1st Weekend in Advent – Matthew 21:1-9 – November 28/29, 2015
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
And here we are. The start of a new Church year, the start of the season of Advent where we begin to focus on our celebration of Christmas and our Lord's First Coming. So then, why in the world, of all the stories in the Gospels, do we start with Palm Sunday? Seriously – does this seem odd to you? We have moved to the historic, 1 year lectionary – I can say with confidence that for over 1000 years the Church has started off advent this way. So why? Well, even then as today, it was easy to lose sight of what Christmas is. 1000 years ago, you had all sorts of pagan festivals in the background; today we've got all our modern folderol associated with “the holidays” to distract us. 1000 years ago, you had plans for parties and celebrations; same thing today. 1000 years ago, this time of year could become the time of great sentimentality, just as it can today. And here we begin advent – and over and against all the crass, the maudlin, the silly things of this season (which are fine in and of themselves, I'm not that big of a scrooge), our Gospel text makes a bee line to the heart of what Christmas, of what our Lord's Incarnation is all about. Christ Jesus our King came down from heaven and became man to go to the cross and be your savior. And that's what we will be focused upon in this text – how and why our King comes.
As our Gospel text begins we get a bit of an odd conversation. Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” Seems just a bit strange – you there, disciples, just run on into town and grab me the first donkey you see. Engage in a little, not animal theft, but livestock borrowing. I mean, just think how odd this is, really – what would be your reaction, oh farm types, if someone just walked up to one of your horses. “Oh, yeah, we need to borrow this.” It's meant to sound odd – but note Christ's explanation. Just tell them the Lord needs them. Now, I want you to understand – that is a heavier statement in Greek than it sounds in English – it's not the braying of a child in front of a Christmas toy display telling you that he just absolutely needs something. It is necessary, it is God's Will for the Lord to use these animals.
In fact, Matthew goes on to explain. This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” When we see the entry on Palm Sunday, this is fulfilling Scripture. This is Messianic. This was to be the neon-sign signal to folks that yes, the one entering Jerusalem here is the Messiah, is the Son of David. He is the promised King. And what kind of King would He be? He doesn't come in on a tall horse of war, with an army at His back. This is not a “hail the conquering hero” sort of procession. He comes humble. Even the parade that happens is sort of just thrown together. Humanly speaking, months of planning weren't involved – just grab some cloaks, grab some big leaves. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. You realize we put more forethought and planning into decorating this church on Palm Sunday than they did the first Palm Sunday? It was a humble thing.
So there Christ Jesus is – entering Jerusalem – not as a conqueror, but humbly. He's not coming to kill Romans, to slaughter the wicked. Why does He come? And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The crowds sing correctly. Hosanna – that is “save us now”. Christ Jesus comes to save people – not by beating up the bad guys, not by giving us better rules to make everyone keep their ducks in a row. He comes to go to the cross to win salvation. To suffer and die and bear up upon Himself the full weight and consequence of sin. Christ Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, comes to Jerusalem upon that donkey to take away the sins of the world and put an end to them with His death upon the Cross; He comes to undo death with His own resurrection. Christmas, my dear friends, always drives directly to Good Friday and Easter – that's the whole point of Christmas, and this morning, as we begin our Advent celebrations, we are reminded of this truth.
However, when we speak of Christ coming to be King, we shouldn't think merely of how He came long ago. No, Christ Jesus is also our King who comes to us today, in this place, in this service. He comes not to rule with an iron fist, comes not bringing name-it-and-claim-it goodies. He comes this day to save us now. And that is how He always comes. Jesus still works in the same way today. Say to the daughter of Zion, see your King is coming to you today, humble. What is happening this weekend at Trinity? Two baptisms. One Saturday, one Sunday. And what truly happens in these baptisms? Christ Jesus the King comes as He always does – He comes and by water and the Word He declares Audrey and Adeleine to be His own daughters, to be daughters of Zion. And He comes to them humbly, comes not in expensive, lavish goods, He comes not demanding some difficult set up or requirements – no, see your King comes to you humbly and simply in water and the Word. No, there will be nothing to keep Jesus from coming to His child – water and the Word, and now there is a forgiven child, a new creation, one given life everlasting and all the benefits of Jesus' own death and resurrection. And why? Because Christ Jesus our King has authority – all authority in heaven on earth has been given to Him – so He makes disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. That's what Jesus uses His Kingly authority for – to bring people salvation, to seek and save the lost, to suffer the little children to come to Him – to give His blessings of life and salvation to ever more and more people, even before they could think to ask, even before they could think to choose Him, even before they could listen too all the ads telling them what they should want. Because that is who Jesus is – He is your King; He is in charge. And your King who will come to you, not because of what you want or what you desire – but because He is your King who loves you, and will stop at nothing to win you salvation. Or do you not realize that this is what Advent is about. Behold, your King is coming – and how did He first come? Christ Jesus, the Word by Whom all things were made comes down from heaven – as a Child. Weak. Helpless. His power cast aside so as to save the powerless. Our King always takes up humility – His birth, His entry into Jerusalem, His death – and all for your salvation. This is the God, this is the King who has chosen you, called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who has made you His child in the waters of Holy Baptism. This is what He has taught you to pray for when you pray both “Thy Kingdom Come” as well as “Thy Will Be Done” - that we would learn ever more to trust not our wants and desires but His good and gracious will, that we would see His authority have full reign in our lives.
Behold, daughter of Zion, your King is coming. That is what we see and learn this Advent season again. Remembering how Christ came, we remember how He Himself has come to us through His Word, through His gift of Baptism. Of course, it's not just in Baptism that He comes. Indeed, He comes to us whenever His Word is proclaimed, whenever the forgiveness that He won with His death and resurrection is declared to the world. And even more wondrously, we rejoice and give thanks in that He comes to us today for forgiveness in His Supper, in, with, and under Bread and Wine. Indeed, we ourselves will join in and sing the song of Palm Sunday when our King comes to us humbly under the means of bread and wine. And not only does Christ come today; we also remember and pray that He would quickly come again, that He would show Himself to be our true and eternal King who will give us for all eternity that which we truly need – the resurrection of our bodies and the life everlasting with Him. There's a lot to this season of Advent – more than rushedly planning parties and baking cookies or getting shopping done. It is a time where we are refocused upon the love that Christ Jesus has for us, that He comes in humility to die for us, that He comes to us daily to bring us that salvation He has won, and that He shall even come again. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King