Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent 1 of Series A (Matthew 21:1-11)

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the twenty-first chapter of Matthew. Dear friends in Christ; Jesus is coming! We learn from the Gospel according to Saint John that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem each and every year, but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we only have one journey recorded, emphasizing its importance. Jesus is coming! He has wandered throughout Galilee, drifting north, sometimes south. He has spent time in Samaria, even a few days near the coast. In short, throughout the Gospel of Matthew He has been everywhere but Jerusalem. But now Jesus is coming! He is coming near, and this will be no covert entrance. He sends His disciples ahead of Him to secure the transportation, and soon He is seated on a donkey, ready to come into God’s holy city. Jesus is coming, and the crowds are ready. “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!’” Jesus is coming! The crowds shout, they line the road, all of Jerusalem is shaken. They celebrate Him, they call forth His name, they quote psalms. Jesus is coming- it’s time to celebrate!

At least the crowd thought that there was ample reason for a celebration. This miracle worker, this prophet from Galilee, who had loitered about in the boonies for most of His three year ministry, was finally going where all the action was. Jesus is coming to the Holy City, to Jerusalem, and surely there He will set things right! Jesus is coming, and they practically drooled at what He could do for them when He arrived. Some were outraged at the corruption and decadence of the Jewish religious leadership. They had heard about Jesus’ sparring with the Pharisees in Galilee, now they wanted to see him come up against the Sadducees, the group that controlled the temple. Jesus is coming, and He might take on the high priest himself! Many more could hardly believe that God’s holy land, His chosen people, and His great city were all under the thumb of Caesar. If Jesus truly is the Son of God, then He can deliver us from Roman occupation and restore our nation to its rightful prominence. That’s what a messiah’s supposed to do, right? Jesus is coming, and He just has to say the word and the scourge of Roman rule is over. They had Jesus all figured out, they lined the streets that day to greet the King coming to give them what they wanted. And because they had Him figured out, very few stopped to think about what His coming truly meant.

Jesus is coming, but is that really a good thing? If Jesus is who He says He is, the Messiah, the Son of God, God in the flesh walking this earth, do we really want Him all that near us? We do not have a tame God, instead we have a God of justice, a God of holiness, a God who despises sin. We have a God whose hot wrath has burned before, more than once. Jesus is coming, but do we really want to answer the door when He shows up? When God comes, people are stirred up, they are shaken, and it happened once again in Jerusalem that day. “And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up.” Jesus shakes things up, He throws things into an uproar, He has a habit of overturning tables, of upsetting those comfortable lives that we are gladly living.

Jesus is coming, but you know, it seems much safer if He stays where He is at. Yes, it is much more convenient when God stays up there doing His thing and stays far away from my life, and especially my sin. When it comes down to it, a God who comes to us is a frightening and uncomfortable concept. I have sins I really don’t want Him to see and I would rather not have Him poking around my life. In our Epistle lesson for this morning, Paul says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” But you know, sleep is good! It is much easier to stay in bed than to actually live out this Christian life, and if Jesus comes, then I’m probably going to have to love my neighbor, serve others, and demonstrate with my life who I am in Christ. The works of darkness are so much easier than those of the light, but if Jesus shows up, then I should probably strap on this rusty, heavy armor of light. Jesus is coming, but it sounds like He is just going to stir up trouble in my life. When God stays safe and sound in heaven where He belongs, then I can get away with all of my favorite pet sins, with living my life the way I want. I’m pretty good at keeping those hidden sins from my friends and family, and as long as God doesn’t interfere, I’m pretty good at keeping them from Him. But if Jesus is coming, I have a feeling that He’s going to find them, because He just seems to have a nose for the stuff. Jesus is coming, and I’m pretty sure that it isn’t a good thing.

But yet Jesus is still coming, whether we want Him to or not, whether we celebrate His arrival for all the wrong reasons or quickly try to sweep our sins under the rug, He is coming. Jesus is coming, for this is the goal and culmination of His entire life on this earth, because it is absolutely necessary to fulfill the Father’s will. Take note of that final phrase. Jesus’ coming is ‘absolutely necessary to fulfill the Father’s will.’ His coming does not aim to fulfill human expectations and fears, the expectations of the crowd gathered that day or the fears of the religious leadership. His coming does not aim to fulfill our fears of God nosing around in our sinful lives. His coming is in fulfillment of the Father’s will and the Scripture that the Father gave, specifically this prophecy: “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.’” Jesus doesn’t come seeking glory, He doesn’t come in triumph. He doesn’t come to debate the Sadducees or kick out the Romans. He has proclaimed the Law powerfully throughout His ministry, but He doesn’t come now to root around in your life, looking for secret sins. Jesus is coming, and He is coming in humility.

He comes in humility, not in power, because Jesus is coming in order to die. He is coming for a victory and a conquest, all right, but His victory and His conquest will only come by submitting in humility to death. He enters Jerusalem as the sacrificial Lamb, there to offer Himself up as the payment for all of our sin. Jesus is coming for one last week of teaching and preaching, healing and miracles, He is coming to stir things up one last time, and Satan is waiting to take full advantage of this opportunity. He will incite one of those closest to Him to betray Him unto death. Satan will then successfully tempt another crowd, this time not lining the entrance into the city, but instead standing before Pontus Pilate, to cry out “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Finally Satan will tempt the governor to lose his backbone and give Jesus over into the cruel torture and execution of the scourge and the cross. But Satan doesn’t get it. He doesn’t realize that Jesus entered Jerusalem in humility, not in power and glory. He finds out only to late that Jesus is coming to win a victory, but not the victory that the crowds nor the evil one expected. Jesus is coming to crush Satan’s head, but He will do that by humbly submitting to the humiliation, pain, and torture of the cross. Satan’s seeming triumph will be Christ’s great victory. Death will be conquered by His death, and His resurrection on the third day is the seal on that victory. Then Jesus will have glory, then He will have power, but only after the humiliation of the cross. He submitted to that humiliation for me, for you, to pay for all of those sins that we foolishly think we can hide from God. Jesus is coming, not to condemn us for our secret sins, but to pay for them, to destroy its power and hold over us, and the penalty of death we deserved for it. Jesus is coming, and He comes bearing salvation!

Today, here and now, Jesus is coming, and because He is coming in humility, you have no reason to fear His arrival. He comes bearing the gifts that He won by entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday centuries ago. Jesus is coming, with healing in His wings, with forgiveness for all of your sins. Jesus is coming to bind up your wounds, to give you Himself. Jesus is coming so that you can participate in the victory that He won through His humiliation and death. The crowds may have misunderstood His entrance, but their cry of praise is one that we echo. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Those words should sound a bit familiar, because we sang them last week, and we will sing them again next week. Just before communion, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to us with the gift of His Body and His Blood, we sing the Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” Jesus is coming, and He comes bearing forgiveness for all of our sins each and every day, but especially when He invites us to partake of His Body and His Blood, the very redemption price that He in humility paid for you and me.

Jesus is coming, and in this Advent season we look toward His first coming, when He became man and was born of the Virgin Mary on Christmas Eve. We have a God who knew that we are unable to come to Him, and so He came to us to accomplish salvation for us, to bring us salvation and peace. Jesus is coming: He came as a baby in Bethlehem, He came into Jerusalem to deliver us, He comes to us in the Supper of His Body and Blood, and He will come again to bring us to be with Himself. That is also what we anticipate this Advent season, Christ’s return in glory. His coming for our salvation was in humility, but His coming again will be in His unveiled glory, to bring us forgiven sinners to His side for eternity. Jesus is coming- Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

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