Jeremiah 33:14-16, Luke 21:29-31: Jesus Ushers in a New Springtime of Life

Branch budding in Spring (610x351)Although we are now on the cusp of winter, some of us are already looking forward to spring. In our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus speak of spring, when leaves begin to bud and finally burst forth in the marvel of new life. Jesus used a picture of “the fig tree and all the others trees… as they sprout leaves” in a parable. In our Old-Testament reading, we heard our Lord say through Jeremiah, “I will raise up a righteous branch.” So, both Jeremiah and Jesus spoke figuratively as they described the Messiah as a king who sprouted forth, and who will come forth, to fulfill God’s promises.

And if this King bursts forth in new life as buds on the trees do in spring, then what He has to say is worth a listen. And when we listen to what He says, Jesus will show us that His roots are so deeply intertwined in God’s promises of old that the two are inseparable. And so we learn that He is the promised Branch of Israel’s kingly line.

Jesus even reveals to us some signs of His final “sprouting forth,” not of His birth, but of His return. This is all so we may be ready when He returns and, by His grace, avoid a fearful, eternal winter. Using Jesus’ own parable imagery, He is the King who sprouted–and will–sprout forth.

The Advent season does more than prepare us for Christmas. It also helps prepare us for eternity. That’s because Advent also celebrates the coming of our God, Jesus Christ, in crowning triumph. It reminds us that Jesus not only came as the Babe of Bethlehem, but will also come as the triumphant King of heaven on the Last Day.

The Jesus of history and the Lord of eternity are one and the same. He is rooted in the promises that God made to His patriarchs and prophets of old. God then committed Himself to us in sacred oaths and vows of commitment. “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will fulfill my gracious promise that I have spoken to the nations of Israel and Judah.”

When the blessed Virgin gave birth to Jesus as the Firstborn over all creation (Luke 2:7, Colossians 1:15), God fulfilled that majestic promise. But the crowning completion of all God’s promises will take place when Christ returns on the Last Day. The Gospel of Christ has deep roots in God’s promises, and those promises extend through the Lord’s birth to the time when He will return in all His glory.

Isaiah, looking ahead to the Messiah, Jesus, described Him as a “root” when he wrote, “he grew up before him like a young plant, like a root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2).

He was despised and rejected by others, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering… But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed for our sins, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. [Isaiah 53:3, 5]

And Jesus Himself said: “I am the root and descendent of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16).

Jesus’ roots are deep in ancient promise. He branched out from the royal family of Israel. “In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, and he will uphold justice and righteousness in the land,” sang Jeremiah. The Savior is to be born in a human family, the house of Jesse, whose son, David, became Israel’s most honored king.

In becoming human, God’s Son wrapped himself in the mantle of human history. But long before that happened, the triune God planned the way of salvation and prepared for it through people throughout the ages of history. God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He spoke to Moses from the burning bush at Mount Sinai.

God then brought Moses to lead His people in their exodus from Egypt. Joshua led them into the land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Judges ruled, and then kings reigned. Saul was the first. David, Jesse’s son, the shepherd boy of Bethlehem, was the second Israelite king.

And it was from the family line of David that the King would come and sprout. As Prophet Isaiah foretold, “A shoot will grow out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch will sprout from his roots. The Spirit of the LORD will rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:1-2). Jesus will come, but not just as any other king, for His coming will be by the Holy Spirit’s doing.

And Jesus is still branching out into human history. He entered your life and mine through Baptism. He grows in us, and we in him, through Word and Sacrament. He comes to silence our fears, to love and befriend us, to help and forgive us. He went out on a limb for us–literally.

The entire human race fell headlong into sin when Adam succumbed to the forbidden fruit of a tree. But on another tree–the cross–Jesus reached out to redeem us, so we could live with Him in eternity. What Adam had done, Jesus would undo. He came to “uphold justice and righteousness in the land.” “The Lord Is Our Righteousness,” as Jeremiah says.

Every time the Israelites went to the Temple, the art and architecture there pointed them to the Messiah. They saw the menorah, the seven-branched lampstand, which God Himself had designed (Exodus 25:32-36, 37:17-23). Through that lampstand, the holy place of the Temple became bright with light. Through Jesus, the Light of the world, we can see clearly in this world of darkness and death–as long as we are attached to Him like branches on a tree (John 15:5).

Rooted in God’s promises, Jesus is the King who sprouted forth to make the cross of death into a tree of life. He brought relief from the wintry storms of human life. He gave us a springtime of joy, a season of celebration, by conquering both sin and death.

When Christ comes again, another spring will burst forth into life. God used sprouting buds, roots, and branches to describe our salvation and life for a reason. When you see the trees bud every spring, it is to remind you of the life that you have because of Christ’s springing forth to life in His incarnation.

But the signs of spring do more than that: They also remind us that the day of Jesus’ return comes closer every day. That was the point Jesus made in the parable we heard today. Like in His incarnation, when Jesus returns, He will usher in a new springtime of life.

Yet, when that Day comes, we need not quake in fear. We trust God’s promises: Jesus will shade us from the blistering sun and protect us from the fiercest firestorm that will ever take place, when this world succumbs to the final pangs of death. For it will be then that God bring forth a new and sinless creation. The Apostle John tells us that in the new heavens and the new earth the Tree of Life will always be in season, and “the leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

Prophet Jeremiah teaches this about the one who takes refuge in God’s grace:

He will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots reach down to the water. He has nothing to fear in the heat of summer, and his leaves will remain green. He will not worry in a year of drought or fail in bearing fruit. [Jeremiah 17:8]

And the psalms confirm what Jeremiah said. The person who is righteous through faith “is like a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in season, whose leaves do not wither” (Psalm 1:3).

There’s a traditional folktale of unknown origin called, The Tale of Three Trees. In that story, three trees grow up as a family on top of a high mountain. As they grew, one tree wanted to become a treasure chest with precious stones covering it, filled with silver and gold. Another tree wanted to become a mighty sailing ship that could punch through any gale and carry powerful kings. The third tree wanted to grow so tall that when people stop to look at it, they would gaze into the heavens and think of God.

Years passed. One day, three woodcutters arrived. One woodcutter made the first tree, who wanted to be a treasure chest, into an animals’ feeding trough. One woodcutter made the second tree, who dreamed of becoming a majestic sailing ship, into a tiny fishing boat. And the third tree, who wanted to grow so tall, became a piece of rough-hewn lumber.

Years later, the feeding trough found itself holding a Baby and illumined in brightest starlight. The first tree then knew that it was holding the world’s greatest Treasure.

The second tree found itself sailing on the waters of a small lake, carrying passengers caught in a terrible tempest. But one of the passengers raised his hand and commanded the storm to stop. The second tree then knew that it was carrying the greatest King of all.

One Friday, some months later, the third tree became alarmed when it was hastily taken from the lumberyard. He was carried through a jeering mob, wincing when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to its branched arms. The tree felt misused and abused. By Sunday morning, the third tree knew that God’s love had turned the ugliness of Good Friday into the beauty of Easter.

Now, the story of the three trees is but a fable. But the story of the King who sprouted forth as a tree buds in the springtime is true. He is the only Source of true hope in light of the fiery judgment to come. Hang on to Jesus, who delivers on God’s promises. He sprouts forth as a sign that joy awaits those who shelter in the shadow of His cross, in His Word and Sacraments that are borne from His cross of death, giving you His eternal life. Amen.