O Root of Jesse…

O Root of Jesse, you stand for a sign to the peoples;
before you kings are silent, and Gentiles pray with longing:

o-jpg

Come now and set us free!

 ___________________________________________________________________

The third “O” Antiphon that the church prays as part of her spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmastime is rooted in the Messianic Promise that God made in His Covenant with David found in 2 Samuel chapter 7 –

Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth… 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom… 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

In the days of the Prophet Isaiah when the Davidic Kingdom faltered during the Babylonian Conquest, and the continuing validity of this Divine promise that David’s “house and kingdom shall be made sure forever before the Lord,” and that David’s “throne shall be established forever” seemed in doubt, the Covenantal promise of 2 Samuel 7 was prophetically reasserted in what we as Christians now read as a Messianic Prophecy (Isaiah 11) fulfilled in Jesus –

roots1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,     the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.   He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The Gospel of Matthew – the “gateway” from the Hebrew Scriptures into the Christian Scriptures – comes right out of the chute making the argument that Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises made to David.  The Gospel of Matthew opens with a genealogy that establishes Jesus to be the Christ, the “Son of David” traced through the royal line. After His birth, Matthew tells us about the Magi who came from the east seeking the One who had been born “the King of the Jews,” setting in motion a tale of brutal violence committed by the reigning King of the Jews – Herod (Matthew 2).  Large swaths of Christ’s teachings in the Gospel of Matthew concern the “Kingdom of heaven.”  He rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday at the start of Holy Week triumphantly welcomed as a king (Matthew 21).  When Jesus was crucified it was with a placard nailed to the cross above His head that read: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37). And the very last thing that Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, the “Great Commission,” begins, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth…” (Matthew 28:18).  It is very clear that the Gospel of Matthew wants us to view Jesus Christ as the promised King from the house of David who has come to inaugurate his eternal reign.  In fact, the Gospel of Matthew teaches us to pray for it.

come

Every Sunday morning we pray the Lord’s Prayer together in worship at church, and one of its petitions is for the Kingdom to Come. In fact, we pray for the Kingdom to come as the very first petition of the prayer and then we turn around and close the prayer with its affirmation in the words – “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever.” So, what are you praying for and affirming when you say these words?  When I pray them I am praying for something existential, something evangelistic, something ethical, and something eschatological.

“Thy Kingdom Come” – Something Existential

When I pray “Thy Kingdom Come” its first reference is to my heart where Jesus Christ has promised to come and set up shop as Lord (John 14:23).  I think that this is what Jesus meant when He said the Kingdom is “within” us (John 17:21 KJV).  This existential experience of Christ’s indwelling presence is instrumental to my whole understanding of Christianity.

“Thy Kingdom Come” – Something Evangelistic

I believe that the Gospel invitation that we have been commissioned to extend to others consists of this existential experience of Christ’s indwelling and empowering presence. And so when I pray “Thy Kingdom Come” I also understand it to be an expression of the church’s evangelistic mandate to preach the Gospel and make disciples.

“Thy Kingdom Come” – Something Ethical

And when I pray “Thy Kingdom Come” an equally compelling dimension of its meaning for me is ethical.   I believe that by the Word and the Spirit we who are Christians have access to the Mind of Christ.  Not comprehensively, mind you, but substantially nonetheless.  We know what it is that Christ wants, and what it is that He is moving all creation towards.  He wants a world of justice, peace, freedom, dignity, wholeness, sufficiency and righteousness for all.  He wants human beings to flourish and thrive, and He calls us to cooperate with Him in bringing this about.

“Thy Kingdom Come” – Something Eschatological.

The Kingdom that we pray to come is personal and social. It’s spiritual and material. And it’s already here, and it has not yet fully arrived.  And so when I pray “Thy Kingdom Come” it is always with the final consummation in mind.   The Gospel promises will forever be unfulfilled and the work of Christ’s salvation will forever be incomplete apart from Christ’s personal, visible, glorious return at the close of the age. Maranatha… Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

And all of this is involved in the annual spiritual run-up to Christmas when I pray with the whole church the third “O” Antiphon –

O Root of Jesse, you stand for a sign to the peoples;
before you kings are silent, and Gentiles pray with longing:
Come now and set us free!

 

                                                                                                                  DBS +

 

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