In the first sermon, we talked about the lion, symbolizing Jesus as king. in the second, we looked at the eagle, symbolizing Jesus as God. In the third sermon, we will look at the symbol of the ox, and how it symbolizes Christ in his role of servant, as conveyed in the gospel of Luke.
What amazes me most, I think, is that our God would stoop into the role of servant at all. It seems counterintuitive to man's understanding of what a god is. If you look at the so-called "gods" of other religions, they don't do that. When has allah washed someone's feet? Have you ever heard of zeus helping out in the kitchen? When have you heard of Vishnu stopping and talking to a beggar, saying "what can I do for you?"
We've already established that Jesus is a legitimate king. Kings don't do menial work. With a very few exceptions, the kings of the Earth consider themselves above such things. But Jesus has never been like that.
There are many working animals which could have been used to symbolize Jesus' role as servant. Why the ox? Why not a donkey? Or a llama? Or a camel? Simple answer, really.
How many of you have ever seen a donkey and an ox yoked together? None, I'll wager. And there's a reason for that. It's illegal. Donkeys are stubborn. They don't like to work. Oxen, on the other hand, actually enjoy the exertion. They love to work. If you yoke an ox and a donkey together, they will injure one another.
Jesus showed that kind of love of his work. Remember the time when he'd spoken with the samaritan woman at the well? He was so happy in his work that he didn't even want to eat. "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34)
But of course, it wasn't JUST the work for its own sake that He loved. Jesus loved, and loves, people. If it were not so, He would have no concern for individuals. Only for His overall mission. But John 17, in which Jesus is seen praying in the garden of Gethsemane, has Jesus expressing his gladness that not one of His flock was lost, save the one who was destined to be lost in the first place.
Let's take a moment to look at some of the things Jesus has done for people which a king or a god aren't normally required to do.
-At the wedding in Cana, Jesus saw to it that the wine was replennished.
-He provided food for two crowds totalling nine thousand men, not including women and children.
-At the last supper, he washed the feet of the disciples.
-He healed numerous people who were blind and lame, asking nothing in return.
-He paid Peter's taxes.
But the most amazing of all is the fact that he gave himself as a sacrifice. Now as any chess player knows, you don't sacrifice your king. If you do that, the game is over. In fact, it is illegal to sacrifice your king. That's pretty much the way it works in the world, too. If you have to sacrifice someone, you sacrifice the privates and corporals in the green helmets. Any Star Trek buff will tell you that any mission is safer if you take along a guy in a red shirt. He's the nobody who gets eaten by the carnivorous energy amoeba, giving the important people a chance to escape. If Jesus were like other kings, He would have had some poor schlub take his place on the cross. The so-called "gnostic gospels" would have you believe that He did. One of them has Jesus sitting in Heaven laughing while an ordinary human bleeds and dies in His place. That is not our Jesus.
John 10:17 tells us that Jesus' Father loves Him because He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. If there were a dichotomy, that is, if the spirit of Christ departed from the ordinary human Jesus, how could that ordinary human who died on the cross claim God as his father? Or how could Jesus claim that the Father loved Him because He was willing to die?
It is the blood of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God and Son of God which takes away our sins. I think we all know this. But I'd like to discuss HOW for a moment.
God is holy. This is a given. God is pure and undefiled. He cannot look upon the sinful. For us to be reconciled to Him after sinning against Him takes an act of atonement that is total, complete and perfect. But who among us is capable of that level of atonement? What mortal is capable of the perfect apology? Not a single one of us. But Jesus is. Jesus is the one sinless man, God in the flesh, who is capable of that act of total redemtion. Now therein lies the irony. It is only the one person who doesn't need redemtion that is capable of it. He has to do it for us.
C.S.Lewis likens the process to teaching a child to write his name. As the child holds the pencil, the adult moves his hand in order to form the letters. It is not the child who does the actual writing. He isn't capable. Yet he receives credit for the action because he has allowed the adult to work through him. So Jesus has sacrificed Himself as an act of atonement for us, and if we will but accept that sacrifice, we receive credit for the action. And as the child with the pencil in his hand eventually learns to write for himself through constant practice, so we become holy if we will only live according to the sacrifice of Christ, remembering always that it was with His blood that He bought us.
This memory is something that Jesus has commanded us not to forget. Next week, we will be taking communion, the ordinance instated by Jesus to keep us mindful of His sacrifice. And of course, this should always spur us to be more like Him, to have the heart of a servant.
Remember Jesus' ancestor, King Solomon? Solomon made what may well be the largest sacrifice in history. So pleased was God that He promised Solomon one wish. Because Solomon's wish was wisdom to lead his people, God gave the man all of the things he did NOT wish for. Fabulous wealth, peace, health, long life, the respect of the nations...
2 Chronicles 5:6 Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude.
1 Kings 3:5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.If Solomon won God's favor by sacrificing a thousand earthly oxen, then how much more favored is Jesus, who offered up the one sacrifice that truly mattered? And if Solomon pleased God by making an unselfish wish, how much more Jesus, who died to His own wants every day and lived only to do the will of His Father?
6 And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
This is the third week of advent, and as we have discussed three aspects of Jesus, let's praise each one as we light a candle on the advent wreath.
(takes candle lighter in paw)
(lights first candle)
Mighty is our King, the Lion of Judah.
(lights second candle)
Holy is our God, the Eagle of Heaven.
(lights third candle)
Exalted is our Messiah, the Ox of Calvary.
Thank you all for coming, and happy Advent.
Pastor Oren Otter
December 16, 2006
Today's Reading: Mark 9:33-35
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?"
34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."