First Sunday in Advent

Behold, thy King cometh unto thee” Matt 21:5

Have you ever heard the idle thought, “I wonder what I would do if Jesus came back today?” Or “I wonder if he really does know what I am thinking?”

If we were found doing something that we ought not be doing, in though word or deed, we would be ashamed, and very embarrassed. And that pain would be for him as well as us. We would hate to let down the One who has given his life for us. Or bring sorrow to the One who is altogether good.

There is a sly trick that sinners have tried, if they are familiar with the Bible, they find a welcome ally in a verse from Habakkuk (1:13), “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” It sounds like The God of Heaven can not see evil. But Habakkuk negates that thought with his very next verse, “Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?”

The pagan idea is that God cannot be pure if he has to gaze upon evil, as if evil will corrupt God! There fore, they say, his goodness limits him to seeing only good.

Those who think this have no understanding of God. A baby is pure in the sense that it is innocent of evil; they have no experience, knowledge or imagination to have corrupted them yet.

But we can not press the limits of God in any way. He is, in fact, all-seeing and all-knowing. Only the heathen can subscribe to the thought Habakkuk was testing, and rejected. The psalmist puts an example on the lips of a murder, (Psalm 94:7) “Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.”

Let it go at this: if God did not watch and grieve over the sins of men, we would have no salvation. In fact, there would be no personal knowledge of God. His pureness and holiness would shut him away from us altogether.

But God is not like that. Not the Lord who gave his life for ours. Not the Father, whose pain and sorrow had to be at least equal to the Son’s.

There is a curiosity in what Matthew wrote here. Even though all four of the evangelists speak of Christ’s Triumphal Entry, only John and Matthew refer to Zechariah’s prophecy. And they both paraphrase it, rather than quoting it exactly Zech (9:9) “O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.”

However, Matthew weaves into his citation a similar passage of Isaiah’s which goes as follows “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh.” The coincidence may have been accidental, but Matthew rather intended a conflation, or a melding of the two, so as to enlarge the meaning. His is what it would come to, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is thy salvation.”

Our King does come – Then, now and always. He not only brings salvation, but he is salvation. That means that he is the Messiah!

Let us return to our idle thought “I wonder what I would do if Jesus came back today?” That would not be a worry, if we were not occupied with sin and sinful thoughts. It also would not happen if we were engaged in prayer, inviting Jesus into our heart and mind, sensing him with us, and even expecting him to be with us, as he promised in Matt 28:20 “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

Even so, we should ask ourselves how we ought to behave in Jesus’ presence. There is only one answer – with awe and reverence. Or to be more specific, we could offer him the gifts that prayer provides us – namely petition, intercession, confession, thanksgiving and adoration. All of these gifts are from us, to Him.

It would also be appropriate to give thought to the ways in which Jesus comes to us. One is history. These things we hear about really did happen. You and I could not be there. But each time we think about Jesus, or hear his Gospel, we participate in the witness of those that were there.

How else does our king come to us? One way is in his sacraments – and especially in the Sacrament of the Altar. Christ comes in the Sacred host, and in the Holy Chalice. We note in him there, the same mildness and lowliness he showed in the manger as a baby.

Again, Jesus comes not only sacramental, but also mystically. He comes in the word of God, pure and holy, but as sharp as a sword. He is also with us mystically every time we pray – whether we be alone with him or in the fellowship of the Church.

Our King also has a moral presence and comes to us in conscience. When he finds in us a conscience, it is evident the spirit got there first. It is He – the Spirit – who prepares us for the Son, and it is the Son who takes us to the Father, that is the Holy Trinity at work!

In all these modes of presence, Jesus comes in person. With anyone else, such presence would be considered as being given through a substitute or an agent. But not with Christ! Where the Sacrament is, he is there! Where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is there! Not as an idea, or a feeling, but as our living Savior and King!

The bounds that limit our vision or our presence have limitation on him. When Christ comes to us – no matter what the mode – he does so in his own power and in the wholeness of his person.

And remember this. Our King does not do things by halves. When we have made plain we want and need him, he completely comes to us, and we are in his presence!