First Sunday in Advent - Matthew 21:1-9 - November 29, 2015

Hymn #68 The Advent of Our King
Hymn #57 O Bride of Christ, Rejoice
Hymn #613 Jerusalem the Golden

Jeremiah 33:14-18
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 21:1-9

Collect for the First Sunday in Advent

Stir up, we beseech Thee, Thy power, O Lord, and come, that by Thy protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Thy mighty deliverance; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel

1)         Jesus sends two disciples into the village to exercise their faith and teach us faith. Their errand seems regular. They are to fetch transportation for Jesus. Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Except this isn’t Jesus’ donkey and colt. They belong to someone else, presumably the man who tethered them. But this doesn’t faze the Lord, who instructs the two disciples, And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This isn’t a command to stealing or thievery. The Lord says in Psalm 50:10, every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  It is a word to be heard with the ears and acted upon with the heart. It is a word which they are to hear and trust. Jesus wants to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the prophesy from Zechariah. More about that in a moment. Matthew writes, So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. The brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.  There is no second guessing which wonders if Jesus can be trusted. There is no room for doubting Christ’s words, strange as they may seem to human reason. These two disciples are nameless because it doesn’t matter which two were sent. They are nameless because they are an example to us Christians how we are receive Christ’s words and actions. As it was with them, so shall be among all the baptized. Christ gives His word and the Christian believes its, treasures it, and trusts that it is true, no matter what it looks like to the world, to his own eyes, or to those around him. This lesson in what faith does with Christ’s words and actions prepares us for Christ’s advent into Jerusalem. It is what prepares us to contemplate His first advent in the flesh, His second advent in the Word and the Sacraments, and even His third advent at the end of the age when He returns to judge the quick and the dead.

2)         But right now we’ve got Jesus on a donkey and her colt, riding into Jerusalem for His final Passover celebration. The lesson about what faith does with Christ’s words and actions, just taught by the two nameless disciples, shows us how we are to understand Christ riding into the holy city in such a mean, humble way. His entry is not flashy and captivating.  His advent into Jerusalem is not stately from a worldly point of view. It’s the opposite. He rides a beast of burden, a borrowed one at that. No show of arms. No great train preceding or following him. The eyes of flesh see Jesus and wonder why someone claiming to be the Son of God would approach Jerusalem so humbly, so meekly, and in such a lowly manner. But the actions and words of Christ must be viewed through the Word of God. So St. Matthew explains that all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. Not only must the Scriptures be fulfilled, for the Scriptures are about Jesus. But the prophesy of Zechariah interprets Christ’s actions and shows His Christians what king of Jesus they have. Tell the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a cold, the foal of a donkey.” Faith hears this word, even as the two nameless disciples hear the Word of Jesus about obtaining the donkey and her foal, and believes in spite of contrary appearances.

3)         Zechariah says that the one riding on the donkey and her colt is not a poor man, though He may look like one. The man riding the borrowed beasts of burden is King. He is the one promised by the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah that we heard of moments ago in the Old Testament lesson. In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.' (Jeremiah 33:15-16) The man on the donkey is the Branch of righteousness from the house and line of David. He is the Lord’s answer to the vacant throne of David. He is the only one who is truly a king and not a tyrant. He comes to rule His subjects, executing judgment and righteousness, without partiality, without hidden agenda. This king is the people’s righteousness, for He is called, The Lord Our Righteousness. Your righteousness will not do. Your virtuous deeds, even the ones you are most proud of, are sin. Even the best things you do are still sin so that you have no righteousness by which to live or merit anything before God. You have no righteousness of your own to which you can cling. The prophet says so in Isaiah 64:6, we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. But this king comes to rule in righteousness and bestow His righteousness upon all who believe in His atoning death and trust that His righteousness is their own before God.

4)         This king is benevolent because, having no righteousness of your own, He freely offers you His own to be received in faith, just as the two nameless disciples received Jesus’ word in faith and trust. He demonstrates that He is benevolent in the fact that He is the king whom comes to you. You do not come to Him. Being unrighteous in all your thoughts, words and deeds, even the best ones, you cannot ascend the crystal steps of heaven to kneel before God’s throne. You cannot require and audience before the King of heaven and earth. Yet the King desires to rule over you in love so He comes to you. You do not take the first step to God. You do not have any part to “do,” you do not initiate your relationship to the King. He makes the first move, coming to you, offering you His righteousness in place of your false-righteousness which relies upon its own works. Not only does the king come to you, but He comes lowly, meekly, and humbly. This what Christ wishes to signify by adventing in Jerusalem on a donkey and her colt. He is not a cruel tyrant with the force of arms behind Him as Caesar. He is not showy and vain like the High Priests had become in those days. He comes demanding nothing from you but faith, and He is gracious enough to provide that for you as well since you can see none of this for what it truly is without the aid of the Holy Ghost.

5)         Christ advents as the lowly king, who earns a perfect righteousness and bestows it freely upon the unrighteous ones who sorrow over their sins and confess their unrighteousnesses. All this is to be heard in faith and acted upon in trust and confidence. The prophet demonstrates this by calling Christ your king. He could have just said “the” king and that would be correct. But He does not desire to be a King of anyone but you. Faith hears about these blessings Christ brings with Him and does not shrink back, thinking itself unworthy of those gifts. Of course you’re unworthy of perfect righteousness! Of course you’re unworthy to have your sins forgiven! Of course you’re unworthy to live under Christ in His kingdom, enjoying His blessedness, His innocence of conscience, and His righteousness! But that is precisely why He comes, why He advents, to be not “the” king, but to be your king so that He might give all these things to you, the one who He loves, the one for whom He willingly suffered and died. Christ wants to show you what kind of king He is by the way He arrives in Jerusalem. He is not harsh. He is not demanding. He advents in meekness and humility. If there is any doubt to this, look ahead twenty-six days from now to when we celebrate Christ’s Mass. There you will see your King yet again, humble and lowly, in a cattle shed, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:5)

6)         This is what Advent is all about, that at His first advent Christ came humbly and meekly to calls sinners to repentance and invite them to Himself. His second advent is the same, for Christ still advents among sinners through His Word and His Sacraments, coming in, with, and under words preached, words printed, and words sung. He still arrives among us to bestow His perfect righteousness on us and to rule over through His sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for in these instruments He calls us to faith and continually calls faith out to exercise it and strengthen it so that it might endure longer still in this vale of tears steadfastly and confidently. His third advent will be on the Last Day, and on that day He will come with judgment and retribution for those who reject Him, yet He will still be humble and meek to those who have, by the Holy Ghost’s work, placed their trust in Him and taken their refuge in their Good Shepherd.

7)         As we enter Advent let us consider what the Scriptures teach about our Lord Jesus Christ and His advents. As we enter into a new church year of in God’s kingdom of grace, let us be diligent to follow the example of the two nameless disciples at Bethphage, who trusted Christ’s words and actions in spite of what human flesh told them and believed Christ above everything they saw, felt, and knew to be true. Christ shows us what kind of disciples He wants His Christians to be in those two nameless men, men who trusted Jesus and took Him at His word no matter what. Christ also shows us what kind of King He wants to be for us in this new year of grace. He still advents among you to forgive you all your sins, to cleanse your conscience from your dead works, and to raise you daily to the new life of faith. In this new year He comes again to be not just “the” king, but your king who bestows you His righteousness as your own so that you may be His and He may be yours. Faith responds, “Amen.” Faith responds, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Faith responds “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the Highest!” Amen.

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