Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. This morning we celebrate the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. He’s a man who is remembered for his work alongside some of the great Christian missionaries—men like the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, and even his cousin Barnabas. He’s a man who is remembered for the legacy he left in Alexandria, Egypt, where he founded the church that produced some of the most brilliant and important theologians in church history—men like Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria.
]But for all of the missionary work that St. Mark did, for all of the lives that were touched because of his work in Alexandria, St. Mark will always be remembered for his most important contribution to the church of the Lord Jesus, namely his composition of the Gospel which bears his name. So it’s fitting this morning that we turn our attention to our Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 52:7-10, which celebrates the work of messengers like St. Mark who spent their life bringing us the good news that Jesus is the king of all.
2. As our text begins, we hear a message of good news that is being proclaimed. The Prophet Isaiah invites us to see the scene as this good news is being delivered. Picture the scene. A lone pair of sandaled feet pound on the rocky path, one after another. With each footstep you can hear a light “thud.” One step after another the sandaled feet continue, down a rock scurry, around a boulder, across the compacted sand and dirt and rock. The pace of those feet begins to quicken as you look up the smiling face of the messenger who realizes that his destination is near. As the messenger enters the city, he begins to call out the message that he’s been given to proclaim: Your God reign. In an instant, though, the scene shifts. High atop the towers, the watchmen begin to lift up their voices and sing for joy. It’s not just the messenger’s news which has prompted their joyful outburst. They see something in the distance. Another figure is on his way to the city. This time, it’s no messenger. There’s no mistaking who this figure is. He’s the king. The king is coming! And so, in response the Prophet Isaiah invites everyone to join in the celebration. Isaiah invites everyone to celebrate because this coming of the king has the power to change things now, even though he hasn’t fully come yet. But even the people living in the dumps are invited to join in the celebration. Even though the King has not come to fully establish his kingdom yet, peace and comfort and rest have come to God’s people. He has already saved his people from their suffering. Their salvation is guaranteed—it’s even a reality now—because the king is coming.
3. The king is coming. That’s just about the best news that the faithful people of God can imagine. Here we live in this dark world. We are still awaiting our blessed hope: the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Much like the people described by the Prophet Isaiah, we live in the tension between the “now” and the “not yet.” We live in the reality of Christ’s resurrection and his victory over the powers of death and hell, but we Christians are still longing for the fullness of the kingdom of God to come among us. Our situation is not all that different from a pregnant mother. Her child is here with her, but also not fully yet. She lives her life in joyful expectation of the day when the child will be born, yet she also diligently makes preparations so that she is ready when he or she arrives. She lives in a “now/not yet” reality. In a similar way, we live in a “now/not yet” reality. Our King Jesus is with us now, he is the King of all now. But at the same time, he’s not yet here. He’s still coming. And so, like the pregnant mother, we should live in joyful expectation of the day when he comes, diligently making preparations so that we are ready when our king arrives.
4. Now here’s where all of this get real—where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Do you actually do this? Do you live in joyful expectation of the day when our king will return? Does your life center around the coming of our king? Do you diligently prepare yourself and others for our king’s coming? Are you constant in prayer? Are you faithful in reading the Scriptures? Are you bold in your witness to others? Or are you too focused on yourself, immersed in entertainment and pleasure? Are you fearful of what others might say and think about you? There are a lot of factors that can cause us to not live in expectation of our king’s return. Maybe we’re too selfish. Maybe we trust in and rely on ourself above all things most of the time. But there’s one other motivating factor that we often overlook which motivates our actions in ways that we don’t realize: Fear. We’re afraid of the relational consequences of living in expectation of our king’s return. In a social media-infested culture, that shouldn’t be too surprising. We live in a world which is constantly bombarding us with images of other people. It’s constantly inviting us to compare ourselves to one another. And as a result we live our lives in constant fear—fear of not living up to expectations. Fear of what others will think of us. Fear of rejection. We live in a world that teaches us to fear what others think and say about us more than we fear the Lord. And so, rather than living in joyful expectation of our king’s arrival, we find ourselves living in fear.
5. I would like to invite you one more time to join Isaiah’s prophetic scene a few years later. Picture the scene. A pair of feet, this time not sandaled, but bare, pound on the rocky path, one after another. With each footstep you can hear a heavy “thud.” One step after another the bare feet continue, down the path, around a building, through a gate, and up a hill. The pace of those feet begins to slow the destination approaches. Soon those feet stop and are placed onto a wooden beam. As you look up to see this man’s face, he speaks the message he’s been given to proclaim: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). In an instant the man raised up on a cross. There are voices being lifted up, but not for joy—they’re cries of derision and mocking: If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself! (Luke 24:37). Yet this man, Jesus, had no intention of saving himself—quite the opposite. He was on that cross so that he could save you. The Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:9)—but not just Jerusalem—he has redeemed all who trust in him. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10). Despite your tendency to live in fear—to fear what others think and say more than the Lord—Jesus has comforted and redeemed you by his death on the cross. He forgives you of your sins. And he’s coming back soon to finish what he started and to bring the fullness of his kingdom to us. The king is coming!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.