle Jesus when He gets angry. He breaks in, breaks down, and destroys. That’s what a holy, righteous God does to sin and sinners. We desperately want anything but that.
Yet we want to see it. We need to see it. We need Jesus wrath and anger to flare up. We need Him to destroy, to rule, to dash to pieces. We need the Son to do His Father’s work. We need the King to be the Lord.
C.S. Lewis communicated this in his Christian allegory, The Chronicles of Narnia. Ruling over and above all story’s action was the lion, Aslan. Aslan represented Christ As you can imagine, those Aslan came to help and save loved Him. Yet there was a fierce, wild side to Aslan. One character said. “He is no tame lion.”
We want to mold our Messiah in our own image. We want it to just be love, love, love. We want ooey-gooey, touchy-feely saving. We want warm and fuzzy romantic comedy resolution. There was just a big misunderstanding; now it’s all worked out.
But that’s not the real story. It’s not some misunderstanding that Jesus came to deal with as our Lord. Jesus came to deal with rebellion, plots, conspiracy. The world and its rulers, we, attempted to throw off all God’s “chains” and “fetters.” We plotted against God and His Son, our King. We murdered Him, just as those parables Jesus told predicted. We poked the bear. We punched Aslan in the face. As Isaiah 50 says, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.”
What should be done to such people? They should be taken out and hung, shot, drawn and quartered – damned! And such was the LORD’s terrifying rebuke to sinners: “Damn you all to hell!” He gave that power and authority to His Son.
What did His Son do with it? He let us hate Him, hit Him, hurt Him…nail Him to a tree. He let the Father heap that stinking load of rebellion on His back – Him for me, the righteous for the unrighteous. He ruled as a King should: laying down His life for His people. He created a cleft for us, the rock of ages, the refuge.
That word echoes throughout the psalms: “refuge.” We find it almost 50 times in Psalms, and almost half of those in the first 46, starting here, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him,” and culminating in famous Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
We find safety, rest, and comfort in this King, because He provided it. “I will give you rest,” He said. “Your sins are forgiven,” He said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” He said.
Our God really is an awesome God. He has all this power and authority and holiness. And He uses it for the sake of us. “He has redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature,” to run back to Luther’s words, “purchased and won you from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” With all authority in heaven and on earth, greater than man, greater than angels, with every possibility at His fingertips, Jesus does just one thing: born of a woman, born under law, He redeems those under law; then He spills His blood. For you. So that, again from the Catechism, we can “live under Him in His kingdom.”
Thus the paradox. We don’t want to see the anger of this King. It means our doom and destruction. He is no tame lion, no tame God. Yet, His Holy Spirit reveals how He chose to pour forth His anger and we can’t look away: the Father poured out His anger on His Son. The anger I earned, the Son received.
And removed. In a single day: the day of His death; the day of my life. That makes His wounds my place of refuge. Where I find His body and blood, there I want to be, I need to be. That’s all that hides me from God’s wrath and anger. I am only blessed when I am in Jesus. Thank God, the Father sends His Spirit so that I hear Jesus, am washed in Jesus, and taste Jesus. God brings my refuge to me and I hide in Him, and there kiss this Son, my King, my Lord. Amen.