In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Who is God? Who is He? What does He do? While that seems like a broad and wide question, it is basically what Jeremiah was asking the Kingdom of Judah in our Old Testament text. See, Judah was in a bind. It was right around 588 or so B.C., and the Babylonian kingdom up north was rattling its sabers and had already invaded Judah a few times, had already taken Daniel off to captivity. And Judah didn’t know what to do – but the prevailing wisdom was that Judah should buddy buddy up with Egypt and trust in Egypt to protect them.
If Jeremiah had asked a Jew of his day who God was, the expected answer should have been this: “He is the LORD our God who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.” That’s really how the 10 Commandments start – that’s the point of Passover – the LORD is the God who got us out of slavery in Egypt. And now what – with fear and worries about Babylon, you forget the LORD your God, you continue in idolatry, in fact, you want to run back to Egypt, back to the people who enslaved you. And so Jeremiah preaches. He says that Babylon will win, and they do. But in our text he also says the day is coming when they will call God “The LORD who brought us up and led the offspring of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where He had driven them.” 586, Judah is conquered. 538, King Cyrus sends them back home. Jeremiah was right.
But Jeremiah points forward to a greater truth, a greater prophecy. “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. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” No, Egypt won’t be the solution. A stronger military or just paying tribute won’t be the solution. Nor will the troubles of this day endure; Babylon won’t vex us forever. Instead, here is the truth – the Messiah will come, and He Himself will fix the problems. He will be the Righteous One for us, and His day is what we should be looking for, more than just any military victory now.
And then we come to our Gospel Text. The triumphal entry. Palm Sunday. And once again we can look at this in terms of a “who is” question. Okay, Israel, who is your King? What does your King look like, what does He do? Jeremiah had prophesied a righteous Branch for David – that is, someone Righteous from the line of David who would be King, and there hadn’t been a king since Babylon conquered them – but then here comes Jesus. And Jesus enters Jerusalem riding a donkey, just like King Solomon had when he was enthroned. And everyone gets the symbolism; this is why they cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Son of David! The Guy who should be King! The fervor and the excitement are astonishing – so high that come Palm Sunday in a few months, we’ll get in on it with little kids waving palms. But again, there was a problem. Who did they really think this King was, and what did they really think He was going to do? Immediately after our text, we hear this: “And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” Wait… just a prophet? Just a guy from Galilee? Why don’t they call Him the King? That’s because for the people, He wasn’t really viewed as their King – that's why in a few days on Friday morning they will cry out that they have no king but Caesar. He ended up not being what they wanted. The King they expected wasn't the King that was promised. Sure, a king was wanted, but you don’t call him the king until he’s driven out the Romans! Once he’s made the nation glorious again, then we can give the fellow the throne – you only get the throne after you’ve beaten the bad guys! That’s the way it still is in stories and movies today. But here’s the problem. That wasn’t what was promised to them. They were promised a king who would be wise, who would execute justice and righteousness. But that wasn’t what they wanted. Power was they wanted. Earthly glory was they wanted. Revenge against the Romans was they wanted. And Jesus doesn’t do that. That’s not wisdom. That’s not justice, that’s not righteousness. Jesus is more interested in driving out the money changers in the temple and reforming worship than He is in driving out the Romans and reforming an Empire. And by the end of the week, Pilate orders his death to prevent a riot. Think on that. It’s not that there would be a riot because they are *killing* our king and we will rise up to rescue him. No, the riot would come if you don’t do Him in.
So. What of us today? Let’s ask ourselves the same questions. Who is God? Who is our King? What does He do? What are the expectations, what do we look for from God? If I turn on the religious tv channels, I get horrified. If I look on-line at facebook, I get horrified. I’ll see tons of stuff about God giving money and wealth and affirmation and validiation and making your dreams come true if you just trust in Him. Is that what we want from our God? We are in the Advent season, where we focus on the fact that Jesus came down from heaven. Is that what we think He came to do? In Advent we focus also on the second coming of Christ. What do we want? Do we want a Jesus that is going to reform American society and make us a better land (whether that's the liberal definition or the conservative one) if only we obey Him? Is Jesus the guy who brings the better rules that will make sure your family keeps its nose clean? And, of course, if you don’t send in money, if you don’t click “like” Jesus will be mad at you and punish you.
What does your God look like? Does He look like a Man coming humbly, seated on a donkey? Does He look like a Man who is beaten and whipped and scourged? Does He look like a man hanged upon a cross and left to die? Because this is what Jesus comes to do. Jesus is the LORD, our Righteousness. And He is our righteousness by going to the cross and suffering and dying, by being buried, by rising again. This is the point, the point of contention, the reason why so many people forsake Christ Jesus even to this day. Jesus deals with what we need, not what we want. Jesus isn’t Santa Claus; we don’t get to just tell Jesus what we want and know that if we are good little boys and girls that we’ll get it. Because the simple fact is this – a lot of times what we want is foolish. What we think is important isn’t. Judah wanting Egypt to deliver them was foolish – that would be even worse than Babylon in the long run – at least Babylon respected the Jewish culture. Wanting to take down the Roman Empire was foolish – if you aren’t certain of that, when Rome falls, we call what comes next “the Dark Ages” – it’s the fall of Rome that allows Islam to conquer and destroy Christianity in the middle east and in Egypt and in Babylon. And that’s just immediate problems – that’s just current events turning to history. Where was the thought given to sin – where was the thought given to the fact that I am a sinful human being and I am going to die in my sin unless God intervenes and saves me? Meh, they didn’t think that was important. Who wants a spiritual solution – we want a better war machine, we want “justice” that looks like our enemies crushed and bleeding and destroyed.
That’s not what Jesus comes to do. Oh, He could have come with legions of angels brandishing flaming swords – in fact, He will come that way on the last day. But first, He had a job to do. “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. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” His job is to be your righteousness. His job is to win you life and salvation and the forgiveness of your sins. His job is to execute justice, by taking up from you all the weight and wrath of your sin and crucifying it upon the Cross. His job is to fulfill all righteousness, to live the perfect holy life, and then to cover you with that righteousness in Holy Baptism so that He may say to the Father, “See these, My brothers and sisters, they are righteous and holy and without blemish in My name.” His job is to see that you dwell securely, not just for a day, not just for a season, not just until the next election, but for eternity. This is His wisdom. And He still comes to you, brings this righteousness, this forgiveness and salvation here in this place, preached, proclaimed to you, comes to you humbly riding in, with, and under bread and wine, for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.
So, who is this Jesus, our God? He is the One who pays no attention to human expectations. Rather, He comes to fulfill the Scriptures, to fulfill the Word of God that has proclaimed your redemption and your salvation. And in His great wisdom, He does whatever must be done to accomplish this – and it means coming down from heaven, and being incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and being born in a manager, and suffering and dying. He is determined to be wise for your sake; He is determined to execute justice for you, to be the LORD our Righteousness. And so He is. This we have heard in the Word, this we have received in Baptism and the Supper, and this we shall see face to face when He comes again. Amen. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +