Son of Man
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 21:25–21:36
The First Sunday in Advent
December 1-2, 2018
“Who is Jesus? Son of Man”
It’s only the first weekend in December, but I say “Happy New Year.” No, the New Year holiday hasn’t come early this year, but it is a new year in the life of Christ’s people, the Church. In the Church, we follow a different way of reckoning time. It’s different from the calendar year; it’s different from the fiscal year; and it’s different from the school year. The Church year follows the life of Jesus – his birth, life, and ministry; his suffering, death, and resurrection; his ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. That is what’s shown on the plaques up and behind us on the balcony: the seasons of the Church year. I would encourage you to spend a little time to look at these symbols and what they represent in faith. It all begins with this season of Advent; a holy time of waiting and watching. The word Advent itself comes from two Latin words ad, meaning “to or toward,” and ventus, meaning “to come.” And that is what Advent means: to come. The One who is coming is the One who has already come, and that is Jesus. Advent has a double purpose: to prepare us for the annual celebration of Jesus’ first coming when he was born as the Child of Mary in Bethlehem, what we call Christmas. But there is an even greater meaning and purpose for Advent, and that is to prepare us for Jesus’ second coming. That is what we are all about today on this First Sunday in Advent. Our theme for preaching during the Advent and Christmas season is a question, “Who is Jesus?” The theme for today’s message, rising out of Jesus’ words in the Gospel lesson about being ready and prepared for his promised coming, is entitled, “Who is Jesus? Son of Man.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Twice in today’s Gospel lesson Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man (Luke 21:27, 36). We often think of Jesus as the Son of Man because of his birth as a child, taking on human flesh and blood. In truth, Jesus is both true God and true man as revealed in God’s own Word. But the Son of Man image goes back in Scripture to the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 33:2, et. al.; Daniel 7:13). In fact, our Old Testament lesson for last Sunday, the Festival of Christ the King, was from Daniel 7 and said this: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). Who is Jesus? He is that Son of Man spoken of by Daniel, “coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27), to judge the living and dead on that great and final day. How, then, should we be living?
Our calling in Christ is to live in this world in such a way that we may always be ready to leave it, doing on earth those things which prepare us for heaven. Jesus’ words are intended to waken us out of dull complacency. Our tendency is to be so busy and preoccupied with this, that, and the other thing that we do not see the forest for the trees. We are ruled by the tyranny of the urgent, but the urgent is not always what is most important. Now that we have entered a very busy time of year with lots of things on our to-do list, Jesus reminds us: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35). The cosmic upheaval that will precede Jesus’ second coming may well already be happening: “… signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). Jesus shares these signs with us so that we may be prepared and ready for his coming.
All of these signs, distressing though they may be, point us to good news: Christ is coming! The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who loves us, who shed his blood on the cross for us, is coming again for us. That is the good news of Advent. The One who has come and who is coming again, comes to us now in his Word and Sacraments. Through these gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, he comes in this now-but-not-yet time to strengthen us in faith toward him and in love toward one another. Knowing and believing this, Jesus’ words are blessed assurance: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). When we feel defeated and hopeless, our body posture reflects this: our shoulders slump, our head bows down. We look physically defeated and hopeless because that is what is in our hearts. Jesus the Son of Man call us to something different even as the world around us is literally falling apart. He tells us to lift up our heads; to take heart, and rejoice because he is coming to make all things new. He is coming to take us to be with him forever. The last public appearance of Jesus was when he hung bloody, bruised, and broken on the cross. His resurrection and ascension appearances were not to the world, but only to those who believed in him. When the world will see Jesus next, how different he will look! No longer bloody, bruised, and broken, but crowned with heavenly glory and splendor as King and Judge of all creation. He reminds us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). My friends, hold onto these words!
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of this time of year, Advent calls us to step back into a place of quiet retreat. Instead of madly rushing about, Advent invites us to find refreshment and blessed peace. Advent is a call to renewed faith and hope; to greater watchfulness and prayer that “we may stay awake at all times, praying that [we] may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
May the Lord Jesus grant us all a blessed Advent. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.