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Advent 2021

Christmas Yesterday, Today, and Forever

December 26, 2021 • Jonathan Parnell

Jesus, Our King

December 19, 2021 • Jonathan Parnell

One of the things that my family does on a normal night is that, over dinner, we go around the table and we talk about the highs and lows of our day. What happened today that made you excited? What happened today that was difficult? What was your high and what was your low? I try to help the kids name their emotions and draw out the language of the heart — and it is the most chaotic thing I do. Don’t imagine that anything about this is orderly. Most of the time it’s just crazy town — because half our kids are younger, and so there’s a lot of squirming and side-conversations and corrections that are needed and all that, but somehow we manage to get the highs and lows. Which I think is important. Because we all have highs and lows, as family members and as a family as a whole. There are gifts and losses, blessings and disappointments. The life of a family has highs and lows, and so does the life of a church. The life of the local church is full of things we have to endure. Burdens to carry; valleys to walk through; complexities to navigate. If one member suffers, we all suffer together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). We as a church have our lows. And we have our highs — there are the ways God’s faithfulness is displayed; the ways he provides for us; the evidences of grace in our lives. If one member is honored, we all rejoice together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). And I wonder: if you were asked to name a few high points from 2021, what would they be? I try to reflect on these things this time of year, and there are a handful of moments stand out to me. Three big ones: One is when our parents dedicate their children to God; And then another is when we celebrate God’s grace in baptism; and And then another is when new members join our church. These are high points for us, and recently, as I was thinking about these things I noticed at least one common thread in all three. At each of these events there are things that we say, and I’m gonna read from some of that, and I want you to see if you can pick up on a theme: First, at child dedications, we ask our parents: Do you promise, God helping you, to make it your regular prayer that, by God’s grace, your children will come to trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins and for the fulfillment of all his promises to them; and in this faith follow Jesus as Lord, Savior, and supreme Treasure of their lives? Then, at baptism, the third baptismal question we ask: Do you intend now, with God’s help, to obey the teachings of Jesus and to follow him as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure? And then when we affirm our membership covenant together, that covenant starts like this: Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to embrace Jesus as the Lord, Savior, and supreme Treasure of our lives …we enter into covenant … Okay, did you hear it? What does all of that have in common? Well, first, it’s that we call Jesus “Jesus” … because that’s his name and he is a real person! Amen! But also, we say that we embrace Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and Treasure. Most of the time, Christians will say “Lord and Savior” but we add this Treasure part, for the reasons Pastor David Mathis showed us last week: Jesus as Lord and Savior is who he is and what he does, and Jesus as Treasure is what he is like as Lord and Savior. It’s the paradox of Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb, the one who is mighty and meek, transcendent and near, fully God and fully man. There is nobody like Jesus. Nobody. He is Lord, Savior, and Treasure. And he is King. If there’s one thing clear about Christmas, it’s that Jesus came as the King. I think that’s the most repeated theme in all our favorite Christmas songs: “Hark! The herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!’” “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!” Jesus is King! — and so how should we think about this? How does Jesus’s kingship fit with him as “Lord, Savior, and Treasure”? Why not add “King” to that list? We could! We could also add Priest and Way and Truth and Life — the glory of Jesus is inexhaustible, and we’re never gonna get it all in a sentence, but the way to think about Jesus’s kingship (and priesthood, as we’ll see next week), is that Lord, Savior, and Treasure are descriptions of Jesus, but Jesus as King is the office he holds. Jesus being a King is his job, you could say. You go to work everyday and you do what you do, Jesus goes to work as King. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today: Jesus, Our King. And there are three things to see about his kingship in Luke Chapter 1. And this is the sermon: Jesus, our King, was long expected. Jesus, our King, is unlike other kings. Jesus, our King, must be obeyed. Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, I am a severely weak man whose only chance of doing anything of any lasting good is if you work through me. In our weakness you promise to be strong, and I ask for your strength this morning. Please stand by me and help me. By your Spirit, through your Word, show us your glory. In your great name, amen. 1. Jesus, our King, was long expected. Look at Luke Chapter 1, verse 32. The angel, Gabriel, was sent by God to Mary, and he told her that she will conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. And then in verse 32, Gabriel explains. Verse 32: He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David… And so right away, make no mistake about it, this baby is a king. That would have been the most obvious thing to Mary in this encounter, and that’s mainly because of her Jewish faith. She had a king category. Because, going back hundreds of years, echoing through the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures, there was the promise that a king would come. And it wasn’t just any king, but this was a king in the lineage of David. So that part made sense to Mary. So much of this was troubling, like verse 29 says. This was a surprise. But the “king in the line of David” part , Mary had heard that before, and she knew she was of the house of David. So she is tracking with that. This is why the first thing she says back to Gabriel is not “I have no idea what you’re talking about” but she says “How’s this gonna happen?” And Gabriel goes on to explain the virgin birth, but he doesn’t have to explain the king part. Mary gets the king part, and I want us to step into her shoes for a minute. Where does this hope for a king come from in the Old Testament? Okay, for a minute here we’re going to go back and see, and there are three mile-marker passages in the Old Testament to highlight. This is like a cheat-sheet. Three key texts in the Old Testament about Israel’s hope for a king. Deuteronomy 17; 2 Samuel 7; 1 Kings 10 You don’t have to turn there. I’m gonna briefly explain them to you, starting with Deuteronomy 17. DEUTERONOMY 17 The people of Israel had been set free from Egypt; they received the law of God; they received the arrangement of God’s presence through the temple, despite their sinfulness; and they received the promise of their own land, which is where they’ve been headed through 40 years of wandering in a desert. Now, finally, they’re about to enter the Promised Land and Moses is preparing them by basically preaching a sermon. He summarizes the law and recounts their history and prophecies about their future, and he tells them one day they’re going to have kings. They didn’t need human kings because God was their king, but one day, in the future, they’re going to want a king and God will give them one. And in view of that, Moses lays out some stipulations for these kings in Deuteronomy 17. Here are some things that the king should do and should not do. In the positive, Israel’s king is to be devoted to the word of the Lord. He is to write for himself a copy of the law, he’s is to keep it with him and he’s to read it all the days of his life (Deuteronomy 17:18ff). Remember this and hold onto it. Deuteronomy 17. Now there’s 2 Samuel 7. 2 SAMUEL 7 When God eventually gives Israel a king, the first one is Saul, and he was your typical George Washington-type figure. He was a man’s man, a natural leader, his presence commanded attention. But he proved unfaithful, and God took the kingdom from him and gave it to a little shepherd boy named David. And that moment itself was one of the most significant moments in the whole king storyline, because Jesse, David’s father, had eight sons. David was the youngest. And at first, when the prophet Samuel came to find the son of Jesse that God had chosen to be the next king, David wasn’t even there. Right away Samuel thought it was Eliab, the first son, but God said no. Then Samuel thought it was Abinadab, but God again said no. Then Samuel said, Okay, it must be Shammah, but again, God’s answer was no. Jesse put forward seven of his sons, and God said no to them all. And Samuel is confused and he says, “Is this all?” And Jesse said, “Well yeah, except for the youngest” (see 1 Samuel 16:11). And that word for youngest is not so much about birth order, it means something like “insignificant one.” We might say something like “the little guy.” The shrimp. Samuel says, “Are these all your sons?” And Jesse says, “Yeah, except for the little shrimp out keeping sheep.” Samuel says to go get him. So David comes and the Lord says, “That’s him.” And we gotta learn the lesson: God doesn’t see as man sees; we look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart, and David is his man. God makes him king, against all odds, and in 2 Samuel 7 God promises David one of the most important promises in the entire Bible. God tells David that God will raise up his offspring to be king forever (2 Samuel 7:13). David will have a son, a son in his lineage, and God will establish the kingdom of this son forever. This son will be the Anointed One, the Messiah. Remember this and hold onto it. 2 Samuel 7. Now 1 Kings 10. 1 KINGS 10 1 Kings 10 is all about King Solomon, David’s son. And what’s important about this chapter is that many thought that Solomon was the son that God promised in 2 Samuel 7. He seemed to fit the bill. He was a son of David, and God established his kingdom and the kingdom of Israel flourished under Solomon, at least at first. But what we find in 1 Kings 10 changes things. Remember back to Deuteronomy 17 there’s the lists of things the king should and should not do. Well, the negative side of those things is that the king of Israel must not acquire many horses; he must not acquire excessive silver and gold; and he must not acquire many wives (see Deuteronomy 17:16–17). And see, some thought Solomon might be his promised King, he might be the One, but then in 1 Kings 10 we read, almost like in a list… that Solomon had 12,000 horsemen — that’s a lot of horses. He had more gold than anyone in history, and he had so much silver that it wasn’t even worth anything — that’s a lot of gold and silver. And then we read that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — that’s a lot of that. And all this means that by the time we finish reading 1 King 10 we think, Wait a minute! Solomon can’t be the guy. And then we have to look to the next king and then the next, and then the kingdom falls apart, and all we see from here out is one king after another rises and falls. They come and they go, some are good, most are bad, but they all die. Which means, where is this promised King from 2 Samuel 7? Is he really going to come? By the end of the Old Testament, with Israel in exile, we’re still looking for this king. We’re looking for the king to be born in the lineage of David. And what does the angel Gabriel say? Your son, Mary, your son named Jesus, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. And she knew about that. Jesus, our king, was long expected. And also, secondly, Jesus, our king, is unlike other kings 2. Jesus, our king, is unlike other kings. Jesus is a king in his own class. Nobody has ever been a king like him, for at least two reasons: his reign is eternal, and his reign is good. HIS REIGN IS ETERNAL Notice verse 33. This newborn King from the house of David “will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” There have been lots of kings throughout the history of the world, and lots of kingdoms, but no king or kingdom has lasted forever. None except this one. Jesus is unlike other kings because there will never be a king to succeed him. No king will ever be over him, but all kings will always be under him. That is why he is called the King of kings (see Revelation 19:16). And that is not hypothetical or subjective, it is a bold fact. It’s the truth about reality. Christmas is about Jesus coming here to be the king forever, and since it’s forever, that applies to right now. Don’t hear the word “eternal” and think: way out there someday. It’s more like in this moment and unceasingly so. Which means part of our witness to Jesus is not inviting people to make Jesus their king; it’s exhorting people to recognize Jesus as the king. And see, this is part of the problem with pluralism. While we absolutely respect the dignity of our neighbors to believe whatever they choose, every belief system is not equally valid, and only one is ultimate. Only one King lasts forever. And so we have to be careful not to buy the lie that “what’s true for you is true for you, and what true for me is true for me.” Jesus the King will have none of that. The proclamation of the gospel says that Jesus is King and we’re all guilty of treason. We either repent and submit to his kingship now, or we continue in our rebellion and face his judgment. That’s what we’re looking at here. And if we’re honest, this is not something that’s easy for us, especially in our American society where we have such a distaste for monarchy and authority. The American spirit is anti-king. We are anti-authority — “Don’t tread on me!” “We the people!” In our historical imagination, kings are tyrants, and in many cases throughout history that’s been true. But that’s been true because of our depravity, not because monarchy as a form of government is wrong. Monarchy is God’s design for government. In the new creation, which is the future of this world — where everything in this world is trending — the new creation will NOT to be a democratic republic. It’s going to be kingdom with a king who rules over everything, and who rules even now, whether we like it or not. The reign of Jesus, our King, is eternal. HIS REIGN IS GOOD But also — and this makes the all the difference — the reign of Jesus our King is good. And I love to talk about his goodness. This is where it all comes together, Jesus our King, is Lord, Savior, and Treasure. And he’s unlike other kings not just because he’s eternal, but because he is truly good in the deepest sense of the word. He is the truly righteous king. He is the king who will put all things as they should be and whose power is seen in his mercy. We proclaim that in the gospel too. That is the gospel. It’s that Jesus is King and we’re all guilty of treason, every last one of us, but somehow, to our great surprise, in the command to repent is the assurance of our complete forgiveness. It’s that if we turn from our treason, turn from our sins, and bow to Jesus, he will erase all of our guilt. Even if you’ve been on the payroll of hell, even if you’re drowning in shame, bow to Jesus and be forgiven. Bow to Jesus and be cleansed. How? Because Jesus is the king who gave his life for his people. Rather than execute judgment on the guilty, he suffered judgment in the guilty’s place. What king ever did that? Do you see what kind of King he is? There is no limit to his power. He upholds the universe by his words. He sits forever on his throne. He has the whole world in his hands. And yet on the night that he was betrayed he took those same hands and tied a towel around his waist and bent down on the ground to wash his disciples’ feet. He is a king who doesn’t use his people for his gain, but who saves his people at greatest cost to himself. He is a king who doesn’t bend his subjects to meet his needs, but he calls his subjects beloved and restores them to God’s original purpose, life abundant and unending. There is no king like Jesus. So what are you doing? What are you gonna do about Jesus our King? 3. Jesus, our King, must be obeyed. Here we learn from the example of Mary. But before we look at Mary’s response to Gabriel, I just want to make sure we’re clear on what’s happened here. Mary was a Jewish girl engaged to be married to Joseph, and although the Gospels don’t tell us her age exactly, because we know she was a virgin and that she was engaged, according to the customs of this time, she was mostly like a young teenager. Think 16 years old. So the angel Gabriel comes to this 16 year old girl and tells her that she is going to become pregnant with the promised King from the house of David. And the way she will conceive is a miracle. God will do it. He will make it happen with no human cooperation. The embryo will just BE, and the child will grow, and it will show. Mary, this 16 year old engaged girl, unmarried girl, will look the way all women look when they are pregnant. And I doubt that we appreciate the social cost this meant for her. The obvious conclusion of everyone around Mary when they saw her would be that she either had sinned with Joseph prior to marriage, or she had been unfaithful to him. This sincere, faithful Jewish girl would be seen as insincere and unfaithful. And not just in her pregnancy, but all the days of Jesus’s life, because people can do math: So Jesus is six years old and he’s already lost his teeth, but you’ve only been married how long? We know later on, in Jesus’s ministry — so when he was around 30 years old — he’s in a dispute with the Pharisees, and they said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality” (John 8:41), which implied that they believed he was. There was a reputation, three decades later. The misunderstanding of Mary, the wrong interpretation of her pregnancy, that was not just a nine months thing, but it followed her the rest of her life. And she knew it would when Gabriel said what he said to her. God sent Gabriel to tell Mary something outrageous, something she did not sign up for, something that had a cost. And what does she say? What is this 16 year old girl’s response to the shocking announcement of God? “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). And Luke, the Gospel writer, tells us this for our benefit. This encounter with Gabriel ends with this response of Mary because this response is an example of the response that we all should have when we meet Jesus. Because Jesus is the true King, the King of kings whose reign is eternal and good, what do we do? We obey. We do like Mary. We say from our hearts: I am your servant, Lord. Whatever you want. Which doesn’t mean we check a box. This doesn’t mean that we try to relegate Jesus as some kind of side-gig to our lives. It means we yield to him our everything. We surrender to Jesus our all. That’s an old song we don’t sing much anymore. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee my Blessed Savior, I surrender all. That is how we must respond to Jesus our King. And that is, in fact, what we do every Sunday when we come together at this Table. The Table For those of us who have obeyed Jesus our King, for those of us who have, by God’s grace, turned from our treason and bowed to him in faith, when we receive this bread and cup, we are saying anew that indeed we trust Jesus. We belong to Jesus. Our hope is in Jesus. We are saying, Behold, we are servants of the Lord. Whatever he wants. And when it comes to highs and lows, church, this is the true high point for us. It’s when we remember together the love of Jesus and his gospel, which we do now for the 51st time in 2021. His body is the true bread. His blood is the true drink. Let us serve you.

Jesus, Our Treasure

December 12, 2021 • David Mathis

One of the reasons that we love Christmas is its paradoxes. At Christmas in particular, we see realities come together that our human instincts do not expect to be together, and then we see, with surprise and delight, that they do indeed fit together, contrary to our assumptions — and it makes us happy. The paradoxes of Christmas expose our false and weak and small expectations. They remind us that we did not design this world. We do not run this world. And we did not design God’s rescue of us. And we cannot save ourselves, but God can, and does, in the Word made flesh. Some of our most beloved Christmas songs capture the great paradox of the high and holy God becoming human in a lowly baby born in Bethlehem: 
> Word of the Father now in flesh appearing (“O Come, All Ye Faithful”) Hail, Hail the Word made flesh (“What Child Is This?”) Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with men to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel (“Hark”)
 And of course, the hymnwriters didn’t make it up but found the beautiful paradox in Scripture: In the words of the angel in Luke 2:11: “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:9: “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” I love this great paradox of Christmas, that God became man, and its countless accompanying paradoxes, as in the words of the great Augustine, who said, Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die. As the late J.I. Packer wrote, The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation. ##Lord, Savior, Treasure Two weeks ago, to begin this Advent series, we considered “Jesus, Our Lord.” Jesus is fully God. He is the towering, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful God of Isaiah 45. As God, he formed and made all things, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Yahweh — the sacred name of God revealed in Exodus. Jesus is creator, sustainer, supreme Lord of heaven and earth, almighty in power, infinite in majesty, our Lord and our God. Then last Sunday, we turned to “Jesus, Our Savior.” Without ceasing to be God, Jesus took our full humanity, flesh and blood, human body and reasoning soul, with human mind and emotions and will, and with all our lowliness and ordinariness. Jesus had a normal name: Yeshua. Joshua. In the incarnation, he added to his eternal divine person a full and complete human nature, and came among us, as one of us, to save us. Now, this morning, we consider “Jesus, Our Treasure,” and to do so, we will linger in the great Christmas paradox of Revelation 5. But before we do, let’s not miss the Advent-like moment in Revelation 5, before we see the great paradox. ##Season of Waiting Kids, what kind of season is Advent? (Advent is a season of waiting.) Where are we waiting? (In a land of deep darkness.) What are we waiting for? (For the Light to shine on us.) Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating, of aching, of longing, of minor keys (like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”). In verse 1, the apostle John looks and sees — in the hand of God, the one seated on heaven’s throne — “a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” These are the purposes of God to be unfolded in history, the judgments against his enemies and salvation for his people in Revelation 6–22. Some speculate that this might be the scroll in Daniel 12:4, where God said, “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” John wants to know what it is that God has to say, and he hears “a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break it seals?’” At this point, it can be tempting to run right through verses 3 and 4, and not feel the weight of this moment in heaven. This what we do during Advent: we feel the weight of waiting. Instead of racing ahead to Christmas, we prepare our hearts by pausing to feel some of the longing and ache of what God’s people felt for centuries as they waited for the promised Messiah. Advent helps us see and enjoy Jesus as the supreme Treasure he is. So the angel asks, Who is worthy to open the book? And verse 3 says, “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” No one in heaven. None of the four great creatures around the throne in chapter 4. None of the elders in heaven who lead in worship. None of the angels, in all the heavenly host. Not Gabriel. Not Michael. And not even the one sitting on the throne opens the scroll. Not the Father. Not the Spirit. So heaven waits. How long did they wait? And if no one in heaven, then of course, no one on the earth or under the earth. Kings of earth, beware. None is worthy to open God’s scroll. Mere humans like us are not worthy to open the scroll. Satan, be warned, demons, beware, with whatever power you wield for now, you are not able to open the scroll. And so heaven waits. “No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” John begins to weep. And not just weep, but loudly. Perhaps he even wonders, What about Jesus? Verse 4: “I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” John doesn’t tell us how long he wept, but it must not have been long. He says, “He began to weep.” Mercifully, the announcement soon came. Then in verse 5 — I love this moment — one of the elders of heaven, one of the leaders in heavenly worship, turns to John and says, “Weep no more; behold” — do you know what a Christmas word “behold” is? “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31) “behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matt 2:1) “behold, the star . . . came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matt 2:9) “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10) “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many” (Luke 2:34) And here, in Revelation 5, the elder says, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” So, now through the lens of verses 5–6, let’s look together now at three aspects of the Advent longing fulfilled in “Jesus, Our Treasure.”
 ##1. We long for majesty and might. We long to see and admire and benefit from greatness. And the elder says in verse 5, “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.” “Lion of Judah” signifies that this is the long-promised king of Israel, the Messiah. In Genesis 49, as the patriarch Jacob neared death, he prophesied over each of his twelve sons, and said to Judah that his tribe would be heir to the throne and produce the kings of the nation: Judah, your brothers shall praise you . . . . Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion . . . . The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:8–10) Like a lion, Judah’s offspring will rule. Lionlike he will be king, with majesty and might. (And just so we don’t get the wrong impression of this rule, Judah received this honor not because of raw strength but self-sacrifice. He stepped forward to be the pledge of safety to redeem Benjamin from prison.). “Root of David” is much the same, prophesied centuries later, in Isaiah 11:1, which we often read during Advent: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [David’s father], and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” So, Jesus is first shown to be majestic and mighty. He is king, ruler, judge. He is sovereign, and fulfills our longings for greatness, for a ruler strong and mighty, to impress us and win our trust and protect us and provide for us and give us life. But we not only long for a great human king. We long for God himself. And as we saw two weeks ago, the Lion of Judah is not just Messiah, a human king. He is God himself. Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) famously spoke of an “infinite abyss” in each of us we try to fill it with all the wonders and the worst this world has to offer. But that ache in us, that restlessness, that infinite abyss in us, can only be filled by the infinite God himself. As Augustine famously said, God made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. Have you found your soul’s rest in God, in his eternal, divine excellencies? Are you still searching? Or have you found the place, the Person, in which your soul, in all the ups and downs of life, will be satisfied forever? Or did you learn it in the past but you now desperately need to come back to it? Behold the Lion of Judah. God wired your soul for him. Hard as you may try, you will not be truly, deeply, enduringly happy without him. We long for majesty and might, and Jesus is the Lion. ##2. We long for meekness and nearness. Look at verse 6. Having just heard the announcement in verse 5 about the worthiness of the Lion, John turns, and what does he see? . . . between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain . . . In verse 5, the elder said Lion, but in verse 6, John sees Lamb. And this is no disappointment. This is not a loss. This is gain. This is an addition. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, and no less, but he is also the slain Lamb. The Lion became Lamb, and gave himself to slaughter, that he might rescue his people. His lamb-ness doesn’t take away from his lion-ness; it adds to it. Jesus is not only majestic and mighty. He is meek and near, lowly, among us, as one of us. We not only want to see greatness from afar; we want to know greatness personally. We not only want a hero to admire. We want a brother to be at our side, a companion, a friend. And Jesus, as Lamb, is Emmanuel, God with us. With us to be one of us. With us to sacrifice himself for us. With us to shed his own blood that we might be forgiven. With us to befriend us. God designed our souls not only for his greatness, but also his nearness, and his meekness. You might ask, If Jesus is already God, and has been from eternity, what does his humanity have to add to his being our treasure? His divine excellencies are infinite. Yet we are human, and his becoming human exposes to our view glories we otherwise would not see. This is why we love Christmas and its paradoxes. The paradoxes don’t take away from his glory; they add to it. In 1734, Jonathan Edwards preached a famous sermon on “The Excellency of Christ.” In it, he says, Christ has no more excellency in his person, since his incarnation, than he had before; for divine excellency is infinite, and cannot be added to. Yet his human excellencies are additional manifestations of his glory and excellency to us, and are additional recommendations of him to our esteem and love [to be our treasure!], who are of finite comprehension. . . . The glory of Christ in . . . his human nature, appears to us in excellencies that are of our own [human] kind, and are exercised in our own way and manner, and so, in some respect, are peculiarly fitted to invite our acquaintance and draw our affection [our treasuring him]. . . . (emphasis added) So, the Lion, in becoming Lamb — the eternal Son in becoming man — while not enhancing his divine worth became even more a Treasure to us, who long for meekness and nearness, for companions and friends. ##3. In Jesus, we have it all in one person. It is one thing to see and enjoy the divine excellencies of unmatched strength and knowledge. And other to see and enjoy the human excellencies of humility and friendship. And then, greatest of all, to see and enjoy divine and human excellencies in one person. Because when majesty and meekness come together in one person they accent each other. As Edwards says, they “set off and recommend each other.” See it first in verse 6: John says he “saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes.” This Lamb is not dead. He is not slumped over. He is not kneeling. He is standing, alive and ready. And he has seven horns — signifying the fullness of his strength. And seven eyes, meaning he sees and rules all. That he is Lamb makes his lionlike work, from Revelation 6, through the rest of the book, all the more glorious. For the rest of Revelation, Lamb will be the main title for Jesus, as he displays his power and strength again and again: We’re told it is the Lamb who has conquered to open the scroll and seals, 5:5; 6:1; 8:1 The lowly Lamb ransomed people for God from every tribe, 5:9 The humble Lamb is declared Worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing, 5:12–13 The four living creatures and the elders of heaven fall down and worship the Lamb, 5:8, 14 Unbelievers tremble before the wrath of the Lamb, 6:16 The robes of the saints are made white in his blood; he has the power to forgive, 7:14 His blood conquers the accuser of the brothers, 12:11 With this lowly Lamb are 144,000 strong, who followed him wherever he goes, 14:1, 4 The Lamb conquers those who make war on him, 17:14 And the Lamb, in all his meekness, is not only with the one on the throne (7:9, 10) but in the midst of the throne, 22:1, 3 And of course, we not only admire the Lamb for his lionlike strength and power, but also the Lion for his lamblike gentleness and lowlines, that he gives his own neck for our rescue. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:3). As Revelation 1:4–5 says, Jesus is not only the lionlike “rule of kings on earth”; lamblike, he is also “him who loves us and has freed us from our sin by his blood.” We admire his greatness all the more in his nearness to us, as one of us. And we enjoy his nearness all the more because of his greatness. Because he is the Lamb, and has drawn near to save us, we can enjoy his lionlike majesty and holiness, without shaking in terror. And because he is the Lion, and wields the very power of God almighty, we can enjoy his lamblike humility and meekness and obedience, as man, to his Father, without worrying that he’s powerless to help his friends. God designed our souls for Jesus. Not just a divine Father, and not just a human friend, but God himself in human flesh. God himself, in the person of his Son, becoming one of us — God with us, as fully God and fully man, in one spectacular person. We not only marvel at his eternal divine excellencies that fill the infinite abyss of our souls, but also his human excellencies add to (for our human eyes and hearts) his glory and our joy, and finally his divine and human excellencies “set off and recommend each other to us.” He is not only our Lord. And not only our Savior. He is our Treasure. He is the Pearl of Greatest Price. He is the one of surpassing value, for whom we consider all else loss. He is the Treasure hidden in the field worthy selling all to have. Eternal life is to know him — not only the one true God but Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3). You were not only made for God, but for the God-man, who loved us and gave himself up for us, and rose again to be our living, knowable, enjoyable King. Which brings us to the Table ##Nails, Spear at Advent Critical to Jesus being our Treasure is that he not only came to live among us but — another paradox of Christmas — he was born to die for us. John not only saw a Lamb in verse 6 but the Lamb who “had been slain.” He came lamblike to lay down his life for us, then to rise, ascend, and rule the nations as both Lion and Lamb. He is our Treasure not only because of how he came but also how he saved us. As we pass the elements, we’ll sing “What Child Is This?” with its line about his being that slain that might seem out of place during Advent — but it is filled with glory: Nails, spear shall pierce him through. The cross be born for me, for you. Do we really need nails and spear in Advent? Yes, we do. See the glory of our Treasure: God himself, and Lion of Judah, and Lamb who was slain for us.

Jesus, Our Savior

December 5, 2021 • Jonathan Parnell

Jesus is Lord

November 28, 2021 • Joe Rigney

Picture an iceberg. A massive iceberg, with ice mountains rising from the sea in all directions, and ice roots stretching into the unseen depths of the ocean. Biblical revelation is like that iceberg. What we have in the Scriptures is the part of the iceberg that juts out of the water, but the fullness of God’s meaning plunges to the depths. Thus, in seeking to know God through the Bible, we have to go deep and wide. We read biblical sentences and paragraphs and chapters and books, and we go deep, meditating on the word and drawing out implications as we seek to trace the depth of the iceberg. And we go wide, connecting biblical sentences and paragraphs and chapters and books to other biblical sentences and paragraphs and chapters and book, showing the connections between one part of Scripture and another as we seek to chart the breadth of the iceberg. A few weeks ago, Pastor Jonathan went deep, exploring the meaning and implications of God’s name in Exodus 34. Last week Pastor Kenny went wide, connecting Exodus 35-40 back to Genesis 3 and forward to Revelation 20-21. So here at Cities, we’re whole Bible people. We love the whole counsel of God. We ask questions like, “What must be the case, in order for everything in the Bible to be true?” That’s a systematic theology question; it goes deep into reality to make sense of biblical claims. And we ask questions like, “How does God progressively reveal himself over time?” That’s a biblical theology question; it goes wide into the Bible to trace themes from Genesis to Revelation. In doing this, our aim is to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, both the breadth and the depth. A fundamental conviction as we seek to go deep and wide is that we learn to read the Bible from the biblical authors. We learn to read the Torah by seeing how the prophets read the Torah. We learn to read the Old Testament by seeing how Jesus and the apostles read the Old Testament. We look for quotations and listen for echoes so that our minds begin to run in biblical ruts. We don’t merely accept Paul’s doctrine; we seek to imitate Paul’s method. We follow Paul’s train of thought and then seek to reproduce it elsewhere. This brings us to Isaiah 45. This is Isaiah’s oracle concerning Cyrus, king of Persia. Isaiah wrote this 200 years before Cyrus appeared on the scene. Despite being a pagan ruler, Cyrus is the Lord’s anointed, his messiah, his Christ. Though Cyrus does not know Yahweh, Yahweh knows Cyrus, names Cyrus, calls Cyrus, and equips Cyrus to fulfill God’s purposes. God will go before Cyrus and subdue nations and open locked gates for him (45:1-3). He does this so that God through Cyrus will restore the fortunes of Israel following their exile to Babylon (Isaiah 45:4-5). And Yahweh acts in this way so that all people will know “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (45:5, 6). In fact, the uniqueness of the Lord becomes the dominant theme of this entire chapter. Again and again, Yahweh asserts his unique divine prerogatives. Again and again, the Lord, through his prophet, shouts that he alone is God. Hear the trumpet blast of God’s absolute uniqueness sound seven times in this one chapter.