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Jesus the Branch!

November 29, 2015

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First Sunday in Advent                                     Trinity Lutheran Church

29 November 2015                                             Murdock, NE

 

+Jesu Juva +

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16

 

Advent runs this way: promise and fulfillment. That is Advent’s rhythm. It is the rhythm of Scripture.

 

Promise and fulfillment. That’s what you should expect today. God promises salvation to Israel. His promises are fulfilled in Jesus. “Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.”

 

God promised that King David’s throne would last forever – that one of David’s sons would sit on that throne and rule the world. Now, Jeremiah the prophet, who lives under one of the last kings of Israel, Zedekiah, preaches that the days are coming when God would keep His promise to David.

 

Humanly speaking. Jeremiah sounded like an idiot. A total fraud. One blowing smoke. After all, the days of Jeremiah look anything but days of fulfillment. Check it out. Israel suffers under the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar set up Mattaniah as his puppet king. Nebuchadnezzar pulls the strings. Nebuchadnezzar changed King Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.

 

Zedekiah means “Righteous is the LORD.” Total insult! Total mockery of the one true God! In addition, Zedekiah is a pathetic individual. Feeble. Weak. Vacillating. A ditherer. He brought about more misery and destruction on the southern kingdom of Judah. He kept the prophet Jeremiah locked up in his royal prison.

 

Yet Jeremiah sees through the present suffering to future glory. Amidst the doom and gloom of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet sees ahead to the coming days when God would have His day. God would keep His promise to David. God would once again be king and priest of His people.

 

So, Jeremiah preaches a “branch” on David’s family tree. A righteous branch will sprout from David’s line. A righteous branch will spring up on the dry and dead family tree of David. As a leafless fig tree springs to life when summer is near, so the tree of David would shoot forth a living Branch.

 

The prophet Isaiah also spoke of this Branch. In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the remnant of Israel (Is 4:2). So did the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 6:12-13). Promise.

 

Jesus is the Branch of Righteousness. Fulfillment. The coming days that Jeremiah saw were the days when the angel would come to the Virgin Mary with the good news that she would conceive a Child. That the Child’s name would be Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. Jeremiah saw in prophetic picture the days when this Child would do justice to God’s Law by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. The Baby of Bethlehem. The Man of the cross. Jesus: He is the budded Branch of King David’s family tree!

 

FOR YOU and for your salvation Jesus did what Israel’s kings before Him could not do and would not do. He did what is just and right in the land. He worked the justice and righteousness of God. He obeyed the Law of God perfectly. Down to the smallest letter and the least stroke of a pen. Everything God’s Law demanded Jesus did perfectly. He healed the sick. Opened the eyes of the blind. Made the deaf to hear. Cast out demons. Raised the dead. Preached the good news that the kingdom of God had come with His ministry. JESUS WAS THE KING ISRAEL LONGED FOR! Jesus was the Messiah the prophets pointed to – the Branch that was the hope of God’s people. Jesus is the righteousness of God come down from heaven. Jesus is the righteousness of God made flesh.

 

As the promised King, Jesus did justice to God’s Law. First, He kept is perfectly in your place. Second, He perfectly received in His-on-the-Good-Friday-cross-body the damnation that your sins deserved. Righteous Branch Jesus became sin FOR YOU. He was cursed and condemned. He was grafted to the tree of death. He did God’s justice and righteousness to death on the cross. Branch Jesus was exposed to the fire of God’s wrath. So, He withered and died under the heat of God’s justice. Branch Jesus was firmly planted in the earth – buried in the borrowed grave. Three days later He sprung to life again. Therefore, this Branch of Righteousness, the perfect sprout of David’s line, grafted to the tree of the cross, has become the tree of life FOR YOU — the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.

 

Branch Jesus is now the tree from which you, dying sinners, may eat and live forever. The sap that flows through this Branch is the very life of God Himself. His leaves bring healing from sin and death to the nations. His fruit is the righteousness of God that He gives all to eat as a free gift. Jeremiah ate of His fruit. So did Isaiah, all the prophets, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Seth, Adam and Eve. All who heard the promise of the coming Messiah and trusted that God would save them by this Branch ate of His fruit.

 

You too are grafted into Branch Jesus. You draw life from Him. In your Baptism you are grafted into Branch Jesus. You are immersed in His death and burial, His life and glory. In Absolution you draw on His life as you believe the words of forgiveness spoken by the called and ordained servant of Christ. In the Lord’s Supper you eat and drink the fruit of His sacrifice – His own Body and Blood. You feed off of Him because He gave His life FOR YOU. He gave His life into death so that you live in Him.

 

This is precisely why the Branch has a unique and magnificent name in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 23 says: “This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD our righteousness.” His name tells you that Jesus is God’s righteousness reaching down to you. You need to look to no one else. Don’t look at yourselves. Look only to Jesus.

 

In today’s text Jeremiah tweaks this slightly and declares: “This is the name by which she will be called — the LORD our righteousness.” Who is SHE? SHE is the church! God’s Israel, His people! The church is named by the name of her Branch. The Bride takes the name of her Bridegroom: The LORD our Righteousness. That’s the name stamped on you in your baptism. Given to you as pure gift. The gift of Jesus. His death and resurrection that counts FOR YOU! His name is your name. His righteousness is your righteousness.

 

The LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. That’s what you, as the church proclaim to the world. You don’t claim to be better than others. You don’t claim to be without sin. But you do claim a righteousness, a holiness and a perfection that doesn’t come from you. It is not your doing. Instead, the LORD JESUS is your righteousness

 

In Him you are saved. In Him you dwell in safety.

 

He strengthens your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when the Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones on the Last Day. Until then we pray: Come, Lord Jesus, our righteous Branch and our righteousness.

 

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