Advent 1 – November 29th, 2009 – Matthew 21:1-9
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
This world is broken. Has been ever since the fall. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the world has been broken. We as people – broken. We are now prone to hatred and anger and envy and strife and sorrow and sadness. We are no longer perfect, and even if we were, even when there are times when we are not at fault – our neighbor still can be – and pain and suffering still comes anyway. Broken. And the world itself – broken. Nature itself seems out to get us half the time, to ruin itself with storms and natural disasters, animals tearing each other to shreds. All broken. Nothing works right. And indeed, God does spare us from some of this brokenness, gives us blessings and moments of joy here in this life – but still, here in this world, things all fall apart eventually. There is anger and pain and terror and suffering – all which flows from, all which is a consequence of sin.
The prophet Jeremiah, though, sounds the call for this Advent season, speaks out to us in this broken, fallen world that lies in the grasp of sin. The prophet calls out, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” There is a promise, given by God, that someday the King will come, and what will this king do? He shall be wise, and He will do justice, He will see that things are righteous. He will fix things, He will make things to be the way they ought to be. Now this, this is a thing to wait for, to watch for with eagerness! That is what Advent is – where we of the New Testament Church pause and wait to celebrate our Lord’s coming at His birth, where we watch and ponder what our Lord’s coming was for, what it means, how it happened, so that we might give God thanks aright for it.
Some 600 years after Jeremiah spoke these words, we see the events of our Gospel text. We see Christ Jesus ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey there on Palm Sunday, and here we learn about how our Lord comes. This is the promised coming of the King, a coming that is lowly and humble, a coming for justice, and a coming for righteousness. Christ comes to be all these things, to win for us salvation and forgiveness, to fulfill all the Scriptures spoke of Him, and to prepare heaven for us and us for heaven. This is what He does when He enters Jerusalem.
It’s not what the broken world expects. Back then, the crowds had something else in mind. The crowds had wild expectations for what would happen once Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Many were expecting the casting off of the hated Roman overlords. But Jesus doesn’t revolt. Many were expecting miracles galore. But that isn’t what Christ Jesus, who reigns wisely does. Jesus goes to the temple and teaches, and then Jesus goes to the cross. And the world is befuddled. Same thing today. The broken world doesn’t understand the coming of our Lord that we celebrate at Christmas. The broken world thinks that the coming of the King should mean 50 days of great sales at the stores - the broken world expects the Savior to save our lagging economy. The broken world thinks that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are happy during these cold months. The broken world is content to have its parties and its festivities, and then pack up what passing thoughts of an infant laid in a manger they had until next October when they can start making a profit off of it again.
But Christ never acts in the way the broken world wants Him to. Christ our King comes humbly – mounted on a donkey. When Christ enters Jerusalem, He does not come upon a charger of war, He does not come leading a host of zealots ready to storm Pilate’s quarters, slaying Romans. No, He comes humbly, and He rides His donkey up not to the worldly seats of power, but to the temple, and He fixes things there, focuses people upon God and prayer. Christ our King comes to bring Justice – but not the justice the broken world craves. The broken world thought Justice meant punishing the wicked harshly and severely – driving the Romans before them. They thought Justice would mean more cash in their pockets, just like the world today thinks justice means giving the right bailout to the right people, making sure health care reform is just so. But when Christ comes to execute Justice, He slays no one, He punishes no one. Rather – He Himself goes to the cross to see Justice done – to see the sins of the broken world punished in Himself. When you behold the Cross, you see Christ Jesus executing Justice, you see Justice done by the King, as He Himself takes up the sins of the world. And Christ our King comes to bring and to be righteousness – but not a righteousness the broken world expects. The broken world expects righteousness to mean that things are the way they want things to be. The broken people of Christ’s day would have expected a righteous world to be ruled by them, where the other peoples of the world all acknowledged their superiority and served them – that would be nice! But that isn’t the righteousness that Christ brings – when He wins for us forgiveness upon the Cross, He also pours out His Spirit upon us, enlivening us. Christ’s righteousness is not that He makes things to be the way we want them to be, but He comes to us and makes us to be the way God wants us to be. He fixes our brokenness, pulls us away from our own sin, strengthens us to resist temptation, makes us to be those who show forth love, who are humble and just and righteous again by the power of His Word.
What Christ did then, back on Holy Week, is the same thing He does for us today. He shatters our broken expectations of Him, and shows us indeed who God is and God’s great love for us. Today the broken world expects the Christian life to be a life of power and might and stuff – where we think that it is our time to seize the best of this life now. That is the seemingly constant refrain of the false preachers – they make millions off of this message. Yet how does Christ come? He comes through His Word – He calls us not to a life of Champaign toasts and caviar dreams, but to a life of contemplation, where we hear His Word and mediate upon it, think about it – and then speak it back to Him in prayer, sing it back to Him in hymns. He calls us to worship, where we are no longer focused upon ourselves, but are focused upon God and His love for us. He calls us to a life of service, where we care for the neighbor, show them love, make sure that they have their best life now – this is humility, to focus not upon yourself but upon God and upon your neighbor. This is precisely what our Lord does when He rides into Jerusalem on that donkey, when He comes to us in His Word. Our Humble Lord teaches us humility.
And Christ comes to us today to teach us what justice is. The broken world today still expects justice to be about the slaying of our enemies, where the neighbor who has wronged me will get his just deserts. Christ though, teaches us what justice is – He teaches us and gives us justice through His gift of Baptism. He says, “I will slay your enemy, your true enemy – and your true enemy is your desire to sin – behold My justice as I drown your sins and your Old Adam by water and the Word.” When we ponder Baptism, we see what Justice truly is, what it entails. At your baptism, God Almighty connected you to our Lord’s Crucifixion – tied you to Christ’s own death to be the proof and assurance that when Christ died for the sins of the world, yes, indeed and truly, He died for your sins – that when Justice was done to Him, it was done also for you. God’s Justice means that you have forgiveness on account of Christ, that your sins are washed away. And again, this is not of ourselves – we have this gift of justice and forgiveness not because of our boldness, not because of our worth – but because Christ Jesus is the King who does justice, who gives out justice, who does all that is needed to see that justice is done. We do not come to faith as spiritual vigilantes, taking God’s law into our own hands by our own decisions – but Christ comes, and He is just for us, and He makes us to be just – He justifies us.
And of course, Christ comes to show us righteousness. The broken world is selfish, is focused upon itself. Christ comes to draw our eyes off of ourselves and rather to make us righteous people who show love to their neighbor, Christ makes us to be whom He created us to be in the first place. This is what He accomplishes through His Supper. Christ comes to us in His Body and Blood to forgive our sins and also to strengthen our faith, to fill us with His love so that we might do righteousness, so that we might show forth His love in the coming week. This is why we give thanks to God upon receiving this Supper, praying – “we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith towards You and in fervent love towards one another.” And that is what God does, what God accomplishes through this blessed meal. God works upon you – when you are here, when you hear His Word, receive His Supper, God is active – the Holy Spirit acts upon you, improves you, restores you. He makes you to show a right and holy life.
Whenever Christ comes, He comes teaching us humility and giving us justice and making us righteous. The season of Advent, which we now enter, is nothing else than a call to remember this, to focus upon this, to see this. The broken world would distract us, dazzle and blind us to Christ – but our Lord tells us to be patient, to watch and wait for His coming and His deliverance – a coming and deliverance we celebrate and remember at Christmas, a coming and deliverance we have now whenever Christ gathers us to His Church, and a coming and deliverance that we shall have in full for all eternity when He comes again, taking us from this broken world unto His holy Heaven. May God focus our eyes upon Christ this advent season. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +