Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sermon: Wednesday of Advent 2 (Populus Zion)

13 December 2006 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Ex 2:1-10, John 1:15-18

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

One of the traits of human beings is we are curious. We like to look at things and figure them out. We use the gift of the mind to break things down, analyze them part by part, figure out the function of each piece. We give names to each system, and then try to improve on them. As a result, technology moves forward, and if used properly, our lives get better.

Of course, God’s Word is always perfect, and yet we do the same thing. We break Christian doctrine down into distinct parts, give them technical names, like soteriology, eschatology, and pneumatology – and then dissect those parts like earthworms on trays in a biology lab.

This careful attention to the teachings of Scripture is not necessarily a bad thing – although it can become so compartmentalized, so weighted down in jargon, as to become just another theoretical subject for academicians to sell expensive books to dazzled and confused students with dwindling bank accounts.

There is also the danger that the breaking apart of God’s Word can serve to attempt to divide God up himself. An early heretic named Marcion went so far as to drive such a wedge between the Old and New Testaments as to surmise that there were actually two distinct gods: the bad god of the Old Testament and the good god of the New.

But thanks be to the One Triune God that there is only one holy revelation of Himself! For both Old and New Testaments testify of Him whose coming we await, the God who takes on human flesh, whose birth we celebrate anew two weeks hence.

For Jesus makes his appearance long before the Gospels tell the Christmas story. Centuries before John penned his Gospel of Jesus (through his own witness), Moses was doing the same (through his own witness). Jesus is all over the Old Testament, a fact lost on Marcion, and overlooked by many today.

Moses, who was drawn from the water and declared a son by the princess, was himself a preview of the Christ, who was to come up out of the water as the King of the Universe would proclaim: “This is my beloved Son.”

The great prophet Moses began his life with a satanic king seeking the destruction of a yet-unborn savior. And Jesus would fulfill this image by himself being attacked before he was even born, as the also-diabolical King Herod tried to snuff out the life of the prophesied but yet-unborn Savior.

Both men would rise up to defy kings by speaking the Word of God, by doing signs and wonders, and by leading a people held in bondage to slavery. Moses would lead as many as a million to safety through water, and the Lord Jesus Christ would fulfill this image by leading billions to freedom through water.

And while Moses survived the forty-years of wandering in the desert, leading the people through temptation – it was our blessed Lord who survived forty days in the desert alone, fasting and struggling against temptation on our behalf.

Moses, alone among all the prophets, would speak to God in His very presence, and the glory of God shone in the face of Moses, glowing so brightly that Moses had to veil his face to avoid frightening the people when he came down from the mountaintop. Jesus too veiled his glory, only allowing his three closest disciples to see His own face aglow with heavenly glory on the mountaintop.

And yet, for all of the parallels between Moses and Jesus, Moses only goes part of the way. Jesus, the New and Greater Moses, fulfills and completes what Moses began.

For Moses was a godly man, but our Blessed Lord is God and man. Moses brought the revelation of God’s Law, but our blessed Lord brought the revelation of the fulfillment of that Law. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Moses would see God face to face, and yet Jesus’ wore the very face of God. For “no-one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” For the light that shone from Moses’ face was only reflected light, like that of the moon, while the glow from the countenance of our Lord was the source, the “light of light” from the “very God of very God.”

For Moses was burdened with carrying the heavy stone tables of the Law to his people. The Law broke the spirits of all whose sins were exposed, including Moses, whose own encounter with the Rock in the desert (whom Scripture teaches was Christ) brought about punishment from God, not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. And yet, Jesus, the Rock who was struck by the blows of the rod of Moses as well as the was struck by soldiers during his passion – is without sin, and indeed leads his people to an Eternal Promised Land.

None of this is to belittle Moses. Far from it. For as Scripture testifies:

“But since then, there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before his servants, and in all the land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deut 34:10-12).

Moses, the great liberator, the prophet who spoke with God, the lawgiver was a foretaste of the New and Greater Liberator; the Prophet, Priest, and King who was, is, and ever shall be God; the giver of the Gospel and of everlasting life.

For Moses freed Israel from Pharaoh’s tyranny, and Christ frees us, the New Israel, from Satan’s tyranny. The exodus of Israel brought forth the Passover Meal of bread and wine, in which death passed over. Moses prayed and God gave the people water to drink, and manna and miraculous flesh to eat to sustain them in their sojourn in the desert. Jesus completes the Passover Meal of bread and wine, in which eternal death passes over. Jesus gives us living baptismal water, and the New and Greater Manna of his own Flesh and Blood to eat and drink in our own sojourn in the desert.

For as Moses descended the mountain carrying the heavy stone tables of the law, it was to be our Lord Jesus who would ascend Mount Calvary, bearing the heavy burden of the law for all of us, in addition to bearing the cross, upon which every transgression of the Law would be nailed and put to death.

We thank God for giving us faithful shepherds like Moses, as well as the Good Shepherd, Jesus. We praise God for the faithful witness of prophets who bore the Word of God to us, like Moses, even as we praise God for the Prophet to end all Prophets, who was Himself the Word of God incarnate. We glorify God for giving us His Holy Law through Moses, and then fulfilling that Law through our Lord Jesus Christ for us, on our behalf, for our life and salvation.

God’s Word is perfect, an unbroken concord of revelation, of the harmony of Old and New Testament, of Law and Gospel, of the mystical Unity of the Triune God, of the glorious fulfillment of the law and prophets. The Scriptures testify of Him who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End, He who is, who was, and who ever shall be. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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