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 donkey.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Did I miss something? I feel like I missed 3 seasons of the church year. Are you sure we are starting the new church year? This text in front of us today is something we hear on Palm Sunday, not the first Sunday in Advent. It is titled the triumphant entry in most bibles these days, the first day of the week leading to Christ’s death on the cross just five days later in the story. It seems to be well sowed into the fabric of Holy Week, so why does it show up at the very beginning of the church year? That is a question that I have been rolling around in my head for the past week. And I think I found the connection, from the Prophet who Matthew quotes, Zechariah. “Behold, your king is coming.” This quote is the reason that this is read on the first Sunday in Advent. “Your King is coming.” We always think that Advent is preparing us for Christmas, well because it does, but the season prepares us for something so much more. It prepares us for the second coming of our King, Jesus Christ. We will look at how our King first came, and how he was received, how he comes to us now, and how Christ will come again to take us to be with him in paradise.
Let’s look at the King’s birth. It was by no means a birth like the birth of Prince George. It was not made public in the sense that everyone wanted to be in the know. No this conception in the womb of Mary was thought to be one of scandal. How could a virgin really be pregnant, right? I mean it takes two to tango, and it takes two to make a baby, right? No one believed that Jesus was really born by the power of the Spirit coming over the Virgin Mary. Everyone thought either: Mary was adulterous or Joseph and Mary couldn’t wait for marriage. Either way Jesus was not brought into this world in a way the world recognizes nobility.
Yet, with all these stories and rumors being spread, we see the night of his birth, Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night, and in the sky the angel of the Lord proclaimed to them that the Christ, had been born in Bethlehem. They went immediately to worship the baby in the manger. On the 8th day of his life, we see the faithful Simeon and Anna recognize the babe to be the Son of God, their King and Redeemer. Simeon even sings his song, one that we sing regularly upon receiving the body and blood of Christ, our King. Then later, we even see the magi those outside of Israel coming to find the one born, King of the Jews. It seems that even in a time of great scandal circulating concerning this child, God had a remnant that looked forward to the coming of King, Jesus Christ. This remnant was holding fast to the promise that Isaiah spoke, when he said the words, “The virgin will give birth to her firstborn, a son, and he shall be called Immanuel, which means God with us.” We are preparing for the celebration of his first coming at his birth.
There is nothing particularly extraordinary about his first coming in the eyes of man. But we should not be lured into thinking that his birth is anything but extraordinary. This is where God becomes man! One might ask why did God need to become man, and the answer is simple, he did it because he loved us and wanted to reconcile us to himself. Why do we need to be reconciled? After the fall into sin, all of humanity was a broken creation. We can see this in our daily lives and in our relationships. We sin all the time, we have our faults, we don’t believe God at his word, we lie to each other, we break promises, we are partial, and we never live up to our full potential. Christ had to become man at Christmas to take on our sin and crucify them at the cross. Jesus Christ indeed was King from the time of his birth and throughout his entire time on this earth, but in the reading for today, we see Jesus once again being recognized as King in his entry into Jerusalem.
This reading today, is just five days before Christ’s death on the cross. We see Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem in the manner of all kings, particularly David and Solomon. Kings in the Old Testament rode in on donkeys when they came into the city of Jerusalem in power. In the chants, we hear Jesus called the Son of David, denoting his Kingly origin. But how quickly those chants of praise turn into chants of ‘Crucify’! We are often just like the people in this regard. Our life as a Christian is one of perpetual backsliding. It is one that we always need to ask for forgiveness because we commit sins all the time. We are like what Paul says, “The good I want to do, I do not do, but the bad I do not want to do, I keep on doing.” Our Old Adam constantly needs to be drowned in the waters of our baptism into the one who went to the cross to die in order that we might be atoned for and reconciled to the Heavenly Father. King, Jesus Christ, went willingly to the cross to pay for the sins of the whole world. Good Friday, we see our King, being beaten and mocked. He is given the purple robe and his crown, one of thorns piercing his brow. All this humiliation all of this suffering and pain, he is doing this for you. That blood he spills is to wash you clean from all your sin, guilt and shame. This King of ours is like no other king known to man. He willingly dies that his people might be saved. He saves us from the eternal wrath of the Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ, the King, gives up his place on the throne in heaven so that we might be made heirs of heaven and receive the eternal crown of life. At the cross we see the sign nailed above his head, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ here is your king, suffering the fate that we sinners deserve.
But through the cross we are given life! For in his death, Christ defeated death. Death has no hold on us who have been connected to Christ’s death in our baptism. For on the 3rd Day Jesus rose from the dead. And we who have been called to faith in Jesus Christ, we have the same fate. We will be raised into a new life, life in Christ the King. He will come again, not riding humbly on a donkey, but in all his divine glory. He is coming back to us that he will judge the living and the dead in all his glory and power. That is what we are looking forward to in this season of Advent. Why do I say we look forward? We are awaiting Christ’s second coming in which he will set the world right, and remove us from sin and from the sufferings of this world. He proclaims we are in his Kingdom right now. We are in the Kingdom of grace, in which we hear his Gospel, telling the entire world that we are reconciled to God because of what Jesus Christ, our King did on the cross. We look forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that he will come again. We live in the time after Christ’s first coming as the God-Man, coming into the world at his birth in Bethlehem. We live in the time of anticipation.
In that day, of Christ’s coming the world will be stirred up like the city in our text today. The word “stirred up” has a meaning of “being shaken to its foundation.” But we have nothing to be afraid of when Jesus Christ our King comes again to judge the living and the dead, for we are already in the Kingdom, by our baptism in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have nothing but to wait patiently for that day when Christ, the King will bring us into his Kingdom of Glory that extends into all eternity. In the meantime, Christ says that he comes to us through his word, and the the sacraments of baptism and of Holy Communion. Each time when we here Christ’s word of forgiveness, we are renewed in that hope of Christ’s return on the last day.
I started this sermon asking the question: “why does the triumphant entry into Jerusalem show up in the first Sunday of Advent?” It is the most perfect place for us to begin this new Church year, reminding us of what Jesus’ birth really means. His birth was so important because he was going to the cross to save us, our King came to save us. Here we see him going to the cross for you and for me. We now we look forward to his second coming when finally we will be taken with him to be with the Father in heaven.
Now the peace of God, bless and preserve you in the one true faith. Oh, Come, oh come Immanuel. Amen.
- Matthew 21:1 - 11