daily biblical sermons


HE SHALL BE GREAT TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, AND HE SHALL BE OUR PEACE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 08, 2017
Micah 5:1-4, Psalm 12, Matthew 1:18-23


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted

 

"Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel' (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:20-23).


Today we hear St. Matthew's beautiful account of the birth of Jesus. Mary, a young virgin, was his mother. She was betrothed to Joseph, a descendent of King David, but before they had come to live together, Joseph, who had not yet had sexual relations with her, found that she was pregnant. St. Matthew says that she was with child by the Holy Spirit. But all that Joseph knew was that he was not the father of this child. So he decided to divorce her.


But he was stopped by an angel who told him in a dream that she had conceived by the Holy Spirit a child who "will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), and St. Matthew notes that this will fulfill Isaiah's prophecy: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Furthermore, when the angel speaks to Joseph, he calls him "Joseph, son of David" (Matthew 1:20).


This message to Joseph is clearly presented as informing him that his wife had conceived by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Messiah, the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel for a coming Son of David, who would save his people. But the mention that he would save them from their sins put limits on the strong political-military idea that the Jews of that time had of the coming Messiah whom they longed for.


St. Matthew sees Jesus' birth as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy about the birth of Emmanuel, God with us; and indeed Jesus does fulfill this prophecy. He is God with us, for he is a divine person united to a human nature so that God could actually live among us as a man. The purpose for which God did this was, as the angel tells St. Joseph, to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).


So, as we see just from this introduction, Jesus is a very different kind of Messiah from the military-political figure that many first century Jews were expecting and longing for. He was not a new David who would save Israel from the Romans who occupied and ruled their land, but rather a Savior who would save them from their sins.


Yet Jesus would be the expected and longed-for Son of David through St. Joseph whom the angel points out to be a son of David. Even though Joseph is not Jesus' physical father, as his adoptive and legal father, he passes down to Jesus his own Davidic ancestry. Hence Jesus fulfills the Davidic prophecies as the Son of David, because St. Joseph, a son of David, is his legal and adoptive father.


Jesus is thus the one whom God promised David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom ... And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever ... And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16).


Jesus' throne would be established forever. He still reigns today, Christ the King of the Universe. He reigns over the kingdom of God, a kingdom of righteousness and peace for all who put their faith in him, a kingdom where all his subjects are freed from their sins and guilt and the punishment for their sins and are reconciled with God.


Jesus is the Messiah who effectively propitiates God's wrath against us for our sins by voluntarily dying a painful death as a substitutionary victim, dying vicariously - in our place - for our sins, suffering the death we should have suffered for them as our punishment so that we who put our faith and trust in him might be set free by God from our sins, our guilt, and our punishment for them. He suffered it for us. Our punishment was indeed suffered for us by Christ, so we who put our faith in him may go free; and justice has been done.


And not only that, but since our guilt has been dealt with by Christ for our sins in that he paid our fine or suffered our punishment for them for us by his death, we are now considered righteous by God. God reckons our faith to us as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5). God pronounces us guilty sinners just and righteous, since God's justice has been satisfied in our regard, concerning our sins, by Christ's death for them on the cross. And our faith in him enables God to credit to our account the reparation his death on the cross made for all human sin.


This is the kind of Messiah that Jesus is to be. This is how he will fulfill the promise God made to King David that his throne would be established forever and would stand firm forever.


Because of Jesus Christ, as Isaiah prophesied, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Isaiah 9:2). We walk in that light now. It illuminates our hearts. It makes us resplendent with righteousness rather than walking in darkness. God has broken the staff on our shoulder, the rod of our oppressor (Isaiah 9:4), who is the devil and the guilt of sin.


This child is indeed "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" (Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV). Jesus is indeed the Prince of Peace, clothing us in his own righteousness and filling our hearts with peace.


How different life is for those who entrust themselves with faith to Jesus as their Savior than it is for those who reject him and live lives of constant grave sin, rejecting God's law and will for them, rejecting his call to genuine repentance and amendment of life, rejecting his call to forgiveness and justification by faith, because of the atonement that Christ made for us by his death on the cross.


People who refuse to repent of their gravely sinful lives, and rather try to rationalize that they are not really sinning because of the extenuating circumstances of their life and because of the mitigating factors of their situation, and who falsely try to justify their gravely sinful way of life are not happy campers. They live in guilt and inner misery. They walk in darkness and sit in deep shadows. They need Jesus as their Savior, but they have rejected him and do not live according to God's will. When we see this, we see how blessed we are in Christ.


Jesus the Messiah is God's answer all this human misery, caused by living a life of grave sin.


Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy of the psalmist: "He shall come down like rain upon the grass before the mowing, like showers that water the earth. In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace until the moon is no more ... His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed" (Psalm 71:6-7, 17 NKJV). We live in his kingdom of peace now.


Jesus fulfills Micah's famous prophecy:


"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting ... And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace" (Micah 5:2, 4-5 NKJV).


Jesus Christ is indeed great now to the ends of the earth, and he is our peace.

 

 

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