Advent 1 – December 2nd and 3rd, 2017 – Matthew 21:1-9
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Christ Jesus, your Lord and Savior, is coming. And by this I do not simply mean that our Christmastime preparations this Advent are now in full swing; I do not simply mean that once a long, long time ago Jesus came. While that is true, the season of Advent is bigger than just that. Advent is the time when we meditate upon our Lord’s Coming – we see how our Lord prepared people for His Birth, for His death and resurrection – and from this we see how He prepares us for His Second coming. In the Old Testament they waited for the Messiah to be born, and even while we prepare to celebrate the Messiah’s birth, His first coming, we await His second coming. And it is true, Christ Jesus your Lord and Savior is coming.
Our text for this morning is the triumphal entry, is Palm Sunday. There, of course, is a wonderful example of our Lord coming – it is Christ Jesus coming into Jerusalem in order to win us salvation with His death and resurrection upon the Cross. However, there are two main things that I would like to draw out of the text this day, one that should be very familiar, and one that we don't always think about. So let’s begin. Before Jesus enters the city, He takes two disciples and says, “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.” Why all this? “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, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’’” This is of course a very familiar passage – when we see our Lord enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He enters the city humbly. That’s the first thing, that’s what we should all know – Christ Jesus comes humbly. In fact, we are going to see humility modeled for us all throughout the next two months. When He is born – humbly, in a manger. And whom is His mother? Mary, a lowly, humble virgin. Who proclaims His coming? John, a humble man. Jesus will humbly go into the water to be Baptized. There is humility all over the place the next two months. So why, why does Jesus come so humbly?
Jesus comes humbly for one simple reason. If Jesus hadn’t come humbly, hadn’t come in humility, none of the disciples, none of the sinful people there could have withstood being in His presence. Consider the Old Testament – after the fall can any sinful man bear to look at God? Adam and Eve, they hide. Moses on the mountain – just a flash of God’s backside. Elijah, can’t bear it. Or if they do see God, they are like Isaiah, who only sees a vision of God and yet cries out woe is me, I am going to die. Even the disciples, Peter, James, and John, at the transfiguration, when the voice of the Father echoes from the cloud, they all hit the dirt. Sinful man cannot be in the unbridled presence of God – it’s too much for us. And so, Christ Jesus comes humbly – He comes humbly to be with man, to come down to our level, to live with us, to teach us, and ultimately, to enter Jerusalem humbly, to ride on unto his own death and resurrection for our sake. This is what your Lord does – out of His love for you, He came humbly, so that He could accomplish your Salvation by taking up your sin and destroying it with His death and resurrection. He is always focused upon your Salvation.
But there is something else, in addition to our Lord’s Humility, that I would like to point out. We often can skim over the fact that Jesus sends the disciples on to get the donkey and colt, that Jesus does this to fulfill scriptures. We kind of want to get to the scenes with the crowds and the palms – on Palm Sunday morning we’ll have our kids waving palm branches, that’s the part we like. We aren’t going to have them lead two donkeys around – and no, this is not me trying to give you ideas, we are not going to have them lead two donkeys around the Church. But think about this section – Jesus sends the disciples, get the animals you find there, here’s what you say to anyone who asks you what you are doing. And so, our Lord fulfills Scripture. This lesson teaches us a simple truth that we all know but can often forget or over look. Jesus knows what He is doing. It’s not as though Jesus just randomly says, “Boy, my feet are tired, go find me a donkey or something.” No – this is no accident, Jesus does what He does in order to fulfill the Scriptures, in order to make clear and plain that He comes to save us, to win us salvation. This really is a great, wonderful comfort for us. So often our lives are filled with doubt and insecurity – so often we don’t know what is going on. In fact, isn’t this really the source of much of our fear? When a loved one is having surgery, and the procedure is taking a bit longer than you expected, what’s the question in your mind? What’s going on? And not knowing what is happening can terrify us. The simple fact is that often we do not know what is going on, what is happening, and we simply have to make our best guesses, make decisions and hope for the best. Christ Jesus does know what is going on, and He always acts for your good, even if you do not see it or understand it. Jesus isn’t just groping in the dark blindly – He is the Lord God, and He knows what He is doing. His riding into Jerusalem on a donkey wasn’t an accident; it was intentional, to fulfill Scriptures, so you would recognize that He is the promised Savior.
Now, just as Christ Jesus came humbly and intentionally, knowing what He was doing then, so too, Christ Jesus your Lord comes to you humbly and intentionally today. So let’s consider these two ideas – first, that Jesus comes to us quite humbly. We confess, we know, we teach that God Himself is present here for us – that in the preaching of His Word, Jesus is with us and gives us life, that in His Supper Christ Jesus comes to be with us physically in a most wondrous and mind-boggling way. Do you ever just think about that for a bit? Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, all the folks of the Old Testament, they would have given their eye teeth to be in the presence of God like we are – they couldn’t before the Crucifixion – that was all behind the curtain stuff. Once a year one priest could enter the holy of holies – that was it. But for us, what does our Lord say? Wherever two or three of you are gathered in My name, wherever two or three of the Baptized worship together, there I will be. I will be in the Word that is preached and taught in your midst. I will be in the Supper whenever you celebrate it. He comes to us in such humble, simple, common ways. We aren’t required to go on pilgrimages to see God, we don’t have to jump through hoops, lay down lavish amounts of money. Nope, God comes to us through simple means – whenever His Word is proclaimed, wherever we can find simple bread and wine.
He set this up this intentionally, you know. This plan, this idea of gathering you, gathering His baptized brothers and sisters together around the preaching of the Word and around His Supper, this wasn’t an accident. This isn’t just something we here thought up; it is what He gave to us. And why? Because He knows you and loves you. Jesus knows your life, He knows what struggles you face, what sins tempt you, what sins you’ve given into. You never have to play pretend with Jesus, you never have to pretend that your life is perfect with Him – He knows it's not. And nevertheless, He loves you, so He gives you a place where He gathers you together with other people who are struggling and slugging it out in this world, and together you receive His forgiveness, His strength, His love. You hear it preached to you, have it poured into you, over and over and over again. Christ Jesus doesn’t want it to be hard for you to receive forgiveness, hard for you to hear His love for you shouted unto you again. And so, He Himself comes to His own house, and He calls you here to be with Him, and this He shall do until the Last Day.
And then, on the Last day, we will see our Lord come. Now, what will that day be? Well, when Jesus comes, it will be done intentionally. The Last Day isn’t going to be an accident, it’s not as though Jesus will be walking around in heaven, trip, start falling from the sky and say, “Oh, um, yeah, um, I meant to do that, behold, I come again.” No, when the time is right, when through His Word He has called all our brothers and sisters to faith, when the time is right, our Lord will come again. That is the plan, always has been and always will be until that day. That’s in God's hands – let us simply leave the when for that to Him. However, we should note a contrast. When Christ Jesus comes again, when Your Lord returns, it will not be “humbly”. It will not be on a donkey, but it will be accompanied with all the hosts of heaven. It will not be hidden away in a lowly manger, but it will be brilliant and obvious for all to see. So why, why will Christ Jesus be able to come in glory, why will He no longer need to come humbly? In the past and even now, Christ Jesus comes humbly to us who are humbled, who are laid low by our sin. On the Last Day, Christ Jesus comes in Glory to glorify you, to perfect you. On the Last Day, when Christ Jesus comes in Glory He will make you to be Glorious, He will give you your own resurrection, and you will be like Him, without sin and righteous and perfect. There won’t be any need for anything but glory and wonder on that day.
We aren’t there yet. God in His wisdom and in His love has held off that day for our sake, for the sake of all those whom He loves. So, in the meantime, until then, we are focused upon how our Lord once came and indeed how He even comes to us today. He comes humbly, He comes to be with us, to forgive us, to strengthen us so that we might share in, that we might participate in all the benefits of His death and resurrection now, even until the day we see them fully shine forth. This Advent, our eyes are focused once again on the goodness and love of our Lord God, who came for us, who comes unto us this day in His Word and Sacraments, and who will come again. Thus our prayer until that day is and will remain, Thy Kingdom Come. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Amen.