September 25, 2016 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We sang verses 1, 6, and 8 of Psalm 122 as the Introit this morning. The Introit is meant to reflect, or foreshow, in some way the Gospel of the day. Today’s Gospel is directly concerned with Christology, that is, it is directly concerned with the reality that Jesus is David’s God and creator and at the same time descendent of David. He is both true God, begotten of the Father and true Man.
That is the connection we are most interested in this morning: how does Psalm 122 relate to the two natures of Christ.
Most scholars believe that the 15 Psalms of Ascent, of which 122 is numbered, were connected with the three great pilgrim festivals at the Temple in Jerusalem. Those festivals were the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Booths. The expectation is that the pilgrims would recite or sing these Psalms on their way to the Temple or on the Temple steps.
If that is the case then it is likely that Our Lord chanted Psalm 122 on His way to Jerusalem for the Passover. That would mean that these very words were on His lips while He was on the foal’s back on Palm Sunday. This is what He was praying while the people were shouting Hosanna, and the priests and Pharisees were plotting, and He was preparing to say goodbye to His disciples.
Psalm 122: A Song of degrees of David.
1 I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.
2 Our feet shall stand
Within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is builded
As a city that is compact together:
4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,
Unto the testimony of Israel,
To give thanks unto the name of the LORD.
5 For there are set thrones of judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls,
And prosperity within thy palaces.
8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes,
I will now say, Peace be within thee.
9 Because of the house of the LORD our God
I will seek thy good.
Think about this for a moment. On His way to die as a Sacrifice for the sins of the world, He says: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
He is glad to go to the House of Prayer for all people, not simply to the Temple, but to the cross, to the throne of David immortal, where He will be glorified by dying and making Himself a ransom for the sins of the world, where David the sinner will be declared righteous and the devil’s skull will be crushed. He is glad to go there, to do that which was foreshadowed in and prophesied by the Temple sacrifices and services, which the prophets did foretell.
How this relates to the two natures of Christ is fairly straight-forward. He must be a descendent of David to fulfill the prophecy that David’s heir would inhabit the throne forever. He must be a human in order to fulfill the Law in a moral sense, for the Law was not written for God but for man. Being as man doesn’t make Him mortal. But it does allow Him to take on the sins of the world and the death that comes with it and then to make Himself an offering for that sin. So the Messiah must be a Man. At the same time, if He were only a Man, He could not finish Hell’s claim on all of humanity by the time He announced on the cross: “It is finished.” He must be God to be a worthy sacrifice and to be able to complete it and then rise from the dead with death left behind. Even if the first Adam had remained without sin, he could not have done this. Only God can and could.
Thus He is glad to do this because He the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. He will win peace for mankind and then breathe Peace onto His disciples on Easter evening as He establishes the Sacrament of Absolution. Remember how on Palm Sunday, as He drew near to the city, mounted on the foal, He said, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things make for peace” (Luke 19:41). That statement was probably prompted by His praying the Psalm which bids us: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and promises us that “they shall prosper that love (Jerusalem, the city of peace).”
He pronounced peace upon the city, in accord with the Psalm’s bid: “Peace be within thy walls, O Jerusalem” in His self-giving outside the city gates, but, sadly, Jerusalem rejected Him and refused His peace.
Nonetheless, the Lord was not stopped. He pointedly says: “For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” He endures despite their rejection.
In Luke’s Gospel, the Lord immediately goes from His lament over the city to the cleansing the Temple. Again, this makes much sense if Psalm 122 is on His lips. For He instituted the Temple and the ceremonial law in order to grant to His people a means whereby they might be cleansed and given safe access to God, that He might hear their prayers and praise. He even created a space and means for Gentiles in the Temple. It is for His brethren and companions’ sake that the Lord goes into the city that will choose Barabas and Caesar over Him. It is for His brethren and companions’ sake that He goes to the cross to make Himself the Temple rebuilt on the third day which does not discriminate between Jew and Gentile, men and women, or priest and laity. For His brethren and companions’ sake, He goes, as true God and true Man, to be the Peace Offering.
Psalm 122 is also our prayer. We too are glad go into the house of the LORD – not the house of the Lord built by the hands of men, that House has come to its end. We come to the House destroyed in Jerusalem and rebuilt on the third day, to the Stone the builders rejected become the cornerstone. The Lord Himself is our Temple. He is the Passover we eat is His risen Body and Blood, without haste, for He has made Himself our promised land and rest. We, also, in our joy, pray for the city of God, for the brethren and companions of Jesus, who are our brethren and companions, who are with us here and all around the world. We might well be headed to our own crosses, but we go in peace, confident that with Jesus as our Messiah we have nothing to fear and much to gain.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.