Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2018
Here Comes the King
In preparing for today’s sermon, I read some comments that noted how the colt seemed to be a large focus of this selected reading from Luke. While there had to be many conversations between Jesus and His disciples that didn’t involve parables and teaching, most is not recorded. For this conversation, it does have a theological significance. It was like throwback days as Jesus rode into Jerusalem for His coronation as Solomon did, riding on a colt. And it is directly in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (9:9). It was an important detail that further emphasized our Lord’s humility and His kingly reign. Luke doesn’t say the word donkey, but from the other Gospels, we know that Jesus rides in on a donkey’s colt. It was not a prideful ride, but a simple beast of burden that was suited for a load of sticks or for carrying a woman late in her pregnancy to the city of David. But it also shows His kingly reign in that the colt had never yet been sat upon by another human. That means it was not broke, yet, immediately Jesus mounts the colt and rides it into the city as one who reigns over man and beast.
Not everybody recognized Jesus as the coming King, the foretold by ancient seers. I’m sure the crowd included ardent follows convinced by the three years of ministry that included tremendous miracles and teaching with authority. I imagine that the crowds also included those that just get the bug and go along with the crowd. And likely some skeptics as well that come to see what all the fuss was about. But there was the counter-crowd as well, those that opposed Jesus and refused to give Him acclaim. As our reading states, there were also those that bold enough to speak out against Jesus to His face and encouraged Him to rebuke His disciples for making such claims as they made. These Pharisees wanted Jesus to deny the claims that the people were making about Him. They wanted Him to admit that wasn’t the long awaited for King, that He wasn’t the promised by prophecy, the one to liberate them, to save them. They wanted Jesus to give a concession speech to the crowd. Instead, He tells those Pharisees that He is not just King of the Jews but over all creation for if those with mouths and voices do not cry out in glorious praise of the King of kings, those parts of the creation that have none would have to cry out for the creation must give glory to her King.
Our text has long been the reading for the First Sunday in Advent even though it seems somewhat out of place. Here we are just weeks away from the Nativity of our Lord and we are reading about His entry into Jerusalem during the week of His Passion. One way that we may look at it is in the manner that some of those movies that start at the climax and then take us back to see how everything came to that point. If we think on last week with its apocalyptic theme of the King coming in glory to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. Then we come to today and we see the King coming into Jerusalem to be judged by men and by God to be the one lacking righteousness, we see that we are making a transition towards the coming of the King as the baby that must be protected from His enemies. The crowds are a little different, but the acclamation is the same: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
This is not the first time we have heard these words in Luke’s account nor, in fact, in Scripture. Jesus Himself told the people the last time He was in Jerusalem that they would not see Him again until they say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Here Jesus was quoting the Psalms (118:26). And, of course, you recognize the angelic praise in the presence of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. But here, the declaration is that peace exist in heaven also, not on earth among those with who God is pleased. This too can be attributed to the Psalms (148:1), though, I would say, more loosely.
By selecting this reading, at least one of the things the compilers of the lectionary were trying to emphasize is our need to praise the coming King and that there will be opposition to that praise. Even more than that we are to praise our King, I say that we are given a creedal outline of how we are to praise Him. On the opposition side, we don’t have a class of Pharisees but we do still have those that stand against what we declare here week in and week out in word, song, and action. Such are not quaint ditties that are easy to understand or sing, but if we were not to speak them, the very rocks would cry out.
Let’s take a few moments to understand what those crowds outside Jerusalem were saying as they welcomed their King. The word blessed is an interesting one. We use it in describing those blessed by God and we use it to describe an action that we give towards God. It is probably one of those words that we may struggle for a solid definition even though we use it regularly. Synonyms would include chosen, anointed, favored, and consecrated. We use this word to describe the Virgin mother for she was favored and chosen for a special blessing as she bore our Savior. We use it to describe those that died and now rest from their labors. They are blessed in their heavenly repose. One of those synonyms that fits quite well for Jesus is that He was consecrated for this title and this role. He was set apart. He was anointed to be King. He was chosen by God, divinely appointed and His coronation would be like none other – crowned with thorns and elevated upon a cross.
Even being named King requires some analysis. Being rejected by at least some of the Pharisees, they would say that He was not their king. Certainly the Romans didn’t accept Him as their king. Going back to the colt and its similarities to Solomon riding David’s mule, Jesus was acknowledged as King of the Jews as the Scriptures declare in many places. But, as I have already pointed out, He is also King over creation. His dominion is greater than any horse whisperer and mightier than any geologist or earthquake. He rules according to earth and heaven in power and might. His rule, however, is not limited to such outward displays. We also recognize His rule in grace, whereby He rules the hearts of believers. This not in power and might but in love and by grace. His reign is mighty but gentle. It is powerful and humble. He desires to rule not that He might exercise power over us but that His power might be exercised over us and not against us.
That this King comes in the name of the Lord is a direct reference to Yahweh and that all this is His doing. Jesus is not some earthly king only. He is God’s anointed. He is the One appointed in the heavens from before the foundation of the earth that He might rule in the creation even as He rules over it. The authority that He possess as King is not limited or finite. It is as broad as the heavens and plumbs the depths f the seas. It encircles the stars and encompasses the planets, even as it embraces our hearts in tender mercy.
The claim od peace in heaven by the people is a departure from what the angels declared at his birth. The angels sang of peace that now comes to earth in the birth of Jesus. The crowds declare peace in heaven as Jesus approaches His death. But imagine the turmoil, even in heaven, as long as our sin was ever before the Lord. The constant barrage of man’s sin was all that God could see despite His merciful nature. But in the coming of the King that would carry that load of sin with Him to the cross, would obliterate it from the knowledge of heaven. With His atoning sacrifice, that which presented every man as unholy and defiled was washed away such that each would be pristine and included in the pact of peace, the covenant of His blood.
These are reasons enough for us to gather and welcome our King in yearly observance and in daily reality, as He comes to us in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, in Word and Sacrament, and soon, in glory. As Jesus has done far more than we would expect from a king as He has given everything for the protection of His subjects and has paid the highest ransom for our redemption, we should be excited for the opportunity to sing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven for there is no other king in all of heaven and earth that deserves our praise as does Jesus.
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.