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Advent 2 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 4, 2022
Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Today you will be able memorize the sermon word for word.   When you go home you will take the sermon with you; fully memorized.  Don’t doubt yourself.  You can do it.  Now, I am not talking about my sermon, but John the Baptist’s sermon.  God’s prophets often were men of few words. 

The Prophet Jonah, once God’s whale convinced him to do it, preached this rousing sermon to the people of Nineveh. Jonah 3:4–5 (ESV)  4 … “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”  Apparently short sermons can be effective.  Eight words in English, just four in Hebrew and the people of Nineveh believe God and repent.

            John the Baptist also is brief in his wilderness preaching.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV)  2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Nine words in English, seven in Greek and the people confess their sins and are baptized in the Jordan River.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  We learn in Matthew 4:17 that Jesus also uses this same, simple message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This is a short enough sermon that you have already memorized it.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

            There are not many words, but the words carry a lot of freight.  Repent means to turn; to turn away from sin and evil and unbelief, and turn to God. 

People come from all around to hear John’s message and respond by repenting and being baptized in the J0ordan.  Others do not repent.  The religious leaders; the Pharisees and Sadducees come out to John’s baptism and John questions their repentance because John knows they trust in their lineage. They are children of Abraham; God’s chosen people, but do they fear, love and trust in God above all things? Do they love God and love their neighbor?  Do they know that they are by nature sinful?  Do they show the fruit of good works flowing from faithful repentance?  John warns them, Matthew 3:8 (ESV)  8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  Matthew 3:10 (ESV)  10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

            This word, “repent”, is devastating to your ego.  To repent is to admit that you have a problem. To repent is to admit you are not perfect.  To repent is to admit you are wrong.  To repent is to admit you are not independent; you cannot do it on your own. To repent means turning from selfishness to selflessness.  Too easily and too often, you walk the wrong path, do the wrong things.  You follow the false gods of your own feelings and ideas. The call to repent knocks you flat and leaves you gasping for air because you know the truth about yourself and the truth is not pretty.  Repent!

            “Repent”, however, is not the end of the story.  The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  The King-dom.  The domain of the King.  Who is the king?  God is king. Jesus is king.  The Kingdom is where Jesus does His Jesusing.  It is where Jesus reigns as Lord.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the reign, the rule of God in Jesus.  God in flesh, God with us.  The Kingdom of God is not a place, it is an action.  It is the activity of kingly rule.  God is beginning to act.  God is coming near.  The long expected Messiah of God is at work in the world.  His rule, His reign, His authority has come.   

            How does King Jesus rule?  He rules in humble service and sacrifice.  He reigns by lifting up repentant sinners, washing them clean, and clothing them in the robe of His own righteousness.  King Jesus rules by connecting to the sins of the world in His baptism in the Jordan River.  Jesus rules by becoming sin for you and dying on the cross to pay for your sins.  He rules by saving sinners and bringing them into His Kingdom. 

            King Jesus rules in humble service and sacrifice but make no mistake — do not be fooled by His humility — Jesus is King.  Repent, for the gracious reign of God is here.  Repent, for the glorious reign of God is coming.  The complete, total reign of God is coming when Jesus returns in glory and ultimate authority and the fruitless trees will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 

            On that day Jesus will gather the good wheat and bring you into his barn; into the heavenly city to live with Him forever.  The fruitless chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.

            “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Be brutally honest about who you are.  Know yourself.  Know you are indeed a poor, miserable sinner.  Know you are by nature sinful and unclean.  Know you are poor in spirit.  And know King Jesus promise to you, Matthew 5:3 (ESV)  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

            You, poor in spirit, repentant sinner, yours is, present tense,the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are — right now — in the reign of King Jesus.  Jesus is your Lord and master.  This truth is hard on your independent, rebellious side that wants to be in charge, but this truth is truly wonderful.  Despite what “rebellious you” thinks, what a relief to know that you are not in charge.

       On that day Jesus will gather the good wheat and bring you into his barn; into the heavenly city to live with Him forever.  The fruitless chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.

It is hard for children to live in a house where there is constant turmoil and tension and rules are unclear and always changing.  It is troubling when parents threaten punishment but don’t follow through.  Or when a parent just ignores the rules sometimes and other times comes down severely for the same offense.  The kids end up walking on eggshells not knowing what is acceptable and what is not. Children do better when rules are clear and parents follow through when rules are broken.  With Jesus as King you have a good ruler with consistent rules and abundant grace and forgiveness.  This is a great blessing. 

You are subject to King Jesus, you submit to His authority.  You do not have figure out what is right and wrong.  You do not have to make the hard decisions.  You are not the judge.  You just live out God’s commands under Jesus’ rule and authority.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Life is still hard.  You still live in a sinful world.  The devil, the world and your own sinful flesh will continue to try to separate you from King Jesus.  You will still struggle mightily with sin and temptation.  So you continue to listen to John the Baptist and continue to repent, for the reign of Jesus is at hand. 

            You are in the gracious reign of Jesus who forgives all your sins waiting for Jesus to return.  For now He is being patient, wanting all people to be saved and this can lead some to grow weary of waiting and to think Jesus is not king.  But know for certain, the day is coming when Jesus will complete His rule and come in power and glory and destroy all evil.  He will come in judgement and separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the fruitful and the fruitless.  In Christ, you are wheat, you are sheep, you are fruitful.  Do not let the devil lure you out from the reign of Jesus.  You have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to Kingdom of Jesus, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  You are a subject of King Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven, now in its gracious incompleteness and forever in His total, complete glory.   

      And so you pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  In his catechism Martin Luther explains, “What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”  You pray for Jesus to be your ruler and for you to submit to His reign. 

How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

            You are safe in His Kingdom for eternity.  As you live your life in the light of Jesus’ gracious Kingdom, surrounded by evil and darkness, remember your Kingdom is not of this world.  Remember you belong to Jesus.  Remember, Jesus is coming soon.  So each day when you are tempted to think you can do it on your own, when you are tempted to think Jesus is not in charge, remember John the Baptist’s sermon, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

            Amen.

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