Are You the Messiah?

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Second Sunday of Advent

Malachi 3:1-4
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

When we remember that the Sons of Zebedee argued over who should sit on the right hand of Jesus, do you suppose that the Baptizer was tempted to say, “No, I’m not the Messiah, but I will sit beside him when he retakes the Throne of David.”

We know very little about John, son of Zechariah, except that he announced the arrival of the Messiah. How he did the announcing was certainly in the style of Malachi.

I am about to send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me. In a trice He shall enter His Temple, the Master Whom you seek, and the covenant’s messenger whom you desire, look, he comes, said the Lord of ArmiesThe Hebrew Bible by Robert Alter

When you reread that first sentence, you should notice that the “I” is also the “Me.” We take God to be saying this to Malachi, so, we should take God to be the one who is coming later. God, then, is saying He will enter the Temple, an act that will renew the Covenant relationship with His people.

To place this promise from God in context, Malachi was a prophet sometime from 515 to 458 BCE. [We know so little about Malachi that the name might be his title.] The people had returned from Babylon and the Temple had been rebuilt. But the people were losing their spirit. They were under the tight control of Syria, they had no king, no army, and no money. As with the Egyptian exodus, the people were dreaming about how good live had been under the Babylonians.

While things did improve, the old days of King David and King Solomon were never to reappear. There was a brief period of troubled independence under the Maccabees before the Romans took over.

Little wonder that the first followers of Yeshua considered him to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Malachi. That would have been especially true of those who heard the Baptizer preach and took his baptism. Jews of the First Century had to look back on nearly a thousand years of troubled times with only promises to keep them warm.

John baptized Jesus and told all who would listen, ‘He is the Messiah.’

We are not told what God said directly to John. It may be that his parents told he of the angel visits. His father was a priest, so John may have studied to be a priest as well. Or, he may have taken a unique path of his own. He seems to have taken the Nazarite vow, complete with mangy hair and strange diet. Some have suggested that he lived for a time in the Qumran community.

However he grew up, the Gospels all describe him as doing the job given to him. Clear a way for the Lord’s road, level in the desert a highway for our God! Isaiah 40:4 Alter John even refused at first to baptize Jesus; ‘I am not worthy.’

God selected John for an important mission, knowing that he had the inner strength to complete it. John was human, so likely had doubts at times. Maybe as a teen he rebelled against the whole idea. Maybe he had an eye of a girl he wanted to marry. Whatever, he did the job.

We each have a small job God wants us to do. We will not be immortalized for it. Often, no one else will even know we did it. Sometimes, we may not know we did something God wanted us to do. But life is filled with small things. In prison, John was satisfied to hear from Jesus, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard. The blind are recovering their sight, cripples are walking again, lepers being healed, the deaf hearing, dead men are being brought to life again, and the good news is being given to those in need. And happy is the man who never loses his faith in me.” Luke 7:22-23 Phillips

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Be Ready

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First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

25 “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, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” ESV

This reading is an extension of the parousia that starts with v. 20. 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come nearESV These five verses describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and Jesus seems to be saying that when you see that desolation, it will only be a small taste of what is to come.

But 25-28 describe the return of the King of Kings. In that sense, it fits with the first coming of the King of Kings—Christmas.

Luke sets this account inside the walls of Jerusalem instead of on the Mount of Olives as in Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27. We should expect the Messiah to return to Jerusalem.

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass awayESV  

Figs were common in the region, so everyone knew what he meant by this small parable. We know spring is near when daffodils push up out of the soil. In other words, the sign will be obvious.

The word all presents us with a bit of a problem. Having said that this generation will not pass away, he then says all. Clearly that generation has passed away, so what happened to the returning Messiah? Many possibilities have been presented, none being the clear winner. Remember that Jesus did not know the details of the end either.

We try to make all the passages about us when they are really about God. Look back at v 26, the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then v 27, the Son of Man coming in a cloud; all Heaven; God related.

The key for us is to be ready. As Christians we have something greater than ourselves to look forward to. Most people see life as little more than running in a squirrel cage, getting nowhere fast. We have the Heavenly Wedding and Banquet to live for. Be ready.

The Son of Man is here. He never really left. Yes, the Holy Spirit is here as well, but Jesus is seen by thousands of people on earth today.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” ESV

I underlined one phrase for special attention. It is too easy to become so involved in living our lives that we forget God. Likewise, the problems of living can become so burdensome that we despair of ever seeing God or goodness again. Either can get in the way of living a Christian life.

A Christian life is a life of love. 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proudIt does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongsLove does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truthIt always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresNIV If this chapter was the only thing Paul ever wrote, it would be enough.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence