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Advent 2 – Luke 21:25-36

by pastorjuhl ~ December 1st, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            The picture our blessed Lord puts before us today is one that is both scary and full of joy. The Greek language has a word for this picture: Παντοκρατωρ. Literally translated, this words means “all-strong” or “all-powerful.” Given a nudge from Latin, the word becomes omnipotent. You may recognize that word from Handel’s Messiah, specifically the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” so often heard this time of year. The familiar line is “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” That’s an excellent summary of today’s Holy Gospel from Luke chapter 21.

Along with learning a new word today, there is a visual aid with this preaching. To my left is a Russian icon of Christ the Παντοκρατωρ. My first exposure to iconography came as a seminary student. While at seminary, there were families from the former Soviet Union on campus. Their piety was different than our piety. When they entered chapel, they would dip their fingers into the baptismal font (which was filled with water) and make the sign of the cross. They also brought with them icons, two-dimensional pictures of holy people and holy events.

This is the first icon I bought as a seminary student. It is Christ the Παντοκρατωρ, Христос Вседержитель. A fellow student from Belarus looked at it one night and explained what the writing is in the open book. He told me it is the Words of Jesus: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Quite a study in contrast, don’t you think? Jesus prepares His disciples for His Second Advent by telling them about signs in sun and moon and stars…distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves…the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. You would expect the icon to show Christ with rage in His face, thunderbolts coming out of His eyes and hands, and people cowering with fear below Him at the awesome sight of the omnipotent Lord.

Not so with this icon. You’ll have to come up after Divine Service and take a closer look. His eyes are peaceful. His right hand is in the shape of giving a blessing. He holds a book in His left hand with the words of Matthew 11 quoted earlier. The halo around His head spell out “I AM” in Greek. Make no mistake, Christ is the omnipotent One. However, His reign is one of peace hidden within power.

Some will not see that peace hidden within His power. Their hearts will be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life. When the Last Day comes, it will be like a trap. Jesus begs you to watch yourself…stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Contrary to popular opinion, the world as you know it will end soon. The prayer “Come, Lord Jesus” is not a phrase to be uttered under your breath in exasperation. It is a prayer of hope and joy, not of resignation and disgust. Nevertheless, you go on living as if this old world will merrily roll along. The prophet Malachi’s warning of the day coming that will be burning like an oven…that it will leave then neither root nor branch is a mere fable for those who won’t see that something so wonderful as the world will burn like dry hickory logs thrown on a bonfire. Nothing will be able to stop the crackling cauldron of utter destruction.

An asbestos fire suit won’t save you from these things. The key word in Malachi’s prophecy is remember. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Remember to love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Remember that you are to do these things if you wish to remain in communion with Almighty God. Remember that you are unable to do these things under your own power or by your own nature. Remember that for those who know not the Lord Jesus or those who reject His Word there is a lake of fire waiting for them that will burn with torment for eternity.

There is power hidden in the peaceful gaze of Jesus. Christ the Παντοκρατωρ also shows the power of His heavenly Father by being implanted in the womb of the Virgin Mary and becoming man. Not just another man who is born of a man and a woman, lives a while, and then dies. This Man is God. He lays the power and authority of His Father aside for a while. It’s still there, as you hear in the miracles of Christ, but it is hidden in humble flesh and blood. No wonder those who despise Jesus Christ shake their heads at a picture like this one. How can Someone Who is eternal and all-powerful clothe Himself in the flesh and blood of sinful man? Yes, that’s the question to ask. The question is asked not so much in doubt as it is in wonder.

When you ask that question in wonder, you can’t help but shake your head at what an amazing Savior you have. It is said of some athletes that they have the “eye of the tiger.” There is a calm exterior, but inside lurks a competitor who doesn’t know how or when to quit. You see something deeper than the “eye of the tiger” in Christ the Παντοκρατωρ. You see the gaze of the Savior Who loves His Father’s creation to the point that He cheerfully and joyfully suffers an innocent death for you.

Jesus does not know the meaning of the word “quit.” Like all human beings, Jesus wishes the cup of wrath would pass from Him. Nevertheless, He submits to His Father’s will for you. He is nailed to a cross for you. He bleeds for you. He finishes the work of redemption for you. You are not able to do what Jesus does. Only Jesus is able to drink the cup of wrath to the dregs. Only Jesus’ blood is a sufficient payment for sin. The holy Infant of Bethlehem, the striped Suffering Servant on the cross at Golgotha, and the resurrected Lord of Life is Christ the Παντοκρατωρ. For some, His peaceful gaze is the scariest sight on earth. He offers life, but some won’t receive it. For others, His peaceful gaze is full of joy. He offers life, you receive it in His Gospel Word, are drowned in His baptismal water, fed with His Supper, declared forgiven in His absolving Word, and await His Second Advent with patience and peace, “for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth…and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

1 Response to Advent 2 – Luke 21:25-36

  1. Dale M Kleimola

    Excellent sermon, and excellent use of a memory device. Though I can’t see the icon, I can almost (but not quite) picture it. I have one icon I bought in Russia, a second I bought in Detroit from a Greek novelty store across the street from Greek Town Casino and a third I probably bought at a rummage sale!

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