In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4, ESV). But where is that river, and where is that city? When Isaiah prophesied that gathering of all the nations to the mountain of Yahweh’s holiness, Jerusalem, he prophesied it in the face of the fact that Jerusalem would be burned in 586 BC by the Babylonians. And though some exiles, some survivors, returned and rebuilt the temple seventy years later, those who saw the foundation of the new temple wept at its mediocrity (Ezra 3:12). No, Isaiah’s prophecy was not fulfilled in 538 BC, when the foundations of Zerubbabel’s Temple were laid, or 516 BC when it was completed; it was not fulfilled in 20 BC, when Herod’s Temple was begun, or in 64 AD when it was completed. It will not be fulfilled in the Israel founded in 1948 AD—in fact, it will not be fulfilled in this creation at all. That fact is clear when Jesus tells the Samaritan woman: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain [Gerizim] nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:21-23, ESV).
Though the earthly Jerusalem would not be the place to which all nations would be gathered, though the festivals of the Lord’s new worship in His Spirit and in Jesus, the Truth, would not happen in the Jerusalem Temple, God’s purposes were carried out in that earthly Jerusalem. Because it was there that the Lord set a sign to which all people could look and behold the glory of Yahweh. “In that day,” Isaiah said, “the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire…” (Isaiah 11:10, ESV). The root of Jesse, the son of David, is none other than Jesus Christ, through whom the Father gathers all nations. Christ on the cross, set up in the midst of Israel, just outside Jerusalem, is God’s glory, hidden under the suffering caused by your sin and mine. In Christ crucified, “[Yahweh] has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10, ESV).
Before all nations—before your eyes—“Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1, ESV). And so it is that “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25, ESV). This is the glory of God, and there is no other. From the place of that cruciform Sign, the Lord sent out survivors—twelve of them—to the nations. Jesus promised that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, ESV). And He specifically ordained His Apostles under that promise: “Thus it is written, for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and for repentance for the forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name in all the nations. Beginning from Jerusalem, you are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:47). And Paul included himself as a “minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16, ESV). Beginning from Jerusalem, this preaching of repentance for the sake of the forgiveness of sins has come all the way to you—and it is you, made holy by the Spirit of holiness, who have been brought “as an offering to [Yahweh]…to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says [Yahweh], just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of [Yahweh]” (Isaiah 66:20, ESV). Continue reading