Advent First Sunday Morning Prayer (28 November 2021) Matthew 21:1–13
Today is Advent Sunday. The word Advent came from the Latin word ‘Adventus’ which came from the Greek word ‘Parousia’. Advent means ‘coming’ or ‘the arrival of a notable person or thing’. We Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ during Advent season. In Spain, during the fourth and fifth centuries, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the feast of Epiphany in January. This feast was to celebrate God’s incarnation, Baptism of Jesus in Jordan and the first miracle in Cana. Christians would fast and pray for 40 days to prepare themselves for this celebration. However, in 6th century, the Roman Christians tied Advent to the second coming of Christ as judge, not the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. In the middle age, people linked Advent with Christmas. For us Anglicans, our Liturgical year starts from Advent Sunday.
I would like to compare God’s commandment in the Epistle portion Romans 13:8–14 and Gospel portion from Matthew 21:1–13. God gave ten commandments to the Israelites when they were in the wilderness. God wrote the constitution and Old Testament laws on how they should live their day-to-day lives. The first four commandments are about our relationship with the LORD God and the next six commandments are about our attitude and relationship with our neighbours. The Old Testament laws and commandments could not save the Old Testament saints from eternal death. During this time, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The only begotten Son Jesus consolidated the ten commandments to two prime commandments based on love. Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind is the first New Testament commandment. Loving our neighbour as ourselves is the second commandment. We received salvation because of Father’s love and the grace of the son Jesus Christ. St. Paul acknowledged the love of our Lord in today’s Epistle reading from Romans 13. The Psalmist also says “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” in Psalm 103:8.
We usually meditate on this familiar passage from our Gospel portion in St. Matthew 21:1–13 on Palm Sunday. Before His crucifixion, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey. The great multitude of people spread their garments. They cut down branches from the trees and spread them in the way. The multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. People acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah and the king of Israel. They accepted Jesus as the son of David and the king. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled on that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king. The prophecy in Zechariah says the King is just, lowly and having salvation. Matthew 21:5 says the King is “meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass”.
However, this was not the first time Jesus entered Jerusalem and the temple of God. This entry into Jerusalem and the Temple of God as King and the son of David was to fulfil the purpose of Advent. Matthew 21:12 says “Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves”. When Jesus entered the Temple of God, He did not see any good and godly practices in the Temple. The temple of God is the house of prayer. But when the people made it a den of thieves, He was furious. Jesus did not see holiness in the temple of God. Instead, He saw market in the temple yard. Other businesses made the Temple of God ungodly. Although He was meek and lowly and taught us to love everyone through the two commandments, His reaction was very different when He reached the Temple of God. He could not tolerate what he saw and showed His anger on those who destroyed the reverence of the temple of God. He cast them out. In John 2 also we read that Jesus drove people out of the temple when He saw the temple was not used for the intended purpose. He said “make not my Father's house an house of merchandise”. When Jesus did this the disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up (John 2:17).
Jesus was very clear about the businesses that should be done in the Temple of God. 1 Chronicles 16:29 asks us to “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”. The temple of God is a place to give glory unto the LORD God and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. The church or the Temple of God is the Holy place where God dwells. It is a place to prepare the people for the kingdom of God which is the second Advent. It is a place to worship our Saviour Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:19 says commissioning people to spread the Gospel is the prime business of the church or the temple of God. Acts 2 says that church is a place to teach biblical doctrine, facilitate believer’s fellowship, officiate and make people to remember LORD’s (Last) Supper and it is a house of prayer.
This happening is a precursor of Jesus’ White Throne Judgement. Jesus’s kingdom is not in this world. His kingdom is in the kingdom of heaven which is eternal and everlasting kingdom. He came to give salvation and save every one of us to inherit eternal life. In the passage in Matthew, after casting out the people, Jesus started preaching the word of God and prepared them for the kingdom of God. Jesus was clear about the purpose of His birth and was focussed on His calling even on the last few days before His crucifixion.
1 Corinthians 3:17 says we are the temple of God. The same rules are applicable to us also as the temple of God. The verse also says “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy”. Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross and shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins. He did it to cleanse our heart of unholiness. 1 John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”. The blood of the lamb of God cleanses and restores our heart when we repent and turn to Him. Only if our hearts are clean He can come and stay in our hearts. The purpose of the first Advent was cleansing and restoring the Temple of God which is our heart. He claims possession of our hearts because He shed His blood to restore our heart which is the temple of God.
We, the church or the bride, are waiting for the second advent when we will meet Jesus in the mid of the air when He comes to receive the church. The seven-year reign of antichrist will be followed by the kingdom of Messiah in Jerusalem. The Great White Throne Judgement will be at the end of the 1000 years kingdom. When Jesus sits on the throne as Judge, we cannot expect mercy, grace, love and compassion from Him. Those who have kept themselves or the Temple of God holy will inherit eternal life with Jesus. Those who kept themselves or the temple of God unholy will be cast out to the darkness which is the lake of fire and brimstone.
As we begin another Advent season, let us self-examine ourselves. Is this Advent another season in the calendar? Or do we celebrate Advent rejoicing in and celebrating the fact that we have experienced second birth because Jesus is born on our hearts? As we prepare our homes to celebrate Christmas, are our hearts prepared for the second Advent? Or are we like those in the temple who were buying and selling? Are we living our lives on a routine? What are the businesses that are happening in the temple of God? Are our businesses pleasing in the sight of God? Are we giving unto the Lord the glory due unto his name? Do we bring our offering and come before him to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness? If Jesus walks into our temple today, what will He witness? Man sees the face, but He is the Lord who sees our hearts and knows our thoughts. Will He see good and godly practices? Will He see a house of prayer or a den of thieves? Will He see holiness and reverence or a market? Will He see a place where people are commissioned to carry the gospel to the unreached? Will He be happy with what He sees? Or will He be angry and make a scourge of small cords? Romans 13:8–10 tell us what we should and should not do: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
In Revelation 22:7 Jesus said He will come soon. Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. If we need to be cleansed, Jesus is waiting to cleanse and restore us. Romans 13:11–14 tells us “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”. As the prophecy in Zechariah says, the King has salvation. Have we received the salvation from Him? Psalm 2:12 says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him”.
As we begin another Advent season, I pray we celebrate the real reason of Jesus’s birth. I pray we have the zeal to be holy for our Lord Jesus who was born to save us from eternal death. May the LORD Jesus cleanse our hearts which is the temple of God. May the Holy Spirit guide us to keep the temple of God holy until He comes again to receive us, the church, as His bride. Amen!