Listen to it:
“The King is Coming (pt. 1)”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The King is coming. And not just any king, but the King of all creation; the King who is also the Creator of all that exists; your King is coming. And when the King comes, that will be the end of all pretending, all play-acting, all hypocrisy. There will be no more masks, no more secrets, no more excuses, no more justifications, no more rationalizations. Everything will be stripped bare; every person’s heart exposed, every hill lowered, every valley raised. All flesh is grass. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever. The King is coming! That is John’s singular message. Picture the scene: you are standing on the bank of the Jordan River, with who knows how many people; and there, on the other side, the wilderness side, is John, preaching. “Repent! The Reign of heaven is near!” Not a kingdom, as in a land-mass; but the reign, the activity, the action of God on behalf of His creation. There is John, calling the people of Israel out of the Land of Promise, and back to the Jordan; back to where they first entered the Land. Back to the beginning, to confess their sin; to recognize it for what it was: rebellion against the King. To come back out of the land to meet the King, so that they may enter it again with Him. Who is this King? It is their God, the God who delivered them from the land of Egypt, from the House of Slavery; the God who restored to them the Land of Promise after exile in Assyria and Babylon. Come out to meet Him, confessing your sin!
“How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7). I don’t know how beautiful John and his feet are, covered in the skin of a camel, with a leather belt around his waist; eating locusts and the sap from trees, calling it honey. And I don’t know how good this news is: the King is coming, and His coming means that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. The King is coming and He’s bringing His winnowing shovel, to clean out His threshing floor of everything undesirable, everything evil. He will, by the breath of His mouth, blow the chaff into the fire, and gather the grain into His barn. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit for salvation, but everyone who denies Him, who rejects Him, will be baptized with fire for condemnation. Is this good news?
For some it is clearly not. For the Pharisees and Sadducees, who have nothing in common but their common rejection of the Word of God from John’s mouth, this is not good news. They come to the Jordan, and John sees right through them. “You generation of snakes, you offspring of serpents, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Show fruit in keeping with this repentance. Don’t say that you have Abraham for your father. That you’ve grown up in the Church; that you know your place and everyone else knows your place, too. Do you think God cares? Do you think it matters before God how much time you’ve put in? Do you think you can repay God? Don’t try to do more; don’t try to be better. The King is seeking faith: faith in your sin and faith in your Savior. Recognize that your sin is rebellion against the King. But they who have the beauty of holiness on their faces have the poison of malice in their hearts (Anonymous commentary on Matthew). The King is coming: there can be no more hypocrisy, no more outward righteousness, no more self-built sanctity. You don’t go up for salvation; salvation always comes down. As at the Exodus, when God came down to deliver the people (Exodus 3:8). As the Psalmist and Isaiah both pray: “Bow your heavens, O Yahweh, and come down!” (Psalm 144:5); “O that You would rend the heavens and come down!” (Isaiah 64:1). God comes down to meet His people for salvation and judgment; the King is coming.
And is that good news for you? That your King is coming? Look at John; follow his gaze. See Him? The King is coming! Watch, and wait, and look with John: Do you recognize your sin for what it is: rebellion against the King? Who is your God and King? From where does He reign for you? Do what the people do: return to the water, confessing your sin and watch for the One who is coming. See, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He (Zechariah 9:9). Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/4/10