As we enter in to the final week of the church year, both the historic and modern lectionaries focus on the final coming of Christ as King and Lord, as Redeemer and Judge, as Victor and Ruler. The modern lectionary followed by many churches in the West added the feast of Christ the King to specifically point both believers and non-believers to the reality of Christ's rule over the nations, in eternity but also (veiled) in the here and now. Before rushing into Advent next week and getting excited over the joys of celebrating the first coming of Christ in the manger, we would do well to consider his final return.
In this passage the prophet takes up refrains found elsewhere in the prophets, especially Isaiah. Themes of the wickedness / laziness of the priests, the return of Israel from exile, and future blessing on the people of God through Christ Jesus. Luther, along with many others, finds connections between many of the details in this passage and the redemption won for us through Jesus. Writing on verse 8 and Zechariah's promise of redemption, he says, "This is the sweetest signal which makes our hearts rejoice. When our hearts hear that Christ has died for our sins and that what He has done is sufficient, we have been moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the brightness of the Son of God" (LW 20:112).
Here St. Paul encourages us repeatedly to love others by bearing their burdens and doing good to everyone. While our faith never purports that we earn the favor of God by works or are somehow able to save ourselves from judgment through our works, we deceive ourselves if we ignore the continual calling to express our faith by doing good deeds. Contrasting the misguided Jewish notion of New Testament times which taught that salvation could come by keeping the law (i.e. by works), St. Augustine writes:
The “law of Christ” means the law of love. The one who loves his neighbor fulfills the law. The love of neighbor is strongly commended even in the Old Testament. The apostle elsewhere says that it is by love that all the commands of the law are summed up. If so, then it is evident that even that Scripture which was given to the covenant people was the law of Christ, which, since it was not being fulfilled by fear, he came to fulfill by love. The same Scripture, therefore, and the same law is called the old covenant when it weighs down in slavery those who are grasping after earthly goods. It is called the new testament when it raises to freedom those who are ardently seeking the eternal good"
-- (Augustine, Epistle to the Galatians).